The regular season is finally upon us as the Baltimore Ravens are set to defend their crown as Super Bowl champions in Denver against the Broncos Thursday night.
Here are five predictions that are bound to go wrong, but could happen:
1. Joe Flacco throws for 300 yards and three scores.
We have all heard about the illustrious contract thrown Joe’s way during the offseason and now it’s time to further prove his worth. If he doesn’t want to be remembered as the guy who showed up on the biggest stage for one run and stole a huge contract, this is the best place to start. Flacco has his work cut out for him as far as receiving options go, but the former Delaware Blue Hen has one guy who excelled at getting behind defenders for huge scores, wide receiver Torrey Smith. It also helps that Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey will be missing in action for the season opener, so expect offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to stay on the outside and focus on getting Torrey and fellow speedster Jacoby Jones behind the Denver secondary.
2. Ray Rice combines for 150 yards from scrimmage.
I’m going to say it right now: Ray Rice will lead this team in receptions this season… book it! The famous dump-off passes we have become so accustomed to seeing in this offense will be around once again with Rice coming out of the backfield. He is one of the more reliable targets Flacco has and with his ability to gain yards as a dual-threat back, expect a big day from Ray. The Broncos defensive line and linebackers come in short-handed with star pass-rushing specialist Von Miller suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. While the Ravens do have a fairly newcomer at the center position in Gino Gradkowski, look for the Ravens physical offensive line to stymie the defensive front of the Broncos.
3. Chris Canty debuts strongly with 2.0 sacks.
By far my favorite edition of the offseason for the Ravens has been defensive tackle Chris Canty. The 6-foot-7 stalwart will provide much needed support along the defensive line for fellow tackle Haloti Ngata, despite Arthur Jones’ absence in Week 1 due to an undisclosed illness. Canty is a freak athlete who possesses size and strength to handle blockers and get after the passer if needed. The biggest storyline that isn’t getting enough press for the Broncos is the season-ending injury to center Dan Koppen. Denver is working with backup center Manny Ramirez — no word on alleged steroid use — and it remains to be seen what the seven-year veteran can provide for the Peyton Manning offense. Canty is a player who can play at either the nose, 3 or 5-technique along the defensive line. This versatility will allow players like Marcus Spears and Pernell McPhee to stay fresh and harass the offensive line with pressure.
4. Ed Dickson recovers from his nagging hamstring injury and puts together a two-touchdown performance.
It’s no secret that the tight end position for the Baltimore Ravens is a looming concern going forward, but Ed Dickson is here to remind everyone that he was once a starting tight end in this league. The former Oregon Duck bolsters the position with more speed than injured tight end Dennis Pitta, yet lacks the consistency in terms of hands and staying healthy. Dickson provides an interesting matchup for the Broncos secondary that features… you guessed it… Rahim Moore and Mike Adams at the safety positions. Flacco loves the seam routes with his tight ends and unless a wide receiver decides to become the primary outlet for Joe to look to on third downs, look for him to eye up Dickson to gain separation and make the clutch catches.
5. It will be a shootout in Denver, but the defending Super Bowl champions will prevail 31-27.
In the first game without Ray Lewis being a member of the Ravens franchise, it will be a battle won by the visiting team. Great game, but Baltimore will win 31-27 over Denver.
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