NFL Picks: Ravens vs. Broncos in Week 1 Opener

Doug Upstone

Sunday, September 1, 2013 3:08 PM GMT

Sunday, Sep. 1, 2013 3:08 PM GMT

Let’s start at the beginning where it has become an NFL opening game tradition to feature the defending Super Bowl champions playing at home before their fans and feeling all the adoration.
The NFL Season is upon us. Check out our Week 1 Opening Odds Report!

The Ravens football stadium is near the Orioles ballpark and the Birds had/have a game on September 5th. Because both teams share parking, the football team asked the baseball team to reschedule and they refused. This forced the NFL’s hand to move the game to the Mile High City.
This will definitely play a factor in your NFL picks.

Ravens Confident Drop Off Will Not be Severe

The first obstacle for Baltimore is being known as Super Bowl champions, which guarantees every opponent’s best effort. Throw in the loss of at least seven starters and the foundation should be shaken.

However, Ravens management has said all along the plan was to become a younger and more athletic team for 2013 and they believe they accomplished this through the draft and free agency.

Harbaugh's Raven's Not Broken

Whether you like or dislike Joe Flacco as an elite quarterback, the fact is he helped earn the hardware and Ray Rice will still be carrying and catching the pigskin. Torrey Smith is a special long-ball threat who will become a bigger part of the offense this season. The offensive line was their strength in the postseason and is less certain coming into 2013.

With the departures of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, new leaders will have to emerge, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees will not have to compensate for their loss of speed and he’s thrilled to add Elvis Dumervil who escaped from Denver by accident.

Denver Under The Gun

We have all seen those polls like –Best College Party Towns– and I wondered if I missed one on NFL cities. Denver would have to be near the top of the list with two front office types arrested for DUI’s this summer and players like Von Miller giving a new meaning to ‘Miller Time’. 

Whatever has occurred, Peyton Manning left Tennessee University when this year’s top draft choice Sylvester Williams was nine years old, suggesting the 37-year old cannot go on forever. However, the offense could be even more dynamic with everyone together one year and Wes Welker adds another outstanding dimension as a slot receiver.

The running game should be upgraded with Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball both with fresh legs and should do better than the 3.8 yards per carry Broncos backs averaged last season

How Much Does Denver Defense Suffer?

The loss of Dumervil does matter, but expected replacement Robert Ayers is 25 pounds heavier and significantly better against the run. Miller’s six-game suspension curtails the pass rush, which doesn’t help a secondary which will see many more deep balls after the Ravens abused them in the playoffs. Where the defense really is will not be determined until after mid-season.

Matchup Numbers

Denver opened as a nine-point favorite and has fallen to eight, with the total at 48 in the NFL odds. In the last 11 meetings, Baltimore is 8-2-1 ATS with seven outright victories.
 
[gameodds]16/226868/?r3=19-349-192/us&r-1=19-349-192/us[/gameodds]
 
What to Watch For

The Ravens know Denver will be out for their pound of flesh, yet they are coached by a Harbaugh, which means blissful arrogance and Baltimore will do many of the same things as last time. Like run the ball at the Broncos defense and take multiple shots down the field on the right side between the hashmarks and the numbers, for example.

Coach John Fox will talk more about execution than revenge, after three turnovers in the last meeting. Manning’s arm strength is reportedly 15 to 20 percent better than last year, which will allow him to test a reconfigured Birds secondary. Fox’s defense has to win against the run to force passing downs and be cognizant of Rice in the flat. The entire secondary has to play the ball much better. 

Final Outcome

Denver extracts a measure of revenge, but fails to cover the spread, winning by seven or less. We'll take the Ravens on the spread for our sports picks in this game.

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