Ladies and gentlemen, the NFL season is upon us! And better yet, we don't have to wait even one week to see a great game, as the schedulers have given us a trip to our most hated rival's home for our first game. Without further ado, here are my 4 most important matchups to watch that will change the tempo of this game.
McKinnie is a brand-new Raven, having only been signed a few weeks ago, and will need to prove he can still play. Some reports were that he came close to 400 lbs during the lockout, which led to his release by the Vikings. He better be in playing shape now, because at 6'8" he is the type of OT Harrison usually takes advantage of with leverage and speed. On the other hand, Harrison is coming off two back surgeries and hasn't looked like his dominant self in the preseason. This matchup will also have a direct effect on LaMarr Woodley and Michael Oher, who was moved back to RT after disappointing on the left side.
Like McKinnie, Evans is a new acquisition for the Ravens this year. This is purely speculation on my part, but Taylor is our only CB with the speed to stay with Evans, so I think we will see this matchup quite frequently on Sunday. Flacco will undoubtedly take some shots down field early in the game to try to spread our secondary out, and Taylor will need to be ready. This also leaves Bryant McFadden on Anquan Boldin, which could be a mismatch for the Ravens.
This isn't a new matchup, but its one that could be extremely important in this game. Suggs manhandled Scott in the playoffs last year, with 3 sacks and at least one QB pressure where he nearly ripped Ben's helmet off. Scott has been trusted with our LT duties full time this year, and he'll need to prove that we don't need to bring Max Starks or Flozell Adams back.
Timmons just got a big pay raise and extension, and he'll need to start earning it this year. He's the only one athletic enough in our front 7 to match up well against opposing RBs, and he'll have his hands full with Rice. Rice can beat you on the ground and through the air, so Timmons will need to be ready for everything the Ravens throw at him. I still have haunting memories of Rice breaking Farrior's ankles on fourth down in a 2009 game, let's hope Timmons's ankles hold up better.