Just a wee thread to get excited for tonight (& other stories) we'll do a full weekend one on Sunday.
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ DENVER BRONCOS, MIDNIGHT (KO AROUND 1:30AM), SKY SPORTS 2
So here we go, football's back baby, and it's time to see your Superbowl XLVII (2013) champions in action against a team many are picking to be this years winners. Sadly our champs can't begin their title defence in front of their home fans (thanks Orioles, you better make it to the playoffs for this) but given Mile High's significance in the road to Baltimore's 2nd title there's still decent value to be had.
As I'm sure you don't need reminding, these two met already at Mile High earlier this year it what has largely been remembered as not only the game of the season but one of the greatest of all time. The conference semi-finals between these two was an incredible match, full or drama and incredible plays, which somehow saw Baltimore against the odds snatch a last-ditch, overtime victory away in snowy Denver to go on to win the title and prove Peyton Manning still can't get it done outside a dome.
No doubt, this will be pretty thrilling too (though I don't think anything will match that fateful night in January). Denver will still be smarting from that loss and will have something to prove, given they are already tipped as likely Superbowl competitors this year, largely keeping what made them great last year (their hard hitting defence) though Von Miller has been suspended for substance abuse (and to think we nearly signed him!) and are the rightful favourites going into tonight.
Baltimore have arguably weakened since winning the Superbowl (cheers Joe), losing our top receiver Anquain Boldin to the Niners, Ed Reed :'( to the Texans and spiritual leader Ray Lewis to retirement (as well as Ed Pitta to injury). Joe Flacco, though now a Ravens hero, will be under an insane amount of pressure, title or not, to perform for the frankly ridiculous amount of money we (to the uninitiated) are now paying him. I, like many Ravens fans, have always had a quiet faith in Joe, and this year he proved us right and his critics wrong, but one of the highest paid QB in the league (though Matt Ryan has since over taken him, and what's he ever done?) means fans as well as critics are going to be on his back very quickly if he doesn't perform.
Ultimately, this is probably Denver's to lose (again) but I feel they probably won't make that mistake again, but there's no shame in losing to one of the favourites at home. It will be interesting to see how much time Peyton Manning has left and whether he can still gel as impossibly well as he did last year. As always though, people will continue to underrate the Ravens and Flacco (title or not) because they don't play as elegantly or as technically proficient as Manning's Broncos, no one expected us to do anything in January either...
Whatever happens, it's going to be a fantastic opener to the season and it's going to be amazing to have football back!
PREDICTION: Baltimore Ravens 18, Denver Broncos 21
Predictions? Thoughts? FOOTBALL!