For the second time in three years, the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens will meet at Mile High in Week 1 of the NFL season. Both teams are expected to be playoff contenders, but the home team is favored to come out on top on Sunday in the 2015 opener.
The Broncos are giving the Ravens 4.5 points at Las Vegas casinos, according to vegasinsider.com, with the over/under at 48 points. There are a few notable aspects to watch for in this prominent matchup.
Denver’s offense should be one of the best in the NFL if Manning plays like his old self, but that might not be a guarantee. The quarterback will play in his first meaningful game since ending last season with four touchdowns and six interceptions in his final five contests. But Manning was battling a leg injury, and he is likely to play better because it is the early part of the season.
Manning has been terrific in outdoor September games with the Broncos, going 8-2 with a 120.7 passer rating. He hasn’t played nearly as well when the weather turns cold, going 4-4 with a 98.9 passer rating in under 40-degreee temperatures.
"All of the hoopla about him in December compared to September, obviously it's real,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said, via the team's official website. "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."
The Ravens ranked just 23rd against the pass in 2014, and they let Tom Brady throw for 367 yards and three touchdowns in their final game last year.
Because of Manning and Denver’s high-powered offense, the team’s defense doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. The Broncos ranked third in total defense last season, and there’s little reason to believe they won’t have a top unit in 2015.
Denver’s defense looks almost identical to what the Broncos put on the field last season. The team only brought in two free agents to be starters, returning the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Brandon Marshall. No team in the preseason had more sacks than Denver, who got to the opposing quarterback 20 times.
Joe Flacco put up the best numbers of his career last season, but he won’t have an easy time moving the ball on Sunday. The Ravens lost Torrey Smith in free agency, and Baltimore’s No.2 wide receiver, first-round pick Breshad Perriman, is likely out with an injury.
It was just two years ago when the Broncos and Ravens began the season against each other, and Baltimore is hoping things turn out differently in 2015. Seven months after they won the Super Bowl, John Harbaugh’s team was blown out on national TV.
With the game being played at Mile High, Manning threw for 462 yards and seven touchdowns in a 49-27 victory. Baltimore was actually leading at halftime, but the Broncos scored 28 unanswered points to pull away with the win. The Broncos are 3-0 in season openers with Manning at the helm.
Now that he’s healthy and the weather is warm, Manning should look different than the quarterback that struggled at the end of last season. Denver is better on both sides of the ball, and the Broncos are one of the NFL’s most dominant teams at home, making for a potentially lopsided score.
Denver over Baltimore, 27-14