Thursday Night Football Preview

The NFL regular season kicks off Thursday, September 6 at 8:30 with the Ravens heading to Denver to take on the Broncos in a rematch between two AFC heavyweights.

WOOO HOOO for Fantasy football being back!!!! That’s all I really care about anymore as a Jets fan. Now, what is going to make this game interesting is the star studded talent on the offensive side of the ball for Denver. The Broncos with Peyton Manning and his 12 disciples (Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Knowshown Moreno, Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas, Ryan Clady, Adam Gase, John Elway, Jesus Christ, and Manny Ramirez (not that Manny Ramirez) are going to give the Raven’s defense a headache. Peyton will and has picked apart every defense in this league and Baltimore is no exception especially after the off-season where they saw two veteran and emotional leaders in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed depart from the team.  To go along with losing Lewis and Reed the Ravens lost key linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger to free agency, but they brought in Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty to bolster up an already Pro Bowl studded line with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the Broncos offensive line deals with the Ravens defensive front seven specifically in the run game. Back to the Denver offense.

Wes Welker and Peyton Manning are going to take over this game.  I can’t imagine the Ravens putting LaDarius Webb on Wes Welker all game, Webb is going to have to take care of Demaryius Thomas on the outside.  That leaves Jimmy Smith covering Welker in the slot and that is going to be bad for the Ravens D.  Jimmy Smith doesn’t have a chance covering Welker in the slot and with Manning throwing the ball Smith really doesn’t have any chance at slowing him down.  Smith’s head will be spinning by the end of this game.

What I will be paying attention on the Broncos offense is the running back situation.  Adam Gase who is Denver’s offensive coordinator has said that the Broncos will use a running back by committee approach in their offense.  Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshown Moreno are the three backs that will make up Peyton Manning’s backfield and the playing time that they will get will be based on their production start the regular season.  I’m looking at this running back committee approach extra close to figure out which back will have the most productive play behind Manning in this first game.  The cream will rise to the top.  By the end of the Broncos first game I think the back that will stay at the bottom is Montee Ball.  Ball is a rookie and was a great runner in college and showed that he is a dynamic back out of the back field but it’s going to take a some time for him to warm up to NFL defenses.  Knowshown Moreno won’t rise all the way to the top but he will definitely be hovering around it.  Moreno reminds me of Joseph Addai when he played in Indianapolis with Manning.  Moreno is the best pass protector of the three backs but he’s not great by any means.  He can run between the tackles and catch a ball out out the backfield.  Moreno will be in for a lot of pass protection and that also takes time away from Ball.  The Denver back that will be the cream going into week two is Ronnie Hillman.  I believe in Ronnie Hillman.

I think that Hillman is the back that Peyton trusts the most.  Hillman learned a lot in his rookie season and with that Hillman has been able practice the hiccups in his game with an even better team this year.  I may be completely wrong but in my defense I’ve never claimed to have read the future.  Just a gut feeling.

Now onto what we’ll be seeing on the Baltimore offense. A couple of changes here, wide receiver Anquan Boldin went over to the 49ers, tight end Dennis Pitta is done for much of the year with a hip injury and the only other significant loss on offense was center Matt Birk.  Joe Flacco will have speedster Torrey Smith on the outside to work with and from there, progress together over the past two seasons, things are looking up for this connection.  Flacco can launch the deep ball and isn’t afraid to.  Smith is deceptively fast and his quickness compliments his size and speed. Let’s add in the fact that these guys have a great trust in each other and we get a thunderous combination.  I’m real high on Torrey Smith to have a breakout year this season.  Ray Rice will still be vacating the backfield for the Ravens and will share some time but not much with Bernard Pierce.  I’ve heard that Rice may be flanked out to the slot at some point this season to see what havoc he could cause there.  Rice’s size has always amazed me.  Rice is about 5 foot 7 inches and has always played bigger no matter the level.  I had friends on the defensive line in high school that were twice as big as me tell me that trying to tackle Rice is like tackling a chain chomp.  Rough.

Flacco will have to deal with the Denver pass rush that will be without Von Miller but is still a pretty damn good pass rush.  Second year defensive end Derek Wolfe and veteran Robert Ayers will be gunning for Flacco’s head all night.  I’d expect them to get at least three sacks between the two of them for the night.  Champ won’t be able to take care of Torrey Smith on the outside because of his injury but they have Dominque Rodgers Cromartie to put on Smith expect for some fire works as Rodgers-Cromartie has been known to get burned by quick receivers in his past.

Should be a great game to start the 2013 regular season.  All that matters is that football is back!!!!!!!!

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