DENVER BRONCOS - Week 1 - Thursday September 4th - Sports Authority Field at Mile High
The Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens played one of the most iconic and entertaining playoff games in recent memory, just a few months ago. The game could have gone the way of the orange crush had it not been for Joe Flacco laser throw narrowly avoiding the flailing Rahim Moore. Jacoby Jones corralled the ball and the rest was history. The Broncos don't have to wait too long to get their shot at redemption - the very next game. The Ravens will indeed open on the road after the schedule controversy heard round the world - but hey, that's where the Ravens do some of their best work in big games. Let's take a look at what the Broncos have done in the off-season.
Biggest Addition: Wes Welker was the highest profile wide out available in the off-season and he is now with Peyton Manning. The receiving core of Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas is scary and might make up for the fact that they don't have much of a tight end or running game. Since joining Tom Brady in New England, Welker's worst season was 89 catches. He is going to be a huge asset for Manning who loves to spread the ball around.
Biggest Loss: Elvis Dumervil....is a Raven! I think we have written about him enough to this point.
Rookie to Watch Out For: Montee Ball was a second round pick of the Broncos in this year's draft. Ball set the touchdown record in college and can help the Broncos immediately. There is no dominate incumbent at running back this year as Knowshon Moreno, Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman shared the load after some injuries. Ball is seen by many to be a great pass protector as well as above average receiver. With their upgrade at receiver, there might not be much time for running the ball in Denver.
CLEVELAND BROWNS - Week 2 - Sunday September 15th - M&T Bank Stadium
In Week 2, the Ravens will invite in a familiar foe, the Cleveland Browns. The Brownies will be a party to our Super Bowl celebration on a Sunday that will certainly be remembered. Last season, the Ravens played the Browns twice (as always) and gutted out two victories. The first game was our last of a brutal stretch in the beginning of the season where the Ravens looked to be sleepwalking for part of the game. The second game had a similar tune, where the Ravens skipped the middle part of the game, but came back to get the victory.
Life still seems a bit gloomy off the bank of the Chuyahoga River. They have a new coach yet again and their quarterback situation is anything but settled. The Browns showed a lot of heart last year and are a lot better than people think. They won 5 games and that very easily could have been 7 or 8 as they were very competitive in most of their contests. Let's look at what they did in the off-season.
Biggest Addition: Paul Kruger - The Browns shelled out the big bucks for a guy who played 22 snaps in the Super Bowl. Kruger did finish last season with 13.5 sacks, but the jury is still out on whether or not he is a three down player or number one pass rusher. Here in Baltimore we have laughed at this signing simply because the Ravens had Elvis Dumervil fall in their lap for less than what the Browns paid Kruger. Although, at times, Paul has showed the ability and potential to be a dominate edge rusher in this league.
Biggest Loss: This is not finalized, but it might be Joshua Cribbs. He has been an explosive player for the Browns in recent memory, but the Browns do not seem to have any interest in retaining him. He has drawn interest and visited a number of teams around the NFL.
Rookie To Watch Out For: The Browns drafted Barkevious Mingo in the first round this year. Possibly the best athlete in the draft, Mingo comes from one of the most dominant defenses in the country. Mingo has that "freak" factor, but it remains to be seen if he will have a meaningful NFL career.