For Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the 2012 season ended in a heartbreaking fashion.
In 2013 however, the Broncos have no plans of letting anyone, especially not the very same (yet very different) Baltimore Ravens, derail them from their quest to win football’s ultimate price. In fact, if Manning has anything to say about it, the Ravens are going to learn the hard way that revenge is a dish best served Rocky Mountain cold.
Entering this season, the Broncos made a key offensive addition in adding one of, if not the best slot receiver in the game in Wes Welker.
In adding Welker, the Broncos ensured themselves of the best receiver depth chart in the league. And if you combine Welker’s 2012 stats (118 receptions, 1,354 yards, six TDs), with those of Denver’s Demaryius Thomas (94 receptions, 1,434 yards, 10 TDs) and Eric Decker (85 receptions, 1,064 yards, 13 TDs), you can see why this receiving core is going to be nearly impossible to stop.
And considering that Baltimore lost Ed Reed to free agency, being able to cover all three of these guys now becomes an actual impossibility. They did add safety Matt Elam in the draft and he looks promising, but he is only one guy. One guy can’t stop three top-of-the-line receivers.
The Ravens, who ranked 17th in opponents’ passing yards last year, will have to figure out something. Otherwise, it is going to be a long night for that young and inexperienced defense.
Putting aside the clear offensive advantage the Broncos have, this is a team that is motivated, and a team that will be the first in 10 years to face off in Week 1 against the defending Super Bowl champions not on the road, but on their own home turf. Make no mistake, this is a huge advantage in and of itself.
As many former players have noted, Denver is one of the toughest places to play. The air is thinner, the atmosphere is intimidating and if you aren’t used to playing there, it can be tough. Last year in the regular season, the Broncos were 13-3, including 7-1 at home. Denver also allowed an average of just 16.3 points against opponents at home compared to 19.7 on the road.
The one advantage the Ravens might have comes in the form of their running game.
The Broncos lost Von Miller to a six-week suspension, and Elvis Dumervil, who ironically enough went to Baltimore. Those two accounted for 29.5 of Denver’s 52 total sacks last year and their presence, especially against Ray Rice, will be sorely missed. Rice is a top-five running back in the league and should absolutely gash the weakened Denver defensive line.
But even if Rice runs wild over the Broncos, Manning’s offense is still going to be too much to stop. The Broncos will win this game, the first of many in their road to the 2013 Super Bowl.