The NFL schedule is filled with return visits and intriguing matchups, beginning with a road game for the defending Super Bowl champions.
And Peyton Manning will be part of that, as 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 — and was 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 brother Eli Manning’s house as the Broncos face the New York Giants.
Both Manning brothers often have said it’s uncomfortable yet memorable playing against 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 receiver 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).”
Like they do in Philadelphia — for both teams.
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: