There's already been a lot of scrutiny around this rematch of the divisional playoff game from a year ago. For starters, this game should be taking place in Baltimore, but the Orioles baseball team refused to move their game.
This means the Ravens have to travel to Denver to play their "home opener" in front of an angry Broncos faithful that have been very vocal about their dislike for the huge Joe Flacco banner hanging from their stadium.
Even the mellow, always-says-the-right-thing Peyton Manning came out and said the giant poster of their opponent was "weird" and he's never seen anything like it before.
The NFL claims that they are trying to build excitement for the opening game. Well, they definitely got the competitive juices flowing early so look for the stadium to be rocking on Thursday night.
As for the actual contest, the defending Super Bowl champions are going to look much different than they did when they were hoisting the Lombardi trophy over their heads in February.
Offensively, Joe Flacco signed a mega contract, but he lost his favorite receiver in Anquan Boldin, as well as tight end Dennis Pitta. This will put more attention on the up-and-coming superstar Torrey Smith. He will blow the top off of many defenses because of his speed, but with no other legitimate pass catchers on the field, he'll probably be doubled more often than not.
Defensively, the Ravens lost Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the heart and soul of that entire team, so look for that to leave a gaping hole not only in the defense, but in the leadership roles of this team. Flacco is making the money that would suggest he's the leader of this team, but don't expect him to come out and give the heart thumping, over the top speeches that the players are accustomed to in Baltimore.
The Broncos added some new weapons on offense for Peyton Manning to play with. Wes Welker will be a nice addition to the short passing game that Manning loves, and should give Demaryius Thomas more one on one looks down field. Von Miller's suspension will definitely hurt the defense, especially with Elvis Dumervil gone. The Broncos are still Vegas' pick to win the Super Bowl at 5-1 odds. In a weak AFC, they should have minimal trouble getting there. I just hope for Peyton's sake he can step up in the playoffs and earn another ring before he's forced to hang up the cleats.