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Associated Press
The Baltimore Ravens will be without linebacker Ray Lewis for the first time in 17 years this season.

Broncos-Ravens rematch for kickoff

– John Elway has been down this lonely road before, trudging through the tunnel in deafening silence after a stunning loss at home as the AFC’s prohibitive Super Bowl favorite following a 13-3 regular season.

It happened to Elway the quarterback after the 1996 season when Denver lost to Jacksonville 30-27. It occurred again for Elway the executive in January when the Broncos were beaten 38-35 by Baltimore in the divisional round.

Elway rebounded the first time to win back-to-back Super Bowls. He said the pain of that pratfall against the Jaguars was the impetus to make them into champions.

“It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year,” Elway said.

After engineering a $125 million offseason spending spree and acquiring receiver Wes Welker and massive right guard Louis Vasquez – to help new center Manny Ramirez fend off the likes of Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata – Elway is aiming for history to repeat itself after this latest heartbreak.

Three things to watch for as the Broncos kick off the season tonight against the champion Ravens:

Elvis returns

“Doom & Gloom” is what Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller called themselves in Denver, where the Pro Bowl pass rushers combined for 29 1/2 of the Broncos’ league-leading 52 sacks in 2012.

Dumervil signed with the Ravens in free agency after his infamous fax foul-up in Denver led to his release by the Broncos.

He won’t see Miller tonight because Denver’s All-Pro linebacker is serving a six-game drug suspension.

Ravens rebuilt

For the first time in the Ravens’ 18-year existence, Ray Lewis isn’t manning middle linebacker.

Daryl Smith, who signed a free agent deal in June, is the veteran replacement. He’s a sure tackler entering his 10th season and could help provide some of the veteran presence the Ravens lost.

Smith was part of a Ravens defensive revamp as they also said goodbye to veteran Pro Bowler Ed Reed, former South Side and Purdue star Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, and Cary Williams, and hello to Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears and Michael Huff.

Bailey missing

Cornerback Champ Bailey won’t play in the opener because of a sprained left foot. The 15th-year pro was ruled out Wednesday. He hasn’t practiced since getting hurt in a preseason game at Seattle on Aug. 17.

Denver will start Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Bailey’s place alongside right cornerback Chris Harris with Tony Carter getting work at nickel.

Bailey plans to play against the New York Giants in Week 2.

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