AFC Divisional Playoff Preview of Broncos vs. Ravens: Last Dance for Ray Lewis

By Mark Stringer
Mitch Stringer – US Presswire

The Denver Broncos will host the Baltimore Ravens this Saturday in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs. The Broncos beat the Ravens on the road in a route 34-17 just a few weeks ago and although there are a couple of differences this time around, the outcome will be the same.

The Ravens have been adjusting to new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell over the last few weeks and their offense may be clicking a little better than before, but this time the game is in Denver and that is usually a huge advantage in the playoffs for the Broncos considering it’s at home and the high altitude of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The keys to the Ravens’ success will be to keep QB Peyton Manning off the field and make sure LB Ray Lewis has a huge day. The Ravens will have to establish long, time-consuming drives that result in touchdowns in order to keep Manning off the field and to keep up with the Broncos’ high-scoring offense. They will need to get RB Ray Rice 20-plus carries and be successful running the ball overall. Lewis will need to have a monster day that includes one big-time play that causes a defensive touchdown and shut down Denver’s running game. If the Ravens can do these things then they might have a shot to win this game.

If the Ravens can’t get these things done then Lewis’ will perform his last motivational dance this Saturday in Denver.

The Broncos need to just do what they have been doing the last 11 games: be effective running the ball similar to what RB Knowshon Moreno did last time these two teams met. Moreno rushed 22 times for 118 yards and a touchdown in Week 15, which made life easy for the Broncos’ passing game. Manning needs to protect the football and pick the Ravens apart, but get WR Demaryius Thomas more involved this time around. In the last game, Thomas had just four receptions for 14 yards and that kind of output won’t bode well for Denver this time around.

The Broncos’ defense will have to keep a lot of pressure on Ravens QB Joe Flacco and make sure TE Dennis Pitta doesn’t have a repeat performance of Week 15 when he hauled in seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Pitta was Baltimore’s only bright spot from Week 15, so if Denver shuts him down and does a nice job of slowing Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin again, this will be the Broncos’ 12th straight win.

Sorry, Lewis, I’m afraid it will be your last dance. I’m going with the Broncos to win this game in similar fashion to Week 15.

My prediction: Broncos 37, Ravens 17


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