NFL Playoffs: 5 Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Beat the Baltimore Ravens
Denver Broncos(13-3) vs Baltimore Ravens(11-6)
The Baltimore Ravens travel to the mile high city to visit the Denver Broncos for next Saturday's NFL Divisional Round Playoff game after they beat the Indianapolis Colts yesterday. With so many story lines swirling and a full week to lay it all out and decipher the game down to the last detail, one thing you will be certain of: This game will live up to its billing.
In everything you read this week, between the rejuvenation of Peyton Manning and a Broncos organization that has been stagnant for a few years, or the retirement of Ray Lewis and the inspiration he brings to his Ravens, this game will feature hard-hitting action that is sure to keep every NFL fan on the edge of their seats.
But there is a reason the Broncos were 13-3 this year, tied for the best record in the NFL, have the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and are the only team in the league to field an offense and defense both in the top five. Conventional wisdom would say that the Ravens do not have a chance, and neither did the Colts if they made it this far.
But they play the games because what the NFL has also taught us, is that on any given Sunday, or Saturday in this instance, anyone can beat anybody. Here are five reasons why I believe the Broncos can win against the Ravens and advance to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2005. Surely there may be other reasons, and I will not discount the Ravens just because of an aging defense and mediocre offense. So enjoy the next week of headlines along with dissecting plays and motivations, because when game day comes along, all of the rhetoric will be thrown to the sideline, and it will just come down to who has the best team.
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Ravens Defense Will Not Crack the Broncos O-Line As Easy
One thing the Baltimore Ravens need to understand when preparing for the Denver Broncos, is that if you do not get to and rattle Peyton Manning, it is unlikely you will not win the game. With Ray Lewis healthy and full of emotion during his last ride through the playoffs as he is set to retire at year's end, it is a foregone conclusion that the pressure should be constant from the front seven all day. But this is not the inexperienced Colts offensive line. In their last meeting on December 16th, the Ravens were deflecting passes, getting to Manning and trying all they could do to rattle him. It didn't work out too well then, and the Broncos were still able to win 34-17.
With a Broncos offensive line that consists of the premier left tackle in the game in Ryan Clady, C Dan Koppen, G Chris Kuper, G Zane Beadles and RT Orlando Franklin, they may be the game's best line. Manning knows he will have to utilize RB Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 115yds and a TD a few weeks back, and also hit some quick reads to WR Eric Decker and TE's Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. With Manning one of the best at reading defenses and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage, the offensive line will be able to give him the time he needs to operate. The Broncos are at home this time and the Ravens defense will not be able to get the jump on Manning like they did in Baltimore.
Defense Will Rattle Flacco's Tempo
As in the last meeting of the Broncos and Ravens, Joe Flacco was pressured all game getting sacked three times and hit nine. The front seven of the Broncos pose the NFL's best sack tandem in LB Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, but the Ravens also have to be weary of rookie DE Derek Wolfe, LB Wesley Woodyard, and others who have combined for 52 sacks in 2012. With WR's Torrey Smith and Anquan Bolden having their work cut out for them against CB's Champ Bailey and Chris Harris, Flacco will be hard-pressed to be able to stay in a good rhythm throughout the game, especially in the unfriendly confines of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The combo of Smith and Bolden had a combined one catch for 14 yards and was targeted nine times on December 16th. Sure, Flacco was able to find TE Dennis Pitta for 7 catches and 125 yards with 2TDs, but Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio will have a response to that effort on Saturday. Flacco will be the reason Baltimore wins or loses this game, because going up against the league's third best defense in a divisional round playoff game will be sure to test his mettle and just might make him look more like Mark Sanchez.
Baltimore Run Game Will Be Stymied
12 carries. 38 yards. Longest run 11 yards. Those were the stats from RB Ray Rice against this Broncos defense on December 16th. Is there any indication that the Ravens will get much more out of Rice this Saturday? Rice only had 70 yards on 15 carries against the Colts who presented the league's 29th ranked run defense. And I don't want to hear that RB Bernard Pierce, who rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries against the Colts will be the answer. Pierce only had 20 yards on five carries in the last meeting against the Broncos.
This Denver defense only allows 91 yards/game and the Ravens will be lucky to get to that total. Without a run game, Flacco will not have the weapons at his disposal to attack the Broncos as his offense has been able to do against other opponents. Del Rio has made stopping the run a major focus throughout the year and clearly it has paid off. Only one rusher during the Broncos 11 game win streak has topped 100 yards and that was Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles on November 25th. The last game of the season, Charles gained only 53 yards. The Ravens will have no success here, and if Head Coach John Harbaugh does not get all three phases working well, then this game will get out of hand really quick.
Von Miller is the most disruptive linebacker in the NFL today, and on Saturday, he will prove just why he should be the Defensive Player of the Year. There is more to Miller than just 18.5 sacks. He defends against the run. He can defend against the pass. And he can force turnovers with the best of them. Miller is usually in on every play behind the line of scrimmage and in the opposing team's face at all times.
The Ravens did well in their last meeting preventing Miller from sacking Flacco, but he did have two QB hits and a few tackles to go along with being a distraction all game. Miller is the one defender in the NFL today that has proven on a game to game basis that he can be a game changer and it is time for Ravens LB Ray Lewis to pass the torch to the next great linebacker.
Peyton Manning...Need I Say More?
I know. There would never be a "Top 5 Reasons" slide show without Peyton Manning on his own page. He is that detrimental to the success or demise of any team he plays for. I also get the fact that Manning historically does not do well in most playoff games. But the Ravens have not experienced the command that Manning has until they see him operate on his home turf. This is also the most complete team that Manning has ever played with, in all aspects of the game.
Manning only had 204 yards passing and one TD in their previous meeting, but that was in Baltimore where the fans themselves give the Ravens a huge advantage with the noise generated. The Broncos were still able to win that game handily, and this time around, when Manning asks for quiet, Broncos fans know to give it to him. The Ravens did not have an answer for WR Eric Decker last time, and I am sure they will keep him on their radar Saturday. But one thing the Broncos have, is multiple weapons that can make plays at any time. If not Decker, then Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokley, Joel Dreessen or Knowshon Moreno will step up.
Baltimore has a lot going against them, but so does any other team that would be in their position. One thing we will witness on Saturday, is that the Broncos will play all four quarters, as opposed to earlier in the year. And if the Ravens play one dimensionally, then they really will not have a chance to win the game. The way Manning has played all season, I do not know if it would be a safe bet to go against the best the game has ever seen. Especially when he is on a mission.