RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Minus two big breakdowns in Denver in January, the Ravens were outstanding on special teams throughout last season, and they expect that to continue with the return of punter Sam Koch, kicker Justin Tucker and returner Jacoby Jones. The only thing unclear is what would happen if Jones were unavailable. Deonte Thompson is hurt, Asa Jackson is suspended, David Reed was traded and LaQuan Williams (Maryland), Bobby Rainey and Tandon Doss were all waived.
BRONCOS SPECIAL TEAMS: Diminutive return man Trindon Holliday has the Ravens' full attention after returning four punts or kickoffs for touchdowns last year, including two in their meeting last January. Expect the Ravens to keep the ball away from him whenever possible. Kicker Matt Prater converted on 26 of 32 field goals last season and led the league with 65 touchbacks, which could go a long way in neutralizing the Ravens' Jones. Britton Colquitt is considered one of the better punters in the league.
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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: As an organization, the Ravens worked hard to move beyond February's Super Bowl victory. By all accounts, they succeeded. Even through an uneven preseason, Harbaugh's team appeared to be as motivated as ever. The stage won't bother them, as they've come to relish going into tough venues as the underdog. They've also won their past five season openers under Harbaugh, so there's no reason to think they'll be unprepared.
BRONCOS INTANGIBLES: Coach John Fox shouldn't need to say too much to motivate his team. The Broncos have had nearly eight months to stew over their double-overtime loss to the Ravens. The environment at Sports Authority Field should be especially hostile. Since 1996, the Broncos have the league's best record in the first month of the season. They are also 12-1 in their past 13 home openers and have won 11 consecutive regular-season games.
PREDICTION: The 2013 Ravens will have bigger and better days ahead, but the deck is stacked against them in this matchup. The Broncos could have one of the best offenses in the league, their defense has more than enough talent to make up for the loss of Miller, they’ll be playing in front of their home crowd and they have nearly eight months of stored anger and motivation toward the Ravens. Even if the Ravens play well – and that's the expectation here – there is a lot for them to overcome. A slow start on offense and a couple of Manning touchdown passes will be the difference.