After six months, the defending Super Bowl champs will finally take the field. The Baltimore Ravens are scheduled to play their first preseason game of 2013 on Thursday night. They visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first action of the new season.
It’s the first exhibition contest since Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game, and all 32 teams will be in action this week. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The game won’t be broadcast on national TV, but will air locally in Tampa Bay on WFLA and on WBAL-TV in Baltimore. Viewers can watch a live stream online for $19.99 at preseason.nfl.com.
On defense, the Ravens will look a little bit different from last season and previous years. Ray Lewis retired after getting his second ring, and veteran safety Ed Reed signed with the Houston Texans. For the first time in over a decade, Baltimore will be forced to play without either of the two future Hall of Famers.
Matt Elam gets to make his NFL debut when he steps on the field at safety. The Ravens used their first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, hoping to improve their revamped secondary. He’ll get a chance to compete with James Ihedigbo for the starting job at strong safety. The six-year veteran played all 16 games with Baltimore in 2012, but failed to get an interception. Michael Huff will play his first game as Reed’s replacement after spending the first seven years of his career with the Oakland Raiders.
Joe Flacco will play for the first time since signing his new $120.6 million contract. In his limited amount of time against the Buccaneers, the quarterback will be forced to play with several new weapons. Tight end Dennis Pitta was recently lost for the season with a fractured and dislocated hip. The club also lost Anquan Boldin in a trade to the San Francisco 49ers. Visanthe Shiancoe will look to make an impact as he tries to replace Pitta, who caught seven touchdown passes in 2012.
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Tampa Bay made one of the biggest splashes in the offseason by acquiring Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets. However, the cornerback won’t be ready to play after tearing his ACL last season. Even without Revis, the Bucs secondary will look a lot different than it did in 2012. Aquib Talib, Eric Wright, and Ronde Barber are all gone. Jonathan Banks will be the team’s No.1 cornerback with Revis not in uniform.
On offense, Tampa Bay will be looking to find their No.3 wide receiver behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Free agent signee Kevin Ogeltree has a chance to get the spot after coming over from the Dallas Cowboys. Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu are also in contention to move up on the depth chart.
Betting Line: Tampa Bay-3, 35.5
Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, Baltimore 17