Kick-off weekend has arrived! And Denver Broncos’ first task is a tricky home matchup with John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens finished pre-season 1-3, but of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story as starters get minimal game time.

The Ravens have acquired the services of Kendrick Lewis at free safety, who is the headline starter from this year’s free agency period.  A key cog in the wheel will be the linebacker core of Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith, who will look to cause havoc for the Broncos O-line. Offensively Joe Flacco has retained key targets Kamar Aiken and Steve Smith, while Crockett Gilmore will take over Owen Daniels’ starting tight end spot.

Denver Broncos key off-season deal was tying down star receiver Demaryius Thomas into a new contract, and Manning’s number 1 target will have to be on top form this year if the Broncos are to be successful. Denver’s O-line have never played a snap together and will face an uphill task against a strong Raven front seven. Owen Daniels will be under the spotlight as he faces his former team first-up and will be looking to prove that he has made the best decision for his career. Defensively the Broncos look very strong, with Antonio Smith and Vance Walker expected to share Derek Wolfe’s role. First round draft pick Shane Ray will be understudy to Demarcus Ware, as he looks to take on advice and eventually become a key component of Denver’s D. The Orange Crush Part II, some would say!

Three to watch:

Denver Broncos:

Peyton Manning:

Peyton Manning has not looked himself throughout the preseason, and although he has had to adjust to a new offense, it is vital that he gets his season off to a good start. The seven touchdowns #18 threw last time these two franchises faced-off on opening day may be pushing it, but Broncos’ fans would love if he clicked into gear straight away, and marshalled a Broncos victory.

Evan Mathis:

Evan Mathis will go straight into Denver’s O-line, despite having not played a part in preseason. He will be highly important at left guard, tasked with protecting Peyton Manning from the likes of Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley. With rookie Ty Sambrailo at left tackle, Evan will have to take a lot of responsibility on Peyton’s blindside, taking Sambrailo under his wing to help create a tough O-line.

Antonio Smith/Vance Walker:

With Derek Wolfe suspended coach Kubiak has said Antonio Smith and Vance Walker are likely to share the defensive end duties. Walker was acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs, while Smith was signed from the Raiders. Antonio Smith is number 1 on the depth chart, however it will be very interesting to see how many snaps each player gets, and whether either one will be able to nail down a position in front of the other.

Baltimore Ravens:

Steve Smith:

Steve Smith Sr. may be approaching the twilight of his career, however the veteran receiver with over 10000 receiving yards is still a key target for Joe Flacco, and will be vital if Baltimore are to make the playoffs this season. He will have a tough day against Denver’s secondary, despite the fact TJ Ward is suspended, as David Bruton is no mug, and should put up a good showing in TJs absence.

Crockett Gillmore:

Second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore has taken over the starting job from Denver’s Owen Daniels at Baltimore, and has big boots to fill. Crockett showed real potential in his rookie season, as he secured 121 receiving yards and a touchdown from just ten receptions. Despite this, his blocking credentials will certainly be put to test as he comes face to face with a fearsome Broncos front seven that contains Demarcus Ware and Von Miller amongst others.

Terrell Suggs:

Veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, or T-Sizzle as he is known, will be looking to terrorise rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo in his first career start, and create havoc with Peyton Manning’s rhythm and time in the pocket. With 106.5 sacks to his name, Suggs is a player who Denver’s O-line will be very wary of, and Evan Mathis may have to help shift some of the responsibility off Sambrailo’s shoulders.

Where to Watch:

This game will be available to watch in the UK on Sky Sports 2 at 9.25, with key plays appearing on NFL Redzone, accessible through Sky Sports’ red button service or NFL Gamepass. If you don’t have Sky Sports the only way to watch the match will be through a NOW TV 24 hour pass, as the game will be blacked out on Gamepass.

My Predictions:

I’m Predicting a 24-10 victory for the Broncos, as I believe the defence is too strong for Baltimore, and I’m going for Demarcus Ware as the game’s MVP.

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