The sports books have the Ravens anywhere from a 7.5-8.5 point underdog tonight as they travel to Denver to begin the defense of their Super Bowl title. No big deal.
That’s why they play ‘em on grass and not paper. (Or on artificial turf and not a computer. You know what we mean.) Weren’t the Broncos, Patriots and 49ers all favored in the playoffs last year?
With that in mind, we looked around and picked out a few quotes from sportswriters around the country who cover the game to find out what they think will happen on field.
The New York Times Benjamin Hoffman thinks Denver's losses of Von Miller (suspension), Champ Bailey (foot injury) and Elvis Dumervil (to the Ravens after a bungled contract negotiation) will hurt the Broncos more than the Ravens’ personnel losses. He picks Baltimore:
“Even with their immense home-field advantage, and Peyton Manning’s passing, those are a lot of missing pieces to overcome.”
The Mile High Report’s Kyle Montgomery says look for Denver and Manning to go with their hurry-up offense often and early:
"The Broncos want to run their hurry up offense early and often tonight. A quick start from the Broncos would set the pace in the Broncos favor. The Ravens are a grind it out, run the ball team that likes to eat the clock. If they fall behind early, they will have to change it up, and throw the ball more.”
ESPN’s Jeff Legwold says the Ravens should be concerned about the Broncos receiving core, particularly with the upgrade at slot receiver from Brandon Stokley to Wes Welker:
“Welker is younger and offers a bigger upside in terms of production. Welker will also have the best receivers to his outside shoulders in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, the best combo he's had since the Patriots decided they didn't want Randy Moss around any longer. The 229-pound Thomas and the 214-pound Decker make the Broncos a tough matchup for any secondary.”
Legwold’s colleague, Jamison Hensley, a former Baltimore Sun sportswriter, counters that the Ravens’ defense should be better than last year when they slumped to No. 17 overall:
“Baltimore had to replace two aging players who weren't the same playmakers from a few years ago. The additions of Dumervil, defensive lineman Chris Canty, linebacker Daryl Smith and safety Michael Huff have made this a stronger and more athletic defense. The Ravens' defense is going to be significantly better in two areas: stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.”
We agree with Hoffman and Hensley.