Broncos vs. Ravens: Five most critical players for Denver

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Aug 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws a pass during the first half against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are set for their 2nd season opener against the Baltimore Ravens in the last three years. In the last one, it was a ‘revenge’ game for the Broncos after the Ravens made one of the most memorable plays in recent NFL playoff history, which shall be discussed no further. They had also just poached Elvis Dumervil from the Broncos after an alleged fax machine scandal.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of bad blood between the Broncos and Ravens, but the Ravens ultimately have the last laugh and a recent Super Bowl ring to flaunt. The Broncos have the bragging rights from the last game played between the two, one in which the Broncos were absolutely unstoppable. Peyton Manning threw a whopping 7 touchdown passes, and if not for a mental error by Danny Trevathan, the Broncos would have dropped 56 points on the Ravens in a season opening win two years ago at this time.

Entering week one, I think everyone is on edge anticipating what could be the final season for Peyton Manning in the NFL. He’s certainly played his heart out in Denver, leading the team to three straight division titles, setting the regular season touchdown and passing yardage record, and cementing himself in the annals of NFL history as one of the best most productive quarterbacks of all time.

He leads our list of the five most critical players in week one for the Denver Broncos…

1. Peyton Manning

Manning is obviously the most critical Denver Broncos player, but he might phase out of that role as the season progresses. He’s the guy who has carried this team every year he’s been around, but this year could be a little bit different for the future Hall of Famer.

This year’s Broncos defense is poised to possibly be the best the team has ever had, and that could wind up taking a lot of pressure off of Manning throughout the course of the season. It could help him stay relaxed, which he didn’t appear to be at the end of last season.

We’re all obviously eager to see what Manning does against live bullets after a very vanilla, very underwhelming preseason performance. Many feel like Manning’s time in the NFL is past its expiration, and that at some point this year, there will be a sad ending. Not me. I feel like Manning is in phenomenal shape, is as sharp as ever, and is throwing the ball well. Running the Gary Kubiak offense, it’s going to be really fun to watch how he responds to all the criticism he’s received.

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