Finally! The NFL season kicks off tonight when the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens travel to the Mile High City to face the Denver Broncos. Weekly pick ‘ems leagues are quickly gaining popularity among offices, churches and friends just looking to do something else football related.
I did another write up on the fantasy implications of tonight’s game earlier today, and you can read it here. Sometimes, real life football and fantasy football are completely different animals. Just because Joe Flacco might have all day to find Torrey Smith multiple times does not necessarily mean the Ravens leave tonight’s game with the win. So which team should the pick ‘em players out there choose?
First off, this will be a close game. It is hard to vote against the Super Bowl champs. Super Bowl winners boast a 12-1 record when opening their title defense. So smart money should be on the Ravens, right?
I’m not so sure. Peyton Manning is a superior quarterback to Flacco. The Broncos have better weapons at the receiver position than the Ravens do. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas provide Manning with a myriad of choices. The Ravens’ air attack is limited to Smith, although Marlon Brown could very well emerge as a solid second receiving option.
The Ravens have a clear advantage at running back with the combo of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, and are clearly better than the committee approach the Broncos will roll out with Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno. If the Ravens can establish a solid running game, then they will have a much better chance of winning tonight.
On the defensive side, the Ravens have been completely revamped. Terrelle Suggs remains an elite pass rusher and will become even better now that the opposition needs to account for Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos have a questionable offensive line, and Manning could be on the run often tonight. It will be interesting to see if Moreno’s superior blocking abilities earn him more snaps.
The Ravens’ secondary is not as solid as their defensive front, and should be exploited by Manning. The only matchup where the Ravens are close will be Ladarius Webb, who should cover Welker in the slot. Both Demaryius Thomas and Decker should be able to create space from Dominique Rodger-Cromartie and Michael Huff.
In a nutshell, this game will come down to the Ravens’ ability to establish a running game versus the Broncos’ ability to exploit the matchups in the passing attack. It’s never easy to pick against the defending champs, but I think Manning has been thinking about this game all summer and gets his revenge tonight.
Final Score Baltimore 28 — Denver 31
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.
Read more from Dustin here.