Tale Of The Tape: Baltimore Ravens At Denver Broncos
- QuarterbackJoe Flacco becomes the hunted this year. A remarkable Super Bowl run last year started with a come-from-behind miracle in Denver. The Ravens became Flacco’s team in the process and that will become even more the case in 2013. Flacco’s arm strength is his top physical asset, but it is his command of the offense and ability to find the open receiver that has made him an elite leader.Peyton Manning proved quite a bit last year, as he returned to top form after missing the 2011 season as a result of a significant neck injury. Manning made the move from Indianapolis and was every bit the leader he had been with the Colts, even if his arm has lost a bit of zip. Manning will still have his moments, but he is no longer the elite passer he once was.
- OffenseThe Ravens found success with their multifaceted attack last year. Many high-powered offenses tend to eschew the run in favor of the pass, but the presence of Ray Rice allows the Ravens to use the running game to gash opposing defenses. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones give the Ravens two solid wideouts who can make big plays.The Broncos have a crew of talented receivers who have a chance to give the Broncos one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Eric Decker is faster than you think and he will catch nearly everything he touches. Demaryius Thomas has the speed to get downfield and make big plays. Former Patriot Wes Welker will complement both of them. Look for rookie Montee Ball to give the running game a lift.
- DefenseThe old Ravens defense that featured Ray Lewis and Ed Reed is gone and will live on in the memories of Raiders fans. Haloti Ngata is still the anchor in the middle of the defensive line and he can shut down the interior run. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil give the Ravens a pair of pass rushers who can dictate the pace of the game. The Ravens expect cornerback Lardarius Webb to have a big year.The Broncos became one of the hardest hitting and most consistent defenses in the AFC a year ago, and they may eventually repeat their performance this year. However, they could have a problem early in the season without Von Miller (suspended). Veteran Champ Bailey has been one of the best cover men in the league for years, but how much does he have left. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson is an underrated stud against the run.
- Special TeamsOne of the big reasons the Ravens were able to sustain excellence last year was the improvement in their special teams. Justin Tucker gave head coach John Harbaugh consistency by making 30-of-33 FG attempts while Jones is a game-breaking return specialist.Trindon Holliday returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown last year. Placekicker Matt Prater has a big leg and he made 26-of-32 FG attempts last year. Britton Colquitt averaged 46.3 yards on his punts and gets excellent height.
The Broncos feel like they could have been the team hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of last season and they will want to pay back the Ravens. That motivation and having home-field advantage should give them an edge in this Opening Night confrontation. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor