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Ravens acknowledge it's tougher to play Peyton Manning early in season

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The NFL schedule makers didn't do the Baltimore Ravens any favors in putting them on the road for five of the seven games and starting that journey with a season-opening matchup with Peyton Manning.

When it comes to Manning, he's very good late in the season but he's nearly perfect at the beginning of it, when the good weather makes it easier to throw the ball.

Since 2012, when Manning joined the Broncos, he is 8-2 in outdoor September games with 31 touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating is a league-best 120.7.

Over that same time, he is 4-4 in November, December and January when games are under 40 degrees. He's thrown 22 touchdowns and six interceptions for a 98.9 rating, which ranks No. 8 in the NFL.

"All of the hoopla about him in December compared to September, obviously it's real," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "But that's none of my concern. I know we have him Week 1, and he's going to be ready Week 1. That's all of our concern."

The Ravens know the difference in playing Manning at different times of the year better than anyone.

In January 2013, when the wind chill was 2 degrees, Manning was picked off twice, including an interception that led to the Ravens' winning field goal in overtime. In September 2013, when it was 83 degrees in Denver, Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes.

"I'm not really worried if it's first game, last game," Smith said. "He's going to be dangerous. He's still Peyton Manning, no matter what."

There is some question whether Manning is still Manning. He turned 39 in March and looked like an aging quarterback the last time he played in a meaningful game. Manning completed 56 percent of his passes (26 of 46) and threw for 211 yards in a 24-13 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

While it's legitimate to ask how much Manning has left in the tank, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he hasn't noticed a difference in Manning during the preseason.

"He’s wearing No. 18. He’s patting the ball. He’s making checks," Harbaugh said. "He’s under center a little more than he has been in the past, but we don’t know what we’re going to get, in terms of scheme. We’ve just have to anticipate and play our game and play the way we want to play. He looks as good as ever from the reps that I’ve seen.”