What: Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

When: 8:30 pm ET

Where: Sports Authority Field, Denver Colorado

TV: NBC; announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

Line: Broncos by 7½ (opened at 8½); over/under 48 (opened at 49½)

Ravens Injury Report — Out: DE Arthur Jones (illness). Doubtful: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe). Probable: TE Ed Dickson (thigh), LB Pernell McPhee (knee)

Broncos Injury Report — Out: RB C.J. Anderson (knee), CB Champ Bailey (foot), TE Joel Dreessen (knee). Doubt­ful: G Chris Kuper (ankle). Probable: DE Robert Ayers (Achilles), T Ryan Clady (shoulder), QB Brock Osweiler (left shoulder), WR Wes Welker (ankle)

 

While the national focus is on the addition of Wes Welker to Denver’s already potent offense and the departure of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Bolden from Baltimore, the key to this game may come down to an unknown player with a familiar name: Manny Ramirez. With Dan Koppen on IR (ACL) and J.D. Walton on PUP (ankle), Ramirez – not to be confused with the baseball player – went from being on the bubble to make the roster, to sliding over and becoming Denver’s starting center.

It’s not that he has no NFL experience – he has played in 35 games with 11 starts – but those were at right guard. Ramirez was rated as the 4th best guard entering the 2007 draft and the Lions traded up to select him in the 4th round. He washed out there and saw little playing time until last year at RG. He’s a better run blocker than pass protector. Anybody that has spent time watching the Patriots knows that the best way to disrupt a pure pocket passer with a quick release is to get effective pressure up the middle and collapse the pocket. Most times quality veteran quarterbacks get rid of the ball too quickly for outside pressure to work, so the key for the Ravens is not so much Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, but Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones working the interior.

Ngata versus Ramirez appears to be a mismatch that heavily favors the Ravens; Denver will need to find a way to minimize the effects of this matchup in order to avoid an upset. The Broncos allowed just 21 sacks last year, the second-fewest in the NFL. The Ravens don’t have to sack Manning, but if they can disrupt his mechanics and passing lanes then they’ll be in good shape tonight.

 

Other Subplots

Disrespect vs Revenge

In the last decade no reigning Super Bowl champion has entered the following season with such long betting odds to repeat; in fact, many are speculating that Baltimore won’t even make the playoffs. Expect the Ravens to be even more chippy than they usually are and use those predictions as additional fire to fuel their emotions. Denver on the other hand would love to not only win but do so decisively after a shocking and embarrassing loss to the Ravens last January.


Wes Welker joins Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in Denver

The Return of Elvis Dumervil

A lot of people have been talking about the loss of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed – and then not mentioning the addition of Elvis Dumervil. The former Bronco became a free agent after a strange set of events and fax malfunctions that ultimately resulted in his signing with the Ravens. The plan this season is for Dumervil to team up with Terrell Suggs to provide consistent pressure from both edges. You know that Dumervil would like nothing more than to put Manning on the Mile High turf a few times Thursday night.

Who Replaces Anquan Boldin?

And how effective will he be? After being burnt by Jacoby Jones last year Denver signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to counter tall receivers. With Champ Bailey out, DRC will likely cover Torrey Smith. Smith, Jones and TE Ed Dickson need to get open and make the tough catches on 3rd down. I’m curious to see how Baltimore fares in the red zone without Boldin and TE Dennis Pitta, who is on injured reserve with a hip injury.

Denver’s Defense without Dumervil

Although Denver is without Dumervil and Von Miller (suspension), their pass rush will still be fine, with defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers. Chris Harris moves from the slot to replace Champ Bailey at CB, but they still may have some issues at safety with Rahim Moore and Duke Ihenacho.

Can the new Baltimore defenders mesh as a single unit?

The Ravens have only two players starting tonight that started on their defense at the end of last year. Dumervil, DE Chris Canty and S Michael Huff are no slouches, nor is CB Lardarius Webb. Still, you have to expect Manning wants to see what Webb looks like after having not played a game in 11 months, and even moreso for testing S James Ihedigbo or nickel backs Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown, both of whom struggled in the preseason.

 

Prediction: Baltimore will be a work in progress for the first few games, and for them that will be too much to overcome against an opponent with all those offensive weapons. Take the Broncos minus the points (one unit) and the under.

Broncos 31, Ravens 16

 

 

2012 Tale of the Tape

NFL 2012 Results:
Straight Up: 177-86-1 (67%)
Against The Spread: 127-133-4 (49%)
Over/Under: 143-117-4 (55%)
1 Unit Plays: 62-47 (57%)
2 Unit Plays: 45-35-4 (56%)
3 Unit Plays: 27-22-3 (55%)
4 Unit Plays: 2-2 (50%)
5 Unit Plays: 3-1 (75%)
All Confidence Picks: 149-108-7 (58%)
Season NFL Total: +8650

Season College Total
34-18, net +12 Units, +970

Season Grand Total
+9620

 

 

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