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5 Storylines To Follow In NFL Season Opener

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5 Storylines To Follow In Season Opener

5 Storylines To Follow In Season Opener
Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

The NFL kicks off the season at Sports Authority Field At Mile High when the Denver Broncos square off with the newly crowned Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The game already has fans in Denver foaming at the mouth after giant signs featuring the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco were emblazoned all over downtown Denver. The advertisements, which were bankrolled by the NFL, were met with outright hostility from Broncos fans who circulated a petition around town demanding the signs be taken down.

That kind of tension will ensure a hostile environment for Flacco and the Ravens with lots of eyeballs watching nationwide for the NFL. For Baltimore, it's a chance to prove to its critics that it hasn't skipped a beat, even after a purging of the team that left it without its leader in Ray Lewis and its defensive stopgap Ed Reed. Lewis highstepped his way into retirement and a broadcast booth while Reed has nursed his injury with the Houston Texans.

Can the Ravens restart where they left off? The numbers look to be in their favor. The New York Giants are the only team since 2005 that failed to win their opener following a Super Bowl win. This team may have lost its name brands, but they've also proven they can win wherever they play. Led by coach John Harbaugh and Super Bowl MVP Flacco, the Ravens still have what it takes to beat anybody, anywhere.

For the Broncos, it's a chance for Peyton Manning to deliver on what he started last season. That season ended in defeat to... you guessed it, the Ravens. Baltimore was nine-point underdogs that day, but managed to walk out with the win punching their ticket to the AFC Championship. On Thursday, the Ravens are again underdogs, but Manning can't let this season start off on the wrong foot.

There's plenty to watch Thursday, but I have my eye on five storylines that should dominate the box score when it's all said and done. Check the top five after the jump.

Karim Akbar is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @Kuhreem , “Like” his RantSports page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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Ryan Clady vs. Elvis Dumervil

Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil are already acquainted with one another, but this time they won't be facing off against each other in practice. It'll be a matchup against one another on the field.

''He's a good player in this league and he's definitely a challenge,'' said Clady. ''I'm looking forward to the challenge and just playing my game, seeing if I can get the best of him.''

That's a tall order, but if one thing is in his favor, it's his knowledge of Dumervil's moves and how he likes to use his long arms for leverage. This war in the trenches could have a say in the winner, though, each offense should be rolling with its top stars out.

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John Harbaugh's Coaching Mastery

Scott Rovak- USA TODAY Sports

John Harbaugh is without a doubt one of the greatest coaching minds we've seen. Though he unfairly is not mentioned in the same air as Bill Belichick or Tom Coughlin, his stats are in fact incredible. For one, he's been to the playoffs every year he's coached, he's been to three AFC Championships and won a Super Bowl.

Many critics are wondering just how the Baltimore Ravens plan to bounce back. Ultimately, I think we'll see the Ravens roll in Denver. Just as they did last year.

"The one and only thing I have said about repeating is that this is a great opportunity," Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. "And that this year's Ravens team is the only one with that opportunity. 31 others won't, and that's unique."

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Are The Ravens Ready For Title Defense?

Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports

This question won't be answered until after the game and possibly beyond that. After losing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed among others, the Baltimore Ravens stayed mostly quiet in the offseason instead relying on its core group. Most of that group is the same from last year, but they remain untested. I think the Ravens lost quite a bit, but still have the firepower to get past the Denver Broncos. And if you can get past Denver, I think you can beat just about anybody on any given day.

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Can Peyton Lead Broncos Past Ravens Defense?

Ron Chenoy- USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning has been here before. During his time with the Indianapolis Colts, Manning's faceoffs with Tom Brady for football domination was the stuff of legend. A similar storyline is taking shape in Denver as Manning and the Denver Broncos face Joe Flacco again. The last matchup ended with a Denver Broncos defeat in double overtime. But Manning bounces back better than anybody, and he's ready this year. And he has plenty of weapons (Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas)

These two may meet in the playoffs again, and maybe it'll be different or maybe it won't. But I know one thing, Manning is sick and tired of hearing about that playoff loss to the Ravens. The quarterback got snippy with reporters this week when asked about it.

"I covered that just about all offseason," Manning said. "I know I'm talking to you guys for the first time, but I guess you just have to probably check some old clips for quotes.''

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Will Joe Flacco Pick Up Where He Left Off?

Ron Chenoy- USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt. Joe Flacco's mastery of the offense led the team's ownership to write Flacco an oversized novelty check with real zeros. Flacco has already proven he can beat the Denver Broncos as we saw last year. Also, his demeanor under pressure was one of the main reasons the Baltimore Ravens made it to the Super Bowl and won.

The Ravens will need to see more of that as the team is rebuilt and not battle-tested like last year's team. I think at the end of the day, with the weapons he has, Flacco is one of the best signal-callers in the game today. Besides, the Ravens can pound it inside with Ray Rice, taking advantage of Von Miller's suspension and absence.