By Kevin McGuire
The Baltimore Ravens will open their 2015 NFL season on the road against an old foe, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The start of a new NFL season is always worth getting excited about, but any time you can pit two AFC playoff contenders on the same field to get it all started there is reason to get just a little extra amped up. Most teams may have trouble adjusting to playing in Denver, but not the Ravens.
The Denver Broncos are coming off a 12-4 season that ended unceremoniously with a loss in the AFC Divisional Playoff round. The Broncos were eliminated at home by the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos went 3-1 in the preseason.
Since moving from Cleveland, the Baltimore Ravens and Broncos have split a 10-game series with five wins apiece. The Ravens have historically played very well in Denver, leaving the Mile High City with an impressive 5-1 record.
Broncos on Offense
Peyton Manning is back for another run at a possible Lombardi Trophy run. The future Hall of fame quarterback faces some increasing uncertainty with his health as he continues to age, but when on the field he remains one of the game’s true greats. Unfortunately for Denver, the Broncos have some questions to address on the offensive line this season. The Broncos were dealt a blow on the line in the spring when Ryan Clady went down for the year with an ACL injury and free agency saw Orlando Franklin head to San Diego.
But what about the supporting cast around Manning this season? C.J. Anderson has become a key running back for the Broncos, and Ronnie Hillman has moved his way up the depth chart. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders is a bit slowed down heading into the opener due to a hamstring (he is questionable for this weekend), which could force Baltimore to throw Jordan Norwood into a starting role alongside Demariyus Thomas coming off a big 2014 season.
Broncos on Defense
With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips taking over control and scheme, the Broncos are ready to unload a brand new 3-4 defense. This is expected to allow Von Miller to hit his top potential, and that should be a scary thought for opposing offenses. Denver has Miller on one side of the field, and DeMarcus Ware on the other, giving the Broncos some big time defensive playmakers at all times. Getting by them will be difficult for most opposing offenses.
The Broncos could also be pretty solid in the secondary, which will include former Raven Darian Stewart. The Broncos should expect a big year in coverage from Aqib Talib and Chris Harris locking down.
Denver’s Players to Watch
QB Peyton Manning: Manning is facing the Ravens for the 11th time in his NFL career. He is 8-2 all-time against the Ravens, with 25 touchdowns and five interceptions.
LB Von Miller: Miller is a bit of a sack master. Last season he had 14 sacks, but that number could easily climb in 2015 as the Broncos move to a defensive system more suited for his abilities.
Going to Denver is not easy for most teams, but for whatever reason Baltimore has been able to bring the kryptonite with them every time they pay a visit. That may once again be the case with the Ravens about as solid a team there may be in the AFC. The Ravens should be capable of bringing some pressure on Manning and possibly force him to making some key mistakes. If they can do that, their incredible winning record in Denver should notch another “W” to it.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.