Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)
I really like the Ravens this season. I think they’re one of the most talented teams in the NFL and on the Super Bowl short list. The Ravens lost a lot this off-season (Torrey Smith, Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee to name a few), as a result of their cap situation. However, they’ve also drafted well recently, adding Ricky Wagner, Kelechi Osemele, CJ Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams through the draft from 2012-2014. Between those 5 and Will Hill, who is still on a rookie deal, the Ravens have 6 impact players still on rookie deals. Add in a rookie class of Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, and Carl Davis in the first 3 rounds this year, widely regarded as a strong haul, and they have enough cheap, young talent to make up for some of the bigger contracts they have on their cap.
They are weak in the receiving corps, but they’re solid on the ground, solid under center, and have one of the best offensive lines in football. Their defense is also one of the best in football, supporting what was one of the top front 7s in the NFL last season with a reworked secondary that adds Kyle Arrington, gets a full season of Will Hill, and gets Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb back from injury. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, their 1st round pick, is out for this one and they might not be quite as good as they were last season, but they were also better than their record last season, finishing 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential. They’re one of the best teams in the NFL on paper.
They’re underdogs of 5 here, so they’re the side I’m taking, but I can’t do anything more than a low confidence pick on this one for two reasons. The first reason is that the Broncos are also very good. Peyton Manning is a question mark going into his age 39 season, they will have more injuries this season, after finishing with the fewest adjusted games lost last season, and have already lost left tackle Ryan Clady for the season, and they lost guys like Rahim Moore, Terrance Knighton, Orlando Franklin, and Julius Thomas this off-season.
However, Manning still played well overall last season, on a team that finished the regular season #1 in rate of moving the chains differential, they did a solid job of replacing departed players with cheaper starters, and they have a budding star in CJ Anderson at running back. On top of that, the Ravens are not the same on the road, going 47-11 at home since 2010, outscoring opponents by an average of 10.33 points per game, as opposed to 35-34, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.14 points per game, on the road over that same time period. I do think this is one of the few games the Ravens will lose, but I will take the points for a low confidence bet.
Denver Broncos 23 Baltimore Ravens 20
Pick against the spread: Baltimore +5