Thankfully, another long and grueling NFL offseason has come and gone. We had everything from early retirements from several San Francisco 49ers players, unfortunate arrests with big time suspensions, and of course Deflategate. Now, we all look to put the crazy offseason headlines aside and shift our focus to the regular season.
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The Baltimore Ravens open the season on the road against the Denver Broncos as the big afternoon game, which is on CBS nationally in almost all 50 states. This game is a big test for both teams who have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and have a good chance to see each other again come January. Both of these teams fell in the AFC Divisional Playoff round last season, and have made it to the Super Bowl in the past three seasons. This is very highly anticipated game, which has many match-ups and players to watch, but I have one guy in particular that is they key to this game on 4:30 ET on Sunday: wide reciever Kamar Aiken.
Aiken has been a journeyman in the NFL after going undrafted in the 2011 Draft. He has been a special teams player with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots before joining the Ravens last season. Aiken grew into a starting role towards the end of the 2014 season and impressed in a few games. The best asset Aiken showed last year was his ability to catch contested passes as well as being very effective in the red zone. Throughout the season, he showed flashes of talent, and now is his big chance to step up because of a lingering injury to rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman.
The matchup on Sunday is probably one of the toughest in the league for anyone to deal with as he will most likely be shadowed by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Over the past few seasons, Harris has shown that he is one of the best corners in the NFL, although he is almost never mentioned in the elite echelon of corners. Aqib Talib will most likely be matched up on Steve Smith Sr. because of their physical style of play, which will be very fun to watch on Sunday. I think Smith will win that matchup slightly over Talib, but Smith will also draw the safety often because of his pedigree.
This will leave Aiken one on one with Harris for the majority of the game. If Aiken can have a good day against Harris, that gives the Ravens a very good chance at completing the upset against the Broncos on Sunday. Aiken is a local name who nobody outside of Baltimore really knows about, but I think he will make his presence felt Week 1. Marc Trestman will look to utilize Aiken’s ability to get open on third downs and in the red zone, which was his strong suit last season.
Smith came to Aiken’s defense along with the entire receiving core when a reporter called the Ravens receivers “unproven”. This video reminds us all why we love Steve Smith, and will miss him as he goes into his final year. Take a look:
The biggest off-season question surrounding the Ravens was “who will catch the ball besides Steve Smith?” Well, I believe Kamar Aiken will answer that question on Sunday and will prove he belongs as a starting WR in the NFL.
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