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Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos: Pass rush is key for Broncos

The 2015 NFL Regular Season is finally upon us. The Baltimore Ravens travel to face the Denver Broncos in Week 1. Kickoff time is at 2:25 p.m. (mile high time). Here is a breakdown of the match-up.

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 2:25 PM MDT
Denver Broncos




N/A Pass Off. N/A
N/A Rush Off. N/A
N/A Pass Def. N/A
N/A Rush Def. N/A
0-0 Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO 0-0
AFC North Spread: Broncos by 4.5 AFC West

The Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos kick off the 2015 NFL regular season with a rematch of opening day from 2013 where Peyton Manning dropped an NFL-record seven touchdown passes on the then-Super Bowl champion Ravens.

In that game, the Broncos went hog wild offensively. Manning finished 27/42 for 462 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. The game would spark Manning on an historic regular season where he would break - nay, shatter - Tom Brady's previous NFL record for most touchdown passes in a season.

Those were good times, but then the calendar year switched to 2014 and things seemed to just go downhill from there. This Broncos team is different than the one that whooped on the Ravens two years ago, but not terribly different. The Ravens, on the other hand, have gone through quite a transformation since winning that Super Bowl. Ozzie Newsome has some serious personnel skills that John Elway has also been matching in his own right.

Strength against weakness

Here are some of the bigger match-ups to watch in this weeks game between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos.

Broncos pass rush vs. Ravens offensive line

Using preseason performance is a bit of a red herring, but it is Week 1 and that is all any of us have to go on right now. I hit up Pro Football Focus to see how the Ravens starting offensive line has performed over the course of the preseason.

LT Eugene Monroe (+0.4 Pass Block) - 35 snaps.

LG Kelechi Osemele (+0.3 Pass Block) - 16 snaps.

C Jeremy Zuttah (+0.9 Pass Block) - 70 snaps.

RG Marshal Yanda (+1.4 Pass Block) - 70 snaps.

RT Rick Wagner (-0.4 Pass Block) 51 snaps.

Overall, the Ravens have a fairly solid starting cast along the offensive line. The biggest weakness that Ravens fans are talking about is Monroe against DeMarcus Ware. Von Miller is no slouch either, and I wouldn't want to be any offensive lineman facing him Week 1.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos will being one of the strongest pass rushes in the NFL this year. It's an offseason narrative that the preseason seems to have validated. To give you an idea of what the Ravens line will face, here are the pass rushers grades from the preseason.

OLB Von Miller (+3.4 Pass Rush) - 35 snaps.

OLB DeMarcus Ware (+1.1 Pass Rush) - 28 snaps.

OLB Shaquil Barret (+10.5 Pass Rush) - 175 snaps.

OLB Shane Ray (+3.9 Pass Rush) - 142 snaps.

DL Malik Jackson (+2.7 Pass Rush) - 42 snaps.

I'll stop there. I could go on, the Broncos had 11 defensive linemen and linebackers who posted a +1.1 or higher pass rushing grades during the preseason. Can you picture a defense that can rest its start linebackers and have zero drop off in pass rushing mayhem?

No matter how you slice it, the opposing team's offensive line is going to be a weakness against this Orange Rush. It's now time to see if preseason dominance is going to carry over into the regular season.

Ravens run defense vs Kubiak's zone scheme

The Ravens boast a very strong rush defense that looks poised to defeat Kubiak's game plan given they had an entire season in practice to learn it in 2014. Don't expect too much from C.J. Anderson in this game, but don't panic over it either.

NT Brandon Williams (+2.1 Run Defense) - 49 snaps.

DT Kapron Lewis-Moore (+3.9 Run Defense) - 130 snaps.

OLB Elvis Dumervil (+1.3 Run Defense) - 38 snaps.

Overall the Ravens preseason defense posted a healthy +4.8 against the run. The Broncos offensive line posted a +6.9 in run blocking, but we all know how hard it can be to move the football when the other team is so used to your scheme. Kubiak is too early in the offensive install to be much different than the plays he was calling in Baltimore. This match-up could be the deciding factor in the game - for the Ravens anyway.

Peyton Manning vs Ravens secondary

This one wasn't originally going to make the cut. That is, until I noticed the Ravens secondary posted an eye-popping -16.2 in pass coverage during the preseason. That is significant, because with Manning trying to find some sync early in the season, it is fortuitous that he is drawing a secondary in apparent shambles. Here are the likely starters, unless oft injured Lardarius Webb is able to come back for Week 1:

CB Kyle Arrington (-0.3 Pass Coverage) - 48 snaps.

CB Jimmy Smith (-0.8 Pass Coverage) - 37 snaps.

SS Will Hill (-3.0 Pass Coverage) - 63 snaps.

FS Kendrick Lewis (-4.5 Pass Coverage) - 63 snaps.

We all know how Manning enjoys abusing safeties by putting them in the wrong position through superior audibles. The Broncos should have success in throwing the football against this Ravens defense and they may have to if the Ravens rush defense comes up big.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that with all of the doubting that has gone on for the past 8+ months regarding Peyton Manning and his age, the Broncos need to get off to a very good start. Not so much because its a vital game against an AFC rival (which it is), but more for confidence reasons. The doubts had to have started creeping in at some point, especially when you hear them day after day for months.

Plus, the Broncos are 5-7 all-time against the Ravens. A win this weekend will put the Broncos one closer to evening the score there.