The Broncos and Ravens always seem to play each other at the beginning of the season and always seem to be in the conversation at the end.
We’ll see if the latter is true this year, but the former most definitely is. Denver hosts Baltimore this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.
What can we expect from the visiting Ravens this season?
“Well, it’s a typical Ravens team,” NFL on CBS analyst Phil Simms said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Who’s their general manager? Oh, that’s Ozzie Newsome. What does he like? Big people. They got a lot of big people. Their front seven, it’s five defensive linemen and two really fast linebackers. That’s what it is. Courtney Upshaw and Terrell Suggs, they’re as big as outside linebackers (or) defensive ends as there is in the NFL. To line up against their front and say ‘We are going to run the ball consistently to win the game,’ it’s crazy. If you can do it, I’ll give you great praise, but it’s going to be tough to do. Their offensive line looks, to me, to be really good. Their quarterback, no questions about him. The big question is, who’s going to be the second receiver? Can they have a second guy along with Steve Smith Sr. to really get this offense and get it rolling?”
The Broncos, meanwhile, will ask Peyton Manning to throw less and hand off more as part of Gary Kubiak’s offense. That should help the 39-year-old Manning stay fresh throughout the season, especially since he seemed to wear down toward the end of last year.
“There’s no question the legs were a problem,” Simms said. “What I’ve seen in this preseason – very limited action from him, but he’s been under center a lot. It’s a whole different look. It’s not him out there running the show, I’m calling this play, I’m going to check to this one, I’m going to do the snap count – it’s not even close to what we’ve seen in the past. We’re going to have to see how easy it is for him to adapt, to get used to this Gary Kubiak offense – because make no doubt about it. It’s a Gary Kubiak offense, what I’ve seen so far. We’ll see if it stays that way opening week. Very basic offense in the preseason. I’m sure they’ll pep it up a little for the opening game against the Ravens.”
Doug Gottlieb believes John Elway had a lot to do with Denver’s change in offensive philosophy. After all, Elway won two Super Bowls late in his career by handing the ball off to Terrell Davis, so perhaps it’s best for Manning to do the same.
Is it fair to think that?
“I think that’s a fair assessment and a good assessment,” Simms said. “I think (Elway) is trying to spread it around. That’s the easiest way to say it. Let’s spread it around, so if one part goes bad, (we’ll) still have a chance to win. The defense is extremely talented, and make no bones about it. To me, the most valuable player on that defense is Von Miller. He’s been unbelievable-looking in preseason. I can’t wait to talk about him and watch him play on Sunday – because he could be a difference-maker not only for them on defense, but he’s going to be one of the difference-makers in the league this year. But run the football. Let this defense do what it can. Play a different style that can keep you healthy and give you more variables as the year goes along.”
Simms, playing to the crowd, used a basketball analogy for Gottlieb to explain Denver’s new philosophy: If you want to be a fast-break, jump-shooting team on one end, that’s fine. But it’s hard to do that and play physical, lockdown defense on the other.
“You can’t do everything,” Simms said. “So I think they’ve made their mind up for the long term of their team this year – and how it kind of fell apart on them last year – to go this way.”