The 2013 NFL season gets underway on Thursday night when the defending Superbowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens visit Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos in an AFC clash. Here’s a betting preview

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Baltimore Ravens +7 points at  Evens William Hill

The Denver Broncos are a tough nut to crack at home at the altitude of Invesco Field in Colorado. One of the fancied teams to go very deep into the play-offs they have a talented roster.

On offense Peyton Manning remains one of the league’s best quarterbacks and he has a slew of receivers headed by DemMarius Thomas and Eric Decker, joined this year by Wes Welker from the Patriots. On defense they are slightly weakened by the suspension of all-pro rusher Von Miller, the injury to one of the best cornerbacks in the league Champ Bailey and the departure of Miller’s cohort up front Elvis Dumervil to their opponents in this game the Ravens.

The Ravens, despite their success last season, are probably under-rated. They’ve lost some of last year’s roster to free agency but remain well coached, well drafted and a team that always out-performs, especially quarterback Joe Flacco. In running back Ray Rice and a very good offensive line they have the ability to construct long drives, especially with Von Miller absent, and at least keep the score close. Dumervil and his fellow pass-rushers will also be pressuring Manning

It is quite striking to see the Superbowl winner a touchdown underdog for their first game after winning the title. This has to be interesting, as this should be a very close game. The battle in the play-offs last season that the Ravens won, going into the game as big under-dogs, went to overtime to attest to this. Are the Ravens really worse than this six months later? I doubt it, and would be surprised to see them lose by more than a touchdown (seven points).

Since the 2005 campaign, only one Super Bowl winning team has lost the following year’s opener. That was the 2012 New York Giants, who also failed to cover the spread—something that has only happened twice in that eight-year span.None of those teams have had to start on the road, but the Ravens proved during their run through the AFC last year that travel is no detriment to their success

Recommendation

Baltimore Ravens +7 points at Evens William Hill