Friday, April 19, 2013 3:53 am
Ravens open regular season at Broncos
By BARRY WILNERAP Pro Football Writer
This year's NFL schedule is filled with return visits and intriguing matchups, and some of the best involve the Denver Broncos' quarterback.
The former Colts star will make his first trip back to Indianapolis, will play younger brother Eli in another Manning Bowl, and will face the defending Super Bowl champions in the season opener.
The Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver for the now-traditional Thursday night opener on Sept. 5. The Orioles are home that night and Major League Baseball could not move their game.
So $121 million quarterback Joe Flacco and his fellow champs were sent to Denver - to face Manning and the team they beat in double overtime on their way to the Super Bowl.
"It still bites on everybody," Broncos receiver Eric Decker said. "It's tough to kind of relive that game, especially the opportunities I think we left on the field. It's going to definitely fire us going into this year."
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, who spent 10 years as an assistant in Baltimore, seemed most interested in - and annoyed by - the Ravens being forced to kick off the season on the road.
"I think that the world champs can open up at home and that's where I think they should open, at home," Ryan said. "I think it is common courtesy. I don't know what gets involved in that. I am not in charge of it, but if I would have been, the Ravens would be opening at home.
"If baseball had only 16 games, I might understand it. But just as common courtesy maybe (the Orioles) say, `I'll play this one on the road." Just from a fan perspective of sports."
In Week 2, Peyton visits Eli's house.
Both Manning brothers often have said it's uncomfortable yet memorable playing each other; it's only happened twice, with Peyton and the Colts winning. Even though Peyton now is a Bronco, the dynamic is unchanged for the star quarterbacks.
"We haven't talked about it a whole lot," Eli said. "More kind of joking and jabs at each other, but obviously anytime you play your brother it is special. It is unique and I cherish those moments whether before the game or looking across during the national anthem and seeing my big brother and seeing him at the coin flip; those are great moments that we'll cherish."
The folks in Indy cherished having Peyton Manning as their record-setting quarterback for 13 seasons; he sat out 2011 after several neck surgeries, then was released by the Colts and signed with Denver. The reception he almost certainly will receive at Lucas Oil Stadium will be warm and loud.
"It's always fun when you spend time at a place and then go back," said Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who has done that in Foxborough four times. "I'm sure he'll get a standing ovation right when he comes out. Hopefully, it will be loud and the fans will make it hard for him (to call plays)."
Peyton Manning isn't the only one returning to a city indelibly linked to his name. Andy Reid is going back to Philadelphia, as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and it's unlikely Eagles fans will give him the friendly reception Manning is sure to receive in Indy.
Reid jokingly acted surprised about the Chiefs' Week 3 trip to the City of Brotherly Love - and, at times, venom for the coach of the Eagles, which Reid was for 14 seasons. Reid and the rest of the Chiefs knew about it long ago, and they got the Thursday night spotlight.
"We're playing Philly?" said Reid, hired by Kansas City days after being fired in Philly. "Nah, it'll be an exciting atmosphere. It always is at Lincoln Financial Field there. But right now, I'm a Chief, so we're going to get ourselves ready to play, whenever and wherever we have to play this season."
Other high-profile games:
-The Sunday night season opener is the Giants at the Cowboys, and the Monday night doubleheader has Philadelphia at Washington - with or without Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, who is rehabilitating a major knee injury - then Houston at San Diego.
"I will say this: Here comes the challenge again," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We didn't play as well last year on the road as we had in previous years and so that's a great challenge for our team."
-Thanksgiving Day has Detroit hosting Green Bay - once an every-year occurrence - and Dallas at home for Oakland.
"It's an incredible tradition, playing on Thanksgiving Day," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's a blessing for everyone involved. We're fortunate enough to still be home in time to share in the importance of the day."
The holiday night game features one of football's most intense rivalries: Pittsburgh at Baltimore.
-Rematches of 2012 championship games come on Sunday night, Dec. 22, with New England at Baltimore, and the next night, with NFC winner San Francisco at Atlanta in the final Monday nighter of the season.
-Buffalo's annual home game in Toronto will be against the Falcons on Dec. 1.
-London will host two previously announced matches: Minnesota hosting Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, and Jacksonville hosting San Francisco on Oct. 27.
-2012 MVP Adrian Peterson and the Vikings open at Detroit. Other notable games on the first weekend have Green Bay at San Francisco and Atlanta at New Orleans.
-As has become standard for the NFL, all 16 finales are intradivision matchups.
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton, National Writer Nancy Armour and Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this story.