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Flacco, Ravens prepare for difficult opening test in Denver

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Flacco, Ravens prepare for difficult opening test in Denver

What: Ravens (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)

When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Where:  Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Five questions to ask heading into the Ravens’ season-opener

1. Can the Ravens’ defense avoid getting carved up by Peyton Manning?

The Ravens are sick of hearing about Manning throwing seven touchdown passes against them in the 2013 season opener. But it happened.

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees refuses to dwell on the 2013 Denver debacle.

“This is not the same team that we had two years ago,” Pees said. “That game means nothing to me. And if any coach sits and looks at a game (from) two years ago, he’s a fool.”

However, this remains a severe test for the Ravens defense. Manning may not throw with the same zip anymore, but he’s difficult to fool, difficult to sack, and difficult to beat in Denver, where the Broncos were 8-0 during the 2014 regular season. If the Ravens aren’t solid defensively, they won’t win.

RELATED Ravens plan to avoid repeat of 2013 season opener

2.  Will the Ravens’ secondary avoid allowing big plays?

This goes hand-in-hand with question No. 1. The Broncos have two receivers who topped 1,000 yards last season, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both are dangerous running after the catch. The Ravens’ secondary looks improved on paper, with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb starting at the corners, Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill at safety, and nickel corner Kyle Arrington. But they must cover well and tackle well, or a routine play could quickly become six points.

3. Will we see another big-time, big-spot performance from Joe Flacco?

Flacco loves this kind of stage – on the road, electricity in the air, Ravens as underdogs. This is usually when Flacco dials in, and on his last two trips to Denver, Flacco has thrown for at least 330 yards.

“I like going there,” Flacco said. “I have a good feeling about that stadium, even the first time I stepped in and just started warming up. It’s a pretty cool place to play.”

Those comments should concern the Broncos. When Flacco gets rolling, the Ravens can win anywhere.

4. Can Ravens running back Justin Forsett rip off some big runs?

There has been plenty of talk about the Ravens’ wide receivers, and concern about who will step up to help Steve Smith. There hasn’t been enough talk about Forsett, coming off a 1,266-yard season and running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Forsett led the NFL last season in runs longer than 20 yards, with 17. He’s fresh and healthy. If Forsett has a strong day, it will keep Manning off the field, and greatly improve the Ravens’ chances.

5.  Will the opening-game magic return for John Harbaugh?

The Ravens have the NFL’s best September record (17-8) since 2008, when Harbaugh became head coach. However, the Ravens have lost their last two season-openers. If the Ravens start 2015 with a win in Denver, it could set the tone for another strong September.

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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