Ravens vs. Broncos Week 1 NFL Pick – September 5th

What a day it is, it’s finally here, the NFL regular season has finally arrived. After a very profitable summer for me with baseball, I’m ready to bring the same success over to football. This will be my third season handicapping football at The Sports Geek, and I’m confident this will be my biggest football season thus far. If you’ve been following my baseball plays this season, you can already testify that I have been money week after week. Let’s hit the gridiron hard now with the intentions of surpassing my baseball profits. You can find me on Twitter @NFLSportsGeek, there you can contact me with any questions, and I will also have bonus plays available on my account, including college football.

We’re all in for a treat Thursday night, as we get a rematch from the epic showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos in the playoffs last season. The Ravens staged an improbably comeback after quarterback Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones along the sidelines for a long touchdown with time ticking down. Peyton Manning and the Broncos have revenge on their mind though, as they welcome the Ravens to Mile High Stadium in Denver to kickoff the 2013 NFL season. The Broncos are armed as Super Bowl favorites for this year, while the Ravens are trying to prove to the rest of the football world they are still an elite club.

Ravens vs. Broncos Spread, Line, and Betting Odds:

Baltimore Ravens +7.5 (-115)
@ Denver Broncos -7.5 (-105)

Over 48.5 (-110)
Under 48.5 (-110)

Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv

Ravens vs. Broncos Pick:

The line on this one has bounced around quite a bit the week leading up to this game. It currently is at -7.5 (-105) for the Broncos, but this is subject to change as we get closer to kickoff. The line was as high as Broncos -9.5 at one point, so it us understandable to why it has been bet down to where it is now at 7.5. I think to some people taking a look at this line for the first time are left wondering why is the line is so high in favor of the Broncos. After all, the Ravens just won the Super Bowl, so they must have a stacked team heading into 2013 right? Well, let’s look a little deeper into the Ravens and Broncos’ rosters for Thursday night.

The first thing that is going to stick out about the Ravens is on the defense. Or should I say, what is going to seem missing on the Ravens’ defense this year. This is a team that was in the top-5 of nearly every defensive category for nearly a decade, but even though they won the Super Bowl last year, the defense had major issues. If I were to tell you that the Ravens were going to finish 17th in pass defense, 20th in run defense, and 17th overall you would have told me there is no way they are winning the Super Bowl. Rightfully so, the Ravens were a team that were built off of defense. Offense? Forget about it, pound the rock and let the defense have their way was their modus operandi for so long. However, in the NFL today if you want to win games, you’re going to need to be a threat vertically offensively. The Ravens under Joe Flacco showcased plenty of that last season, armed with receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, Flacco put up numbers that earned him a big fat new contract in the offseason.

The Ravens as a complete unit have taken a step back, though. Starting with the offense they lost Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers, who was a vital component to their Super Bowl run. Flacco will still have Smith to stretch the field, and of course Ray Rice, so all is not lost with this offense. However, to justify giving Flacco that much dough, he is going to need to show that he can make players around him better. If the Ravens want to come close to duplicating last season, this needs to come to fruition. Receiver Jacoby Jones is also going to need to step into a bigger role. The defense will surely miss the presence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense, if for nothing else, the leadership that both players brought to the field every week. When Lewis didn’t play last season, the Ravens’ defense was a ship without a sail, getting gashed and looking lifeless consistently. They also lost safety Bernard Pollard to the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens weren’t stagnant in the offseason though, they went out and acquired linebacker Elvis Dumervil to start alongside Terrell Suggs. The former Raider, Michael Huff, will replace Ed Reed at safety which I think is a major step back.

The current Raven, Dumervil, was of course a Denver Bronco a season ago. Dumervil joined the Ravens after paperwork was filed incorrectly in renewing his contract with the Broncos. Consequently, Dumervil had no other choice but to look elsewhere. Not a bad situation for Dumervil teaming up with Suggs, but it leaves the Broncos’ defense plenty more vulnerable. Along with Dumervil, the Broncos will be without the services of linebacker Von Miller and corner Champ Bailey. Miller will have to sit out the first game of his six game suspension, and then Bailey has been ruled out due to a foot injury. That leaves three of Denver’s primary sources of defense from last season out of this game, with Dumervil being on the other side. Conversely, the offense under Peyton Manning shouldn’t hit any bumps in the road. The Broncos’ offensively actually got better in the offseason. They were 4th in total offense, averaging 397.9 yards per game with 30.1 points, second only to the New England Patriots’ 34.8. The Broncos bolstered the running game in the draft by taking talented running back, Montee Ball, out of Wisconsin. The name should be familiar to you if you followed college football the last couple seasons because the guy was a flat out stud with the Badgers. I think he’ll have a productive career with the Broncos, but will need to improve his pass protecting if he’s going to be a complete player. The Broncos also took Wes Welker away from the Patriots and installed him in their offense. Welker provides another talented weapon at his disposal, where he already had Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to work with. The Broncos will threaten to be the highest scoring team in the league with this attack.

Yes, the Broncos will threaten as the best offense in the NFL, but I don’t see them being as effective as they were last year on defense. Most notably at the beginning of the year, as losing Von Miller for six games will be apparent. With Champ Bailey sidelined as well, I just fail to see any leadership from the Broncos on the defensive side of the ball. Manning is going to get his points though with his offense, in this game and all season long. I see both defenses coming into this year taking small steps back on defense, but on the contrary, the Broncos’ offense saw a huge boost in talent with the addition of Welker. We all saw what the Ravens’ defense was like without Lewis last season when he was injured, and I think that’ll carry over to this year, which will severely damper the Ravens chances at repeating. The NFL got it right when they scheduled these two, as it’ll end up being a game with plenty of offense which should stay close for the majority of it. However, I see the Broncos pulling away in the fourth quarter in a high scoring affair. My first play of the 2013 season will be the over with a lean to the Broncos.

PICK: OVER 48.5 (-110)

Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.