The Picks Are In: Plenty Doubt Ravens Can Beat Broncos
The Baltimore Ravens may be a popular Super Bowl pick, but few people believe they will start the season with a win.
Of the 52 predictions from eight media outlets, a whopping 41 believe the Denver Broncos will be victorious Sunday when they host the Ravens at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec was sure to say that "better days are ahead" for Baltimore, but many who picked the Broncos cited that future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning does his best work in September.
You've heard of "January Joe." Well, "September Manning" is crazy good.
Since Manning joined the Broncos in 2012 and left the comfy dome confines in Indianapolis, he is 8-2 in outdoor September games, posting a mind-boggling 120.7 quarterback rating, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley. During that same time period, Manning is 4-4 when the temperature drops below 40 in other months, posting a 98.9 QB rating.
Even cornerback Jimmy Smith said the effect is real.
"All of the hoopla about him in December compared to September, obviously it's real," Smith said. "But that's none of my concern. I know we have him Week 1, and he's going to be ready Week 1. That's all of our concern."
We'll see if the talking heads are right.
One thing is true. The Ravens (and their fans) love the underdog role where just about everyone doubts them.
If that's what you want, you sure got it.
Find all the picks below.
The Baltimore Sun: 6 of 7 panelists pick Broncos
"There will be better days ahead for the Ravens, but they drew a brutal season-opening assignment. A fresh and healthy Peyton Manning will prove too much in Gary Kubiak's head-coaching debut in Denver." -- Jeff Zrebiec
ESPN: 11 of 13 panelists pick Broncos
"For the first month, the defense will have to carry [Denver]. … I think it will be a top-five defense in the National Football League." -- Herm Edwards
CBS Sports: 7 of 8 panelists pick Broncos
"All eyes will be on Peyton Manning in this one. After the disappointing end to the 2014 season, there are many who wonder if he's done. He's not." -- Pete Prisco
Fox Sports: 4 of 7 panelists pick Ravens
"Baltimore's a hot pick for a lot of pundits out of the AFC this year. I don't see them winning this one. Ignore the noise, Manning's still got it ... or, at least in September, he does." -- Peter Schrager
Bleacher Report: 6 of 8 panelists pick *Broncos *
"Getting into a shootout with [Manning] is a good way to get beat." -- Gary Davenport
SB Nation: 5 of 7 panelists pick Broncos
NFL.com (Elliot Harrison): Broncos 24, Ravens 14
"Wade Phillips' defense will be top-five this year. Mark it down." – Harrison
ProFootballTalk (Mike Florio): Broncos 31, Ravens 20
"The Broncos have no issues with starting strong. The challenge is how they finish." -- Florio
Steelers Fall To Pats, Complain About Headsets Giving Out
Regardless if the Ravens win or lose in Denver Sunday, the good news is that the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers started their season 0-1 after falling to the New England Patriots, 28-21, Thursday night.
It was hard for the Ravens to "root" for either side given both teams are rivals, but when it comes to the standings, it's better for Pittsburgh to lose as priority No. 1 for Baltimore is to win the division.
The Steelers secondary looks like it could have a tough year. Here's a highlight of the unit making it way too easy on tight end Rob Gronkowski.
But besides the final result, the entire nation is talking about Head Coach Mike Tomlin telling reporters he had headset problems for almost the entire first half. The Patriots broadcast interfered with his communication with other coaches, and he told reporters it "always" happens at Gillette Stadium.
Head Coach Bill Belichick said he had similar problems, but of course it is not a good look coming out of Deflategate.
"This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time," wrote Bob Labriola of Steelers.com. "From the start of the game through the opening 14 minutes of the first quarter, the Steelers' coaches' headsets were receiving the Patriots Radio Network broadcast of the game. The broadcast was so loud that the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate, and the NFL rule is that if one team's headsets are not working the other team is supposed to be forced to take their headsets off. It's what the NFL calls the Equity Rule. Strangely enough, whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers' headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast."
Here's a statement from the league, which states the headset communication is provided by the league.
Quarterback Joe Flacco will be headed to the negotiation table after this season, and it won't be surprising if Giants quarterback Eli Manning's contract is referenced.
Manning has received a four-year, $84 million extension that could be signed today, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
The Ravens will need to renegotiate Flacco's original $120 million contract because his salary cap figure balloons to a massive $28.5 million. One way to lower that number is to give Flacco an extension similar to what Manning just got.
"This [contract] will catch Joe Flacco's attention," Hensley tweeted.
Grandfather Gives Flacco Trestman's Book, But He Didn't Read It
This is so Joe.
Shortly after Marc Trestman was hired as the new offensive coordinator in January, Flacco was given a gift by his grandfather. It was Trestman's book detailing his coaching career and featuring lessons he learned along the way.
Sounds like a thoughtful gift. Why not get to know the guy you'll be spending every day with for the foreseeable future?
Apparently Flacco appreciated the gift, but didn't want to read it.
"I'm not a reader," Flacco told Zrebiec with a smirk. "I figured I'd get to know him on my own."
Aqib Talib's Perspective Of Rematch With Steve Smith
He's the opponent that was told to "Ice up, son." And he'll have a rematch against Steve Smith Sr. this Sunday after their epic battle on Monday Night Football in 2013.
Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib will be tasked with slowing Smith when he kicks off his farewell tour in Denver. What does he remember about that night?
"Little tussle," Talib told reporters Wednesday in front of his Denver Broncos locker. "Nothing new with us, you know? Little tussle but they won the game and that's all that matters."
Even though Smith is 36 years old and entering his 15th season, Talib expects an equally explosive player Sunday.
"He's a great player," he said. "He's up in years, but he still can run and he's still physical. He's still the same competitor."
Time For WRs To Prove Themselves
It's been said countless times of the Ravens wide receiver corps.
Outside of Smith, there are no proven playmakers and they might be the weak spot of the offense. It's something the group doesn't like to hear, given Smith's reaction earlier this week when a reporter called Kamar Aiken "unproven."
If they don't want to hear the doubters anymore, now's the time to do something about it and silence them.
"Tired of hearing the questions, it's time for the Ravens wide receivers to provide answers," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown. "In the best-case scenario for the Ravens, Perriman gets healthy and gives an explosive jolt to the offense whenever he returns. Like Odell Beckham Jr. did for the Giants last season. Campanaro stays healthy and makes plays as a slot receiver. Smith is Smith. Aiken capitalizes on his golden opportunity. And Brown plays like he did in 2013, when he had seven touchdown catches as a rookie.
"In the worst-case scenario, Perriman's injury leads to an inconsistent rookie season. Campanaro can't beat the injury bug. And Smith, in his final season at age 36, doesn't defy Father Time the way he defies cornerbacks."