WEEK 1 IS FINALLY HERE. About damn time. So much joy in my heart right now. Another year, another great football team. Another opportunity to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Charm City. I said back in July what Joe and Co. should be striving for this season. Forget about squeaking into the playoffs in Week 17. They need to assert dominance in the AFC. They need to go out and take care of business on the road in the regular season. They’ve built up this sterling reputation as the best road playoff team in football, but are completely ordinary on the road in the regular season. It’s time for that to translate over so that the Ravens don’t have to go on the road in January. That’s the map to the Super Bowl in 2015.
Well, look no further than the first 7 weeks of the season to make that a reality. 5 games on the road, 4 on the west coast, 3 AFC North games. Golden opportunity just waiting to be seized. With this schedule, 4-3 and we’re in the hunt for the AFC North title. 5-2 or better and this team strolls to the AFC North title and we’re talking byes and AFCCG’s in Baltimore. But it all starts with Denver, who is a sure bet to be in the hunt for that same playoff seeding. It’s an uphill battle, and pundits far and wide are picking the Broncos. But I have plenty of faith that we can get a job done and kick off the year 1-0. Here’s the blueprint:
1. Steve Smith Is Going To Bully Aqib Talib…. Again
It’s a proven fact that nobody in the game sets up camp in the opposition’s noodle better than SSS. Aqib Talib is a competitive guy and a good corner, but those are the kind of guys Steve thrives off of. He’s owned Talib before and he’ll do it again. And the timing couldn’t be better considering Breshad Perriman is still a ghost and the rest of the receiving corp is relatively unproven. The Ravens need Steve Smith to produce more than just about anyone on this football team. I trust that Kamar Aiken will make some plays and maybe Marlon Brown will get involved, but if Steve gets shut down, the Ravens will need a big running game and special teams plays to leave Denver with a W. I like his chances though. Blood and guts all up in this farewell tour! Ice up Aqib!
2. Justin Forsett Will Outrush The Denver Broncos
Forsett will have a heavier load than ever with Lorenzo Taliaferro on the shelf and Buck Allen a work in progress. Which is fine because I think he’s up to the task. He lead the league in 20+ yard carries last year and has shown no signs of slowing down behind this great OL (and is a great value at 50/1 to win the rushing title, you’re welcome). Forsett will go for a buck 25 and 2 touchdowns and be the most important player in this game.
On the other side, it’s no secret that Denver became dependent of the run game in the 2nd half of 2014. How much of that had to do with Peyton’s health isn’t completely clear. But what I do know is that you don’t make your money on the ground against the Ravens. You just don’t. 3rd in the league last year and the NFL’s longest streak of 26 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. I know what Gary Kubiak’s system is capable of on the ground and I just don’t care. They don’t have the maulers we do. The Ravens have a fantastic front 7 with or without Timmy Jernigan (who’s questionable for Sunday). Peyton and his ducks will be forced to go to the air more than he’d like, which is where the final piece of the puzzle comes in….
3. Elvis Dumervil (and Terrell Suggs) Are Going To Be In Peyton’s Kitchen All Night
ALL FUCKING NIGHT. Best pass-rushing duo in the NFL facing a left tackle and a center getting their first career starts. Time to FEAST. The Denver contingency seems to be at ease with the situation given that they’ve got Pro Bowler Evan Mathis at LG between them, but he can only do so much. He’s playing his first game with a new unit and a new system too. Dumervil’s got a chip on his shoulder given his past with Denver and he’ll be licking his chops looking at these chumps. And the problem with dealing with the Ravens is that you can’t just key on one pass-rusher. If Peyton doesn’t get Doomed, he’ll get Sizzled. Gruesome twosome like you read about. 3.5 sacks between them and a key strip sack. That’s where the Ravens win this football game.
There you have it. 3 part blueprint to get to 1-0. Time to go get a big road W. Joe comin’ for that Denver ass.