The Broncos will open the season at home against the Baltimore Ravens in a matchup of two teams with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations heading in to 2015.
The Denver Broncos are hoping a change in philosophy can help them get one more shot at contending for a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning as their quarterback in 2015. They will be tested early on with a potential AFC Championship game preview in Week 1. Home advantage should definitely play a role in this game after Denver posted an 8-0 record at home last season but even then Manning and company will be in tough to cover the four-point betting line versus Baltimore.
How Has The Betting Line Moved?
Open: Denver -4
Current: Denver -4
There are a number of Week 1 games where bettors haven’t found an edge yet and this is one of them. Which Peyton Manning are we going to see: the one who was amazing in the first eight games of the 2014 season or the one who from the final eight, who looked like he needed to retire? As for Baltimore, what can we expect from them on the road at Mile High on opening night? This is a challenging game to call, which is why there hasn’t been much movement.
3 Key Storylines
Philosophical Changes In Denver: Peyton Manning threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns last season but that didn’t stop the Broncos from making major changes this past offseason when they fired John Fox and brought in Gary Kubiak as head coach. Despite his incredible regular season stats it appeared as though Manning wore down throughout the season and in the playoffs, which resulted in losing two of their final three games, including a 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. The Broncos want to run the football more under Kubiak in order to keep Manning fresh for January and hopefully for them even February and it will be interesting to see how they perform in Week 1 against a pretty stout Baltimore defense. The Ravens owned the NFL’s fourth-ranked run defense last season so Denver might have to adjust and keep the ball in Manning’s hands at least for Week 1.
Ravens Defensive Mentality: Baltimore’s defense was excellent against the run but ranked 23rd against the pass despite finishing tied for second in the NFL with 49 sacks last season so that will be an area of emphasis when it comes to improvement on that side of the football. The emergence of 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams and 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan on the defensive lien allowed the Ravens to trade Haloti Ngata in the offseason and a linebacker core that features Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley, Courtney Upshaw and Daryl Smith completes one of the most impressive front sevens in the NFL. The improvement will need to come in the secondary where the return of cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb should help. The Baltimore secondary will be tested by Manning and how they respond will go a long way in determining the outcome of this contest.
No Flack For Flacco: Joe Flacco has a Super Bowl ring and since that wasn’t enough to quiet his critics he made a statement last season when he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns compared to only 12 interceptions. Ravens’ fans will hope that Flacco can take another step forward this year despite losing veteran receiver Torrey Smith and he will be tested early on by a Denver defense that ranked third in the NFL in total yards allowed last season. Steve Smith Sr. is back for his final year and Baltimore added Central Florida star Breshad Perriman as Smith’s replacement with its first round pick. Flacco will rely heavily on both receivers in Week 1 as the Baltimore Ravens look to register the upset in their season opener.
Bet Early Or Bet Later…. And What’s The Play?
The betting line for this game hasn’t moved at all since it opened at Denver -4 and it’s unlikely to move before Week 1 barring a major injury for either team. Both teams appear to be legitimate contenders in the AFC heading in to this season and while the Broncos will have the home advantage in their season opener we think they will have a tough time winning this game outright. The Ravens have the potential to be a sneaky good team and they will undoubtedly get after Manning with the hope that they can rough him up early on. Baltimore might not win this game but we expect them to keep it close and at least cover the four points on the road in Week 1.
NFL Pick: Baltimore +4 at BetOnline