Two of the league’s premier franchise clash in a Week 1 matchup that NFL fans will keep their eye on. Baltimore, Super Bowl champions in 2012, and Denver, winners of four straight AFC West Division titles, square off in a season-opening Sunday game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Ravens vs Broncos odds for the week 1 AFC conference battle have Denver favored at home by 5-points against Baltimore while NFL picks for week 1 on the over/under are posted at a high scoring 48½. Despite those four straight division championships, the Broncos dumped head coach John Fox, now the head man in Chicago. Gary Kubiak, the former offensive coordinator in Baltimore, is the head coach in Denver and has adapted his zone run-based offense to future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
The 18-year veteran is finally healthy (a quadriceps injury hampered him in 2014) and the Broncos have a plan in place for resting the five-time league MVP throughout the season. Manning still has plenty of weapons surrounding him including wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryious Thomas. Both Sanders and Thomas recorded over 1,400 yards receiving in 2014 and are primed to do it again. The Broncos did lose one of the game’s better receiving tight ends in Julius Thomas, but gained former Raven Owen Daniel. The Broncos running game will undoubtedly be better as Kubiak brings his philosophy to a capable set of backs led by C.J. Anderson, Montee Ball, and Ronnie Hillman. Both Hillman and Ball suffered injuries last season, so having depth at the position, which Denver does, is a key to covering the point spread as favorites in Ravens vs Broncos odds. Baltimore will be Baltimore again in 2015 featuring a run-stopping defense, a strong ground game, and the heady play of veteran Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens lost All-Pro nose tackle Haloti Ngata, but last year’s first-round draft pick Timmy Jernigan appears ready to take over.
The linebacking corps is solid with Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw on the outside and future star C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith on the inside. The Ravens secondary is solid and is going to have to play well against arguably the league’s best quarterback and one-two receiving tandem if they are to cover the spread as five point underdogs in NFL picks for Ravens vs Broncos odds. The last time Manning faced the Ravens, he threw for 462 yards and seven touchdowns. The Ravens offense still has Justin Forsett (1,266 yards, eight TDs) and 15-year veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, who is coming off a season where he caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards. They will also have first round draft pick Breshad Perriman but not for the season opener. Perriman suffered a sprained knee in the preseason. Regardless, the Ravens will still have to face a very good Denver defense led by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the Ravens and Broncos can be seen live on CBS at 4:25pm EST from Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
At the age of 39-years-old; many fans, handicappers and gamblers alike are asking if this season will be the last for Peyton Manning. Entering his eighteenth season, the Super Bowl champion and MVP (XLI) underwent neck surgery in 2011 and appears to be winding down his hall-of-fame career. Despite losing to the Colts (24-13) and missing the conference championship last season, 2015 AFC West odds still favor Manning and the Denver Broncos at -200 to win the division for the fifth straight year. NFL predictions have the Kansas City Chiefs at +400 to upset Denver followed by the San Diego Chargers (+500) and Oakland Raiders (+1200). That being said, if the Broncos are to have any chance of winning the AFC West, the offensive line will need to make sure that Manning keeps his jersey clean.
Outside tackle Ryan Clady has been the one tasked with protecting Manning's weak side but since suffering a torn ACL during OTA's in May, the responsibility will now be handed to rookie Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State). Louis Vasquez will once again be slotted at right tackle but it is anyone's guess who starts at center and left guard. Manning will still have wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders patrolling the sideline along with the addition of tight end Owen Daniels (Texans) but rely heavily on running back C.J. Anderson to carry most of the offensive workload. As for the defense, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and outside linebacker Von Miller will continue to cause opposing QB's to see plenty of orange while first round draft pick Shane Ray (Mizzou) will be eager to prove he was worth the selection.
The Kansas City Chiefs enter the year as +400 favorites in 2015 AFC West odds to win after going 9-7 SU and 7-9 ATS last season. Head coach Andy Reid will enter his third year holding the clipboard and is counting on QB Alex Smith and RB Jamaal Charles to lead the offense. Smith will have a former Reid protégé at wide receiver this year with the addition of Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) while veteran TE Travis Kelce will look to better last year's mark of 862-yards for 5-touchdowns. NFL predictions for the Chiefs have the squad projected to be one of the best pass defenses in the league with Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito returning not to mention the addition of safety Tyvon Branch (Raiders).
Although listed as longshots in 2015 AFC West odds to win, the San Diego Chargers could be a valuable play at +500 since bulky up the offensive line with guard Orlando Franklin (Broncos) and King Dunlap (Eagles) to help keep QB Philip Rivers off the ground. Rivers threw 4,286-yards for 31-touchdowns last season and will have the reliable wide receiver tandem of Malcolm Floyd and Keenan Allen back with rookie RB Melvin Gordon (Wisconin) carrying the ball. The Achilles heel for the Chargers could be their defense however with numerous inexperienced rookies filling important roles. And then there are "da Raidahs." New head coach Jack Del Rio inherits an Oakland Raiders team that went an embarrassing 3-13 SU and 8-8 ATS last season. QB Derek Carr will have a RB tandem of Latavius Murray and Roy Helu behind him with first round draft pick Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (49ers) in the slots. Other than that, how the Raiders season plays out is as unpredictable as where they will play in 2016.
Even after four consecutive AFC West Division titles, a trip to the Super Bowl and 38 wins in the past three seasons; the Denver Broncos decided to part ways with head John Fox, who now is the head man for the Chicago Bears. Gary Kubiak, a former Broncos offensive coordinator, steps in to take over the reins and see if he can help Denver capture that elusive Super Bowl title. Bookmakers however aren't that optimistic as Super Bowl predictions have listed the Broncos at 12/1 to hoist the Lombardi trophy, 5/1 to win the AFC Conference and -200 in NFL odds to win the AFC West. Someone who is a bit more optimistic with Kubiak holding the clipboard is future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning as the 17-year veteran still has a few tricks left up his sleeve.
Manning will enter the 2015 season somewhat healthier after dealing with a quadriceps problem for much of last year. Kubiak is a practitioner of the zone offense and will rely heavily on running backs C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball. The Denver Broncos offensive line, which suffered its share of injuries last season, should be a strength. Guard Shelley Smith was signed from Houston and the Broncos drafted Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State) and Max Garcia (Florida). With a solid offensive line and improved ground game, the Broncos passing game should be even better. Manning threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. Manning may also have the best 1-2 receiving tandem in the NFL with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Thomas caught 111 passes for 1,619 yards, while Sanders added 101 for 1,404. Denver lost tight end Julius Thomas to Jacksonville in free agency but picked up a pretty good one in Owen Daniels from Baltimore.
A big addition to the Broncos this season is new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The NFL veteran has coached some of the league’s best pass rushers. He helped DeMarcus Ware record 60.5 sacks in four years in Dallas. Phillips rejoins Ware in Denver where he will line up opposite Von Miller. The pair combined for 24 sacks last year, Miller with 14 and Ware with 10. They should shine in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Even at 39 years old, Manning is still one of the top five quarterbacks in the game and, other than last year’s nagging injuries, has not shown any signs of slowing down. The Broncos will find out where they are at quickly and they can control the 2015 AFC West division once again. They begin the season at home against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 13th. NFL odds for the over/under total regular season wins have Denver posted at 10 OVER (-130).
Broncos Update (9/11/15): Denver are now +1400 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +650 to win the AFC Conference and -150 to win the AFC West.