The first Sunday of the 2015-2016 NFL season is upon us, the Baltimore Ravens will be trying to avoid what happened to them the last time they opened their season against the Denver Broncos. They got lit up by one Peyton Manning to the tune of seven touchdowns and 462 yards in the season opener. Manning was responsible for spearheading that powerful Broncos offense, but that was two years ago. Much has changed for both teams, considerably at that.
The Ravens are a little bit further ahead in that transition from losing a couple of legends on the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos have a new head coach who spent the last season as the offensive coordinator for Baltimore. The Broncos offense struggled with the new system in the preseason, but it can only be taken with a grain of salt. This is Manning we’re talking about at the end of the day, but the Ravens defense shouldn’t be held to it’s preseason standards either. This is the first week where defensive and offensive units will be game planning for each other.
This game could be a defensive struggle, the Broncos defense is much improved, specifically that pass rush. Baltimore is going to be better simply by being healthy, they were anything but at the start of the last postseason and it showed. Young middle linebacker C.J. Mosley will be facing Manning for the very first time in his career, wonder how Peyton feels about it. He had those duels with Ray Lewis, while Mosley isn’t Ray, he’s proven himself to be a very special young player thus far. It’ll be interesting to see how often those two match wits in today’s game.
Baltimore’s first two games are out West, so they’ll be out on the road to start the year. Here’s what they have to do to leave Denver with a win.
- Stop the run. With Kubiak going to Denver and Manning not getting any younger, expect the Broncos to lean on the run a bit more this season. Now that doesn’t mean that a few “Omaha’s” won’t be thrown out there to coax the defense into showing what they’re playing. But before the head games, it comes down to lining up and stopping the run. The front seven must be disciplined and ready to win up front, this version of Manning ins’t going to be looking forward to 3rd and long.
- DB’s must be ready to shed and tackle. What? Yes the defensive backs for the Ravens have to be ready to get up field and shed blocks, it seems like at least three times a game Manning looks for Deymarius Thomas on the wideout screen. DT has taken advantage of that play several times, making a few house calls to the tune of 60, 70 yards. There’s not an offense created that can survive without YAC yards, it’s imperative that Baltimore limits catches they give up to just that, a catch. No additional yardage. Having a healthy Jimmy Smith certainly can’t hurt in that area.
- Run the ball well. Denver has an aggressive front seven, they are missing Terrance Knighton who’s now in Washington. Knighton played a huge role in their ability to stop the run last season. If Baltimore can get Forsett and company going, that goes a long way into sustaining drives, which means less field time for one Peyton Manning. A productive run game also lets Flacco do what he does best, that’s generate chunk plays in the play-action game.
- Attack the middle of the field. The Ravens are starting another season without Dennis Pitta, but they have two young tight ends with good size that can cause problems for Denver in the middle of the field. Crockett Gilmore is not yet a household name, but give him time. He and Maxx Williams can cause trouble for Denver’s linebackers and safeties. Flacco connecting with the tightends early and often can negate that strong pass rush Denver has.
- Give Flacco options. Steve Smith Sr. is a known commodity, it’s on Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and other pass catchers to keep the Broncos secondary honest. If they can win at the line of scrimmage and get open, that will lessen the attention that will be placed on Smith who demands such attention. The more players that can get open, the harder it is for a defense to slow the offense down.