We’re all ready for some football, no doubt.
Especially in the Mile High City, where the hometown Broncos are still waiting to redeem themselves after the devastating debacle in Denver that was the AFC Divisional Round loss to the Ravens in January.
People point to Rahim Moore’s blunder, allowing that pass to float over his head and into Jacoby Jones’ hands; really, the game shouldn’t have gotten to that point.
The Broncos were supposed to win – just like they are favored tonight – and they allowed Baltimore to hang in the contest for far too long.
Denver’s dominant pass-rush was nowhere to be found in that game and Joe Flacco was unflappable in a perfectly protected pocket.
That was with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the league leaders for a duo with 29.5 total sacks in the regular season. That was with a fully healthy Derek Wolfe. That lack of pressure was a major reason the Broncos couldn’t win the game.
Indeed, one of the biggest question marks of tonight’s game is this: How will the Broncos put pressure on Flacco without Miller or Dumervil and Wolfe seeing his first action since being taken off the field in an ambulance?
Will they send blitzes or sit back and allow the Ravens to dink and dunk it all over the field?
They can't send too many players because even the secondary is missing a superstar in Champ Bailey; leaving others on islands would be a poor decision.
It may be for the better that Bailey can't go due to his injured foot, he was burnt repeatedly in the playoff loss.
That leaves newcomer Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and third-year man Chris Harris as the starters against Jones and Torrey Smith, two tall and ferociously fast pass-catchers. Plus, Moore and new starter Duke Ihenacho will be backing them up; miscommunications could lead to deep scoring plays and much sorrow in the Mile High.
And when they want to run, the remarkable Ray Rice will be ready to roll downfield like a Mack truck; the other high spot for Denver's D last year was stopping the run. They'll certainly be tested tonight.
We all expect the Broncos' offense to be one of the best, fastest and deadliest in the NFL this season, but where the team must worry is on defense. Especially tonight, as they're piecing together a starting lineup and we're only in the first week.
Don't forget, if this is a close game – which is should be – the special teams will come into play, and Denver's has been anything but special in the preseason. They have much to prove on the nationally televised stage as well.
The game kicks off at 6:40 p.m. MT on NBC and it kicks off the NFL season as well.
With Manning versus Flacco, we could be in for a barn-burner in the Wild West.
Prediction: Broncos 38 - Ravens 35.