On January 12, 2013, the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos battled it out during the AFC divisional round of the playoffs. The game, later dubbed the “Mile High Miracle” left Broncos fans stunned after the underdog Ravens defeated their team in double overtime.
The game has gone down in NFL history, and tonight, the the two teams meet again in the same stadium for a rematch.
The team that wins the Super Bowl typically opens the next season at home, but due to a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles, the Ravens have made their way to Denver for the NFL season kickoff game. To promote the game, the NFL placed banners and signs of the the Super Bowl champions all around the stadium and the city of Denver, causing a reaction from many fans and even some players.
As if the Ravens didn’t have enough going against them, the Broncos are favored by 7.5 points.
Regardless, the Ravens have stayed relaxed, focused, and optimistic throughout all of the pre-game chatter. But are they ready to take on the Broncos on a primetime stage?
Here’s a look at how the Ravens will excel in the season opener in Denver.
Putting the “new” team to the test
While football fans across the country were focused on the departure of players such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin, the Ravens were focused on the future. General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens organization were hard at work to find adequate replacements for the seemingly irreplaceable athletes.
Of course, no names are going to jump off of the page when following in one of those player’s footsteps, but the team has been able to revamp both the offense and the defense to ensure that the 2013-2014 season will be just as great for the organization. The Ravens have a younger roster filled with talent, as well as a decent amount of veterans provide experience. With a strong, healthy defense and a young, versatile offense, it should be exciting to watch the debut of the new Baltimore Ravens.
Utilize offensive targets
When the Ravens last played the Broncos in January, wide receiver Torrey Smith had no problem getting past veteran cornerback Champ Bailey. Smith recorded three catches for 98 yards, two of which were touchdowns, and both were one-on-one battles with Bailey. But the twelve-time Pro Bowl cornerback will be sidelined for the rematch with a foot injury.
With Bailey out for the game, quarterback Joe Flacco needs to utilize his receivers, especially Smith. Flacco is very dependable and consistent with the long ball, so there should hardly be any hesitation to launch the ball downfield. Denver’s secondary isn’t very strong with Bailey out of the game, either. If the Ravens line up three wideouts, the Broncos may not have enough depth to sufficiently cover all of the receivers.
Strong pass rush
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league. With receivers like Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Demaryius Thomas, he has plenty of options for the pass attack. The Ravens’ defensive focus should be to get to Manning as quickly as possible in order to stop the pass game.
Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs with have a lot to handle against Denver offensive tackle Ryan Clady. This matchup will leave linebacker Elvis Dumervil to step up on the pass rush. Dumervil spent last season in Denver with Manning and could be the Ravens’ key to forcing the early pass from his old teammate.
In the secondary, cornerback Lardarius Webb will be covering Welker, a familiar face from the Ravens’ multiple battles against the New England Patriots over the past few seasons. With Webb focused on Welker, the team will have to look toward linebackers Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith to pinch in for some extra pass coverage.