It seems only fitting that last year’s Super Bowl winner will open the 2013 NFL regular season against this year’s Super favorite. On Thursday night, the defending champion Baltimore Ravens will kick off Week One with a visit to the Denver Broncos.

Denver enters the new year with the best odds, along with the San Francisco 49ers, of playing for the championship at MetLife Stadium in 2014. They finished 2012 with the best record in football, and added Wes Welker and to an already dynamic offense.

The Ravens are coming off a championship season, but they aren’t expected by many to repeat in 2013. On the defensive side, they lost veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. They also traded Anquan Boldin in the offseason.

With the game being played in Denver, the Broncos are heavy favorites. They are giving the Ravens 7.5 points in first meaningful contest of the year.

The season opener offers a rematch from the memorable 2013 AFC Divisional playoffs. Denver entered that contest as a big favorite, but blew a late lead and lost in overtime. A 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 30 seconds left turned the game around for the eventual champs.

In his first season with the Broncos, Peyton Manning helped turn one of the worst offenses in the league into a top unit in the NFL. On Thursday, the quarterback will take the field with even more weapons. Besides Welker, the team added running back Montee Ball in the offseason. The rookie will look to replace Willis McGahee.

Recent history suggests that it will be difficult for the Ravens to start off 2013 at 1-0. The homes team has won nine of the last 10 prime-time NFL kickoff games.

Betting Odds: Denver -7.5, 48

Prediction: On paper, the Broncos are the better team. Without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, it will be tough for the Ravens to keep Manning out of the end zone for multiple scores. Despite having Ray Rice at tailback and a Super Bowl winner in Joe Flacco at quarterback, Baltimore doesn’t have nearly as many playmakers on that side of the ball. The Ravens must hope that the absence of Von Miller and the departed Elvis Dumervil will be enough for them to win a shootout.

Predicted Final Score: Denver 31, Baltimore 20