Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-7.5, 48)
The Denver Broncos have had nearly eight months to stew over a stunning season-ending loss in January - one that propelled the Baltimore Ravens on their surprising run to a Super Bowl championship. Denver has a chance to exact some revenge when they host the Ravens on Thursday night in the NFL's season-opening game. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had won nine straight against the Ravens, including a 17-point rout a month earlier, before Baltimore's 38-35 double-overtime playoff victory.
Much has changed for both teams since Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco averted a certain defeat with a 70-yard tying touchdown strike to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds to play in regulation. Baltimore has undergone a dramatic roster overhaul, with future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis sliding into retirement, perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed lost to free agency and the trade of Super Bowl hero Anquan Boldin to San Francisco. Flacco became the league's highest-paid player, while Denver added some key pieces to fortify Manning's offense.TV:
8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE:
The Broncos opened at -9 and were bet up as large as -10.5 at some books. Recent action has been on the Ravens and has dropped the spread to as low as -7 at some markets. The total opened at 49.5 and has been bet down to 48.
There is a 16 percent chance of thunderstorms in Denver with temperatures in the mid 80s and winds blowing south at 5 mph.ABOUT THE RAVENS (2012: 10-6, tied for first AFC North, 6-9-1 ATS):
Flacco's regular-season numbers were ordinary - 3,817 yards with 22 TD passes and 10 interceptions - but he was off the charts in the postseason with 11 scoring passes and zero picks en route to winning Super Bowl MVP honors. Third-year speedster Torrey Smith heads an inexperienced receiving corps that suffered a jolt when starting tight end Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip, putting his season in jeopardy. Ray Rice has rushed for at least 1,143 yards in four straight seasons and leads all NFL backs with 278 receptions during that span, but questions abound on a defense that surrendered nearly five points more per game in 2012 than in the previous season.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (2012: 13-3, first AFC West, 10-6 ATS):
Manning guided Denver to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and 11 consecutive wins to close the regular season after sitting out 2011 due to multiple neck surgeries. Wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both went over 1,000 yards and combined for 179 catches and 23 touchdowns and will be joined by reception machine Wes Welker, who had at least 111 catches in five of six seasons with New England. Rookie running back Montee Ball set the FBS record for career touchdowns but will open the season as the backup to Ronnie Hillman. Denver also has a huge void to plug on defense after sack-master Von Miller was suspended six games for violating the league's drug policy.TRENDS:
* Ravens are 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 meetings.
* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Ravens are 3-1-1 ATS in their last five meetings in Denver.
* Under is 5-1 in Broncos' last six Thursday games.
1. Manning's 37 TD passes and 4.659 yards last season were both the second-highest totals of his storied career.
2. Baltimore's John Harbaugh is the first coach to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
3. Ravens DE Elvis Dumervil, a three-time Pro Bowler with Denver, wound up signing with Baltimore in March after his signed contract agreement with the Broncos arrived just minutes after the league deadline.