Thursday, 9/5/13, 8:30 pm ET – Sports Authority Field at Mile High
TV: WBAL Ch. 11 | NBC National Telecast
TV Crew: Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline)
Radio: 98 Rock | Dial Global Sports | SIRIUS: 88,92 | XM: 88, 225
Local Radio Crew: Gerry Sandusky (play-by-play), Stan White (analyst), Qadry Ismail (analyst)
National Radio Crew: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Boomer Esiason (analyst), Laura Okmin (sideline)
Ravens Jersey Color: White
Referee Crew: Walt Coleman
Real football is back.
As part of the NFL's official kickoff weekend, the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens will open the season with a nationally-televised matchup against the Denver Broncos. The game is a rematch of last year's memorable AFC divisional round game, where the Ravens pulled off an improbable 38-35 victory in double overtime.
Much has changed since that game, as the Ravens have entered into a new era without icons Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens have re-built their defense, and also have to replace the top targets for quarterback Joe Flacco.
Despite the changes, the Ravens still have Super Bowl aspirations, and the Week 1 game will be the first chance to see where the Ravens are in their quest for back-to-back titles.
Matchups To Watch
OLB Elvis Dumervil vs. OT Ryan Clady
The outside linebacker will begin his career with the Ravens in the place where he spent the first seven years of his career. After getting cut by the Broncos and signing in Baltimore, Dumervil will now have the chance to chase after his old quarterback, Peyton Manning. Dumervil has brought energy to the Ravens' pass rush, and Clady will be tasked with keeping him and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs out of the backfield.
CB Lardarius Webb vs. WR Wes Welker
Thursday will be Welker's first game with the Broncos, and it will also be Webb's first game back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last season. The Ravens have said that Webb is full strength after easing back into full contact during training camp, but Manning may try to test him by targeting Welker out of the slot. Webb has kept Welker in check in the past during previous matchups against New England, and the Ravens hope that continues this week.
WR Jacoby Jones vs. S Rahim Moore
The speedy Jones certainly got the better of Moore in the playoffs last season with the 70-yard touchdown catch at the end of regulation to send it to overtime. Moore was vilified by fans and media during the offseason, but he returned to Denver and ended up winning a starting job. Quarterback Joe Flacco will likely look Jones' way for some deep balls in this contest, and it will be on Moore to keep Jones from getting open down the field.
Keys To The Game
Joe Flacco getting into a rhythm
The Ravens offense was inconsistent and "vanilla" during the preseason, but the expectation is for the group to open things up against Denver. The focus will be on Flacco in his first game since winning the Super Bowl and signing* *a mega contract this offseason. For the offense to have success, Flacco needs to get into a rhythm with his new receiving corps and pick up some early first downs. If Flacco is able to spread the ball around to his receivers and the offense can stay on the field, the Ravens should have a good chance to continue the hot streak they were on at the end of last season.
The defense has a whole new lineup from last season, as the unit is without eight starters from the Super Bowl team. With new faces like Dumervil, Spears, Chris Canty, Michael Huff, Daryl Smith, Matt Elam and Arthur Brown, communication will be critical. The Ravens had some communication miscues in the preseason, and it will be vital to avoid those against Manning. The Broncos quarterback is known for his ability to push the tempo and make checks at the line of scrimmage, which will put pressure on Smith at linebacker to relay the calls to the rest of the defense.
Capitalize on mistakes
In defeating the Broncos last season, the Ravens made the most of Manning's few mistakes. Cornerback Corey Graham picked him off twice, leading to 10 points. The Broncos can move the ball and put up points, but when Manning has a miscue, the defense will once again have to capitalize in order to keep Manning from having a big day.