Believe it or not, I actually had a moment of doubt before last night’s Denver Broncos-Baltimore Ravens game. An old friend called me for gambling advice, and despite having predicted a potential 16-0 season for Denver and writing this, this, and this about Joe Flacco, I stumbled before telling him I thought the Broncos would win by double digits.
It was fair to doubt them. No Von Miller. No Champ Bailey. No Elvis Dumervil. Defending champs on Opening Night. This. The Ravens came into this game with a lot more buzz than they should’ve. They came out of it completely deflated, a team so dependent on its pride utterly humiliated on national television. And honestly, if this game were played 100 times, the Broncos might win 102.
I wasn’t in Denver last night. I was sitting on a lounge chair at The Sports Post's Chief Publisher Evan Kendall’s apartment, eating buffalo chicken dip and feeling more vindicated than ever in my entire career. Joe Flacco was called the best quarterback in the league yet he played like an average one. Peyton Manning was cast aside and he submitted what might have been the single greatest quarterbacked game of all time.
And for the record, neither of those things should surprise you.
Joe Flacco played like an average quarterback because he is an average quarterback. We have piles of data to support this. He completed 55% of his passes last night. He hasn’t topped 60% in two years. He averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. For his career, he’s at 6.9. He threw two interceptions. Deep throwers tend to do that. What we saw last night was the norm, what we saw in the 2012 playoffs was the illusion.
As was the entire performance of the Ravens team. They’re an 8-8 unit masquerading as Super Bowl champions. The vaunted defense couldn’t stop Peyton Manning. The offense scored 27 points, but 7 came off of a muffed punt and 10 came in garbage time. Even the special teams couldn’t get it right with a blocked punt and a random collision between Jacoby Jones and a fellow special teamer.
Normally when the best team in the league plays one in the middle of the pack, a blowout is to be expected.
[Do you want to put your NFL knowledge to the test with weekly fantasy football? Sign-up for FanDuel.com using promo code TSP for a 50% deposit bonus!]
But this wasn’t a normal case of stud vs. scrub, because scrub came into this game with his chest puffed out firmly believing that he was better. After all, a banner featuring the image of their quarterback was hanging outside of Denver’s stadium. They were the team that came into Mile High Stadium and beat the favorites last winter. They thought that gave them dominion over the Broncos.
In the words of Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad, “Just because you shot Jesse James don’t make you Jesse James.” The great thing about football is that six months after Jesse James gets shot, he gets to rise from the grave and take another swing at the champs. How do you think he’d feel after all that time in the dirt?
Probably angry enough to score seven touchdowns. But the truth is, revenge was just step one for the Broncos. Because really, it’s not about winning the first game in September, it’s about winning the last one in February. The Broncos had to watch the Ravens do that last year when they knew it should have been them. They won’t let that happen again.
The following sentence is from the original draft of my Denver Broncos preview, before I chickened out and hedged: “Am I saying the Broncos will go undefeated? Maybe. All you need to know for now is that it’s going to be a big deal if anyone manages to beat them this year.”
I lost my nerve before the season. After only one week I’m taking it back. I don’t think there’s a single team capable of beating the Broncos this year. I think they’re either going to run the table or come pretty damn close.
The scary thing about last night wasn’t that the Broncos scored seven times, it was that they should have scored more. Wes Welker isn’t going to lose a punt every week, and a backup corner isn’t going to cost them touchdowns on dumb celebrations. Their offense won’t always take 30 minutes to get going.
As good as the Broncos were in Week 1, they still have plenty of room to get even better. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a conceivable ceiling for this offense. They have three Pro Bowl caliber receiving targets and a fourth looming in Julius Thomas. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. They have six months in the dirt to remind them what’ll happen if they lose again.
This was originally going to be the first of my promised “See I told you, Joe Flacco isn’t good” pieces, and rest assured that even though this partially served that purpose, more of those are coming. After what we all witnessed last night it just felt wrong not to make this about Denver, because quite frankly the Ravens are an ordinary team and the Broncos are an extraordinary one.
We’re going to remember the 2013 Broncos, we’re going to forget about the Ravens. And I’ll be sitting back and enjoying the ride with my buffalo chicken dip, knowing that I’ll be able to say I saw it coming.
By: Sam Quinn