Ever since it was announced that the Broncos and Ravens would play in the season opener, I've had a feeling that this game could likely define the entire season for the Broncos. Kudos to the NFL schedule makers for this opening night extravaganza, which should guarantee record high ratings, but in my mind this game could turn out to be the most pressure packed and even the most difficult game of the season for the Broncos.
Without the experience or either training camp or any exhibition games, it's a guessing game regarding the eventual playing strength of our Broncos, but based on the talent, leadership, and apparent mental attitude of those involved, we should field a Super Bowl contender even for game #1. The Ravens, despite being the reigning world champs, have made many changes since last season, and it's not unreasonable to think that although they may be able to meld into another powerhouse, they might not be firing on all cylinders for game #1. I am guessing that this is how many fans and players will be viewing the game.
On top of that, everyone knows that the Broncos feel that the Ravens didn't beat them in that playoff game last year; they feel that they beat themselves. They know that they did not go out and leave it all on the field that day, thus allowing the Ravens to steal the W. In other words, the Broncos are pissed, or should I say PISSED, and want and will settle for nothing less than an old fashioned whomping, an epic ass kicking, a blowout of embarrassing proportions.
So most people, including the Broncos themselves will be expecting the Broncos to take the Ravens to the woodshed. I personally cannot see any other outcome, but then I didn't see how the Ravens could win that playoff game either. This puts a lot of pressure on the team, more so than possibly any other game. The players want this win almost desperately, management wants it, and the fans want it, to the point that no other outcome is acceptable. The Ravens meanwhile really are playing a win-win game. If (when) they lose the game, it really wouldn't be that surprising or disappointing given that it's the first game of the season and they were the underdogs from the start. If they win...I don't even want to go there.
Thus the Broncos will be playing this game with a monstrous mandate to win. No options, just win. To lose would be unthinkable. To lose would tend to negate all the trades and contracts and training and practicing that lead up to that game. So if the improbable (impossible?) were to occur, what would that do to the psyche of the team? Would that totally deflate the Bronco balloon, making it difficult to impossible to re-inflate again? Would that instill a "what's the use?" attitude in the team, while they simply went through the motions during the season?
Both the players and the coaching staff are well aware of the dangers of such a devastating loss, and that only adds more pressure to win. What I'm slowly leading up to here is that I think that this first game could be the biggest game of the year for the team, the most important game on the schedule. Winning this game sets the tone for the year and establishes a winning attitude as well as showing the players that by beating the world champs, they can kick anybody's butt. Although it is nowhere near the end of the season or close to the play-offs, I see game #1 as a "Must Win!" game for the Broncos.