Ravens at Broncos
Saturday – 1/12/13
Saturday at 4:30 will kick off the Divisional round of the playoffs and the Baltimore Ravens will be traveling to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Last week the Ravens were a lot closer to full strength in terms of their roster than they have been most of the season and the scoreboard showed. Baltimore handled the Colts fairly easily in their 24-9 victory.
This weekend though the Ravens will be facing a much tougher opponent in the Denver Broncos who will be searching for their 12th straight victory. The Ravens lead the all-time series against the Broncos 5-3 but the real stat is Manning’s record versus the Ravens. Manning boasts an 8-2 all-time record when facing Baltimore. However, according to ESPN, Manning is 0-3 all-time in playoff games when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Luckily for Baltimore the expected temperature will be in the 20s, and Baltimore is surely acclimated with the cold weather.
The Ravens’ defense has been shaky throughout the entire season, but they certainly stepped up last week in only allowing 9 points against the Colts. Ray Lewis’ return certainly was a boost to this Ravens team but they will need more than emotions to beat a Broncos team that has looked unstoppable over the last 11 weeks of the regular season. Let’s check out what the Ravens need to do to punch their cards to a third straight AFC Title game.
What the Ravens need to do to win the game
The biggest thing the Ravens need to do boils down to two words: Contain Peyton. Of course that is much easier said than done. Manning has the Broncos rolling into the playoffs on an 11 game winning streak and might be playing the best football of anyone in the National Football League. It takes an extremely rare occasion to shut down Manning, but if the Ravens can just contain him to no more than two touchdowns then they will certainly be in a position to win this game.
Baltimore will also need to continue their strong rushing attack that showed up last week. Over their past three games the Ravens have showed a two headed monster running attack as Bernard Pierce has averaged 105 yards and Ray Rice has averaged 60 yards a game over that span. Of course those numbers are slightly skewed as Rice only had three carries in their week 17 game as their playoff seed was already set in stone. But still, Pierce has emerged over the last three weeks as a real threat on the ground and is helping in lightening the load off of Rice’s shoulders. Denver only allows 91.1 yards a game, good for third best in the league, but with a two headed monster attack Baltimore could easily get going on the ground. They will need to rush the ball effectively Saturday because by keeping the chains moving, Manning stays sitting on the sidelines which is the best way to limit the 4-time MVP.
Last week’s game against the Colts showed us that the Ravens play their best football when they rush the ball more than they pass the ball. Flacco only attempted 23 passes last week while they ran the ball 32 times. But don’t let those numbers fool you. Flacco still had a very effective game as he completed just over half of his attempts for 282 yards and two touchdowns. But the most important factor of his stat line was the zero interceptions. The Ravens have won their last 16 games when Flacco doesn’t throw an interception so if he puts up another goose egg in the interception category, Flacco could be headed to his third straight conference championship.
This week’s key match-up is going to be one that has been a treat to football fans over the last decade: Ray Lewis versus Peyton Manning, arguably one of the best quarterbacks and linebackers to ever lace it up in the NFL. Manning has owned the series over his career as he boasts an 8-2 record versus Baltimore. I’m sure all of you remember some of their classic match-ups that if someone ever kept track of how many audibles were called offensively and defensively in a game, I’m sure the record would be a Ray Lewis versus Peyton Manning game. While this could be Ray Lewis’ last game ever in a NFL uniform in they lose, Lewis will have this team ready to play, and the NFL fan base should be in for a real treat of a game.
This has been the toughest game to predict all year for the Ravens. They are facing the hottest team in the NFL and number one seed in the AFC. Even though I think the Broncos are the better of the two teams and if they played a best of three series I think the Broncos would win. But the Raven’s seem to thrive when they are the underdogs and after last week’s strong and emotional performance from Ray Lewis which saw him lead his team in tackles, I have to go with my gut on this one. I see the Ravens pulling out the shocker of the week with a 24-21 victory.