ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Even Peyton Manning acknowledged it.
There's always excitement surrounding the season-opener. But having played in the NFL Kickoff Game two times with the Indianapolis Colts, the quarterback could speak from experience that Thursday night's game feels just a bit bigger than normal.
"It's got a little something extra to it," he said.
It just so happens that the game will be played against the defending Super Bowl champions, and that team happens to be the one that knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs in 2012.
It's hard to build a larger stage than that.
As Head Coach John Fox put it Saturday afternoon, "you've got to be sick or dead to not be excited for opening day."
And he expects to feel that from the fans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"Our crowd is outstanding," Fox said. "I know they got a little amped up about billboards and different things, but at the end of the day we want them to be as loud as they can be when we're on defense and as quiet as they can be when we're on offense."
That was music to Manning's ears. Just last week, he implored the fans for help when the offense is on the field during an interview on 850 KOA.
"I would agree with Coach Fox's comments: I want them as loud as they possibly can be when the Broncos are on defense, and as quiet as they can be when the Broncos are on offense," he smiled. "I know they're going to be excited, just like our players are going to be excited."
Ravens running back Ray Rice said he expects "a playoff-like atmosphere" Thursday night.
With that comes a playoff-like performance from the home crowd. And judging from his past experience, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh knows what that will mean for his team.
"We know the environment we're going into. It will be the same environment, or even tougher, than the one that we faced in January, and we're excited about that," he told the Baltimore media Sunday. "That's a great stadium with great fans, great organization (and) great team. There's just nothing about going in there that doesn't say everything that's good about the National Football League."
For all those reasons, Manning said the Broncos are glad to open the season at home.
"Our fans will play a huge role all season," he said. "I've said here before -- having played here as an opponent a number of times, it's an extremely tough place to play and a loud place to play."
The Broncos expect nothing less on Thursday, and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson had a message for the crowd.
"Come with it," he said. "We need you."