The Baltimore Ravens are traveling to the mile high city to take on the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs for a spot in the AFC Championship game at stake. These two teams played each other just four weeks ago in Baltimore where the Broncos took advantage of an injury ridded Ravens team, thumping them 34-17.
If you listen the national media, Baltimore should save some money on plane tickets and hotel rooms by not even making the trip, because most, if not all the so called "experts" have already stitched a Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning AFC Championship game. Of course the Ravens are not going to do that, but their task of going into Denver and beating the Broncos will be tough to say the least.
Although Denver did thump the Ravens four weeks ago, the Baltimore team they faced is not the same team they will play tomorrow as several Ravens missed week 15's game: Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard, Marshal Yanda, Ed Dickson, Dannell Ellerbe, and Jameel McClain did not play, and Torrey Smith and Bernard Pierce left the game early due to concussions. Obviously all of those names, with maybe the exception being McClain, are important and game changing players.
Baltimore's offense, who has struggled to be consistent on the road, will have to be at its best against Denver's second ranked total defense in the NFL this season that allowed an average of just 290.8 total yards per game. The Broncos do not have a glaring weakness on defense as they ranked in the top four in the NFL in both average rushing yards allowed per game and average passing yards allowed per game. Let's be honest, if Baltimore is going to win this game, two things have to happen on the offensive side of the football, Ray Rice and Pierce have to run the ball effectively to keep the offense on the field and Joe Flacco will have to be the star of the game.
On the flip side of the football, a much healthier defense for Baltimore this time around will be an instant improvement as opposed to the last time these two teams played. Although Denver's offense is also better on paper than Baltimore's defense, the Ravens can win this game if two things on the defensive side of the football occur: Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs are going to have to apply pressure to Manning and first and foremost the defense is going to have stop the run game to make the Broncos one dimensional.
The Ravens are better than the Broncos in phase of the game and that is special teams. Justin Tucker ranked tied for sixth in the league in field goal percentage at 91.2% while Broncos kicker Matt Prater ranked 27th at 81.2%. Also Baltimore has a bonafied play maker in the return game in Jacoby Jones as he ranks second in the NFL averaging 30.7 yards per kickoff return.
Depending on where you get your information, Baltimore is currently a nine or nine and a half point underdog in this game, and Baltimore has heard all week how they have no chance in this game which is sure to put a fire in them. Not only are the Ravens tired of hearing how they have no chance, but the underlying Ray Lewis retirement once Baltimore's season ends is still there as well so this Baltimore team has plenty of motivation heading into this matchup….not to mention it is the Playoffs!
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