ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – As with every offseason in the NFL, some of the numbers and names on the backs of the jerseys will change. It's the nature of the business.
But the team names on the front of those uniforms remains the same, and come Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High it will be the Ravens playing the Broncos -- the same two clubs that played in the last game on that field in the 2012 season.
Both head coaches noted today that with draft picks, offseason acquisitions and roster moves, the teams are not made up entirely of the same players, but some familiarity still exists.
"That's what (is) the exciting thing about starting a new season," Head Coach John Fox said. "Like I said, everybody starts 0-0. They're different, we're different. I think in a lot of ways we're familiar.
"We played them twice last year and then we're starting the season this year with them so I think there's good familiarity on both sides. We have great respect for their organization and we're excited to play."
Even with the changes in personnel, the Broncos have still taken the time to look at the film from last year's two matchups. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said that looking at those games can be helpful in evaluating and comprising their gameplan for Thursday.
But it's also important to see what the new pieces are contributing and all there is to glean from at this point are preseason contests.
"You study what you see in the preseason knowing full well that there is probably some stuff that they haven't shown in the preseason," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "It is a game of adjustments; I think you have to be prepared to do that in the opening game because you just don't know exactly what you're going to get."
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh echoed those thoughts, conceding that there will be unknowns heading into the first game of the season.
"There are always more surprises in this game – probably things that each team has been holding back that they didn't run in the preseason or maybe the change-ups from the last time you played and all those kinds of things," Harbaugh said. "You've got to assume that, but you can't chase ghosts. You just have to prepare for what you see and concern yourself more with what you're doing than with what they're doing."
Harbaugh added that the Ravens coaching staff has been preparing for this game since the schedule came out, and he ventured that the Broncos coaching staff has as well.
In addition to some new faces, the Ravens are also doing some things a little differently as tight end Julius Thomas pointed out in the locker room Sunday. He said that they had noticed that the Ravens were "running a couple different coverages" compared to the playoff game.
Regardless of the changes, the outcome of the opener will be decided on the field by talent and execution, not with a roster comparison.
"I think they got better," safety Rahim Moore said. "It's going to be a tough task, it's going to be a great game and the best team's going to win."
Thursday also marks a clean slate, not just for the Broncos but for all 32 teams in the league, and Manning has chosen to approach it that way – moving past the last time these two teams met.
"I feel like this is a new season for us," he said. "We're playing an excellent team. We're opening up the NFL season with a home game. So if people need that for an extra incentive that's fine but I think there's plenty just with the schedule and the timing of when we're playing."