As pigskin lovers rejoice with the NFL’s return, the Baltimore Ravens have cause for concern.
The defending Super Bowl champions enter the 2013-2014 season without defensive anchors Ray Lewis, who retired, and Ed Reed, who bolted for the Houston Texans. The offense has seen injuries and free agency hurt the receiving core, with the biggest loss being Anquan Boldin’s departure for the San Francisco 49ers. History also goes against Baltimore, as only the New England Patriots have repeated as champions in the past decade.
For Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, facing tough odds is nothing new.
“I don’t know if we personally felt like underdogs last year,” Flacco said. “That’s the way it was twisted and that’s the way it will be this year. We feel like we have a good team. And our chances are always pretty good.”
Flacco and company will be in the spotlight on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m. Cayman time on NBC. The Ravens battle Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the season’s opening game. Thursday’s contest will be a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional round playoff game, which the Ravens won. Thursday can be a chance to reaffirm that Flacco, armed with his $120.6 million offseason contract, is now the man in Baltimore.
Denver is a legitimate title contender, with Manning gaining another weapon in former Patriots receiver Wes Welker. New England has had its issues in the offseason, highlighted by the Aaron Hernandez controversy, but Tom Brady remains a formidable, proven threat.
The NFC also boasts exceptional clubs, with the Niners looking stronger under quarterback prodigy Colin Kaepernick. The Seattle Seahawks, with Russell Wilson, should be solid challengers while the Green Bay Packers will be in the mix behind the arm of Aaron Rodgers. Look for those squads to be in action in week one this Sunday, Sept. 8, from noon.