When the Baltimore Ravens take their playoff journey to the road on Saturday, they will once again face NFL MVP candidate Peyton Manning, who’s Denver Broncos team has already knocked off the Ravens once this year by a score of 34-17 at M&T Bank Stadium in a game that wasn’t even close.
With that victory in week fifteen, Manning’s all time record against the Ravens now stands at 8-2 and it’s pretty clear that he’s never struggled too much against the vaunted defence as the least points he’s even been held to by the Baltimore side stands at 15 and his touchdown – interception totals are 18-8. With the win during the regular season, Manning-lead teams are now on a seven game unbeaten run against the Ravens and there’s not much evidence to suggest it’ll end on Saturday.
The facts and stats speak for themselves, but lets look at some of the other factors that could come into play and give the Ravens some hope going into this weekends game.
Ray Lewis is back, and whilst not the same athlete he used to be, he’s still the one that will organise the defense and will be the one making the necessary counter-moves to Manning’s incessant audibling, giving the Ravens a lot better chance at being in the right spots pre-snap, unlike in week fifteen, which saw a plethora of pre-snap errors.
Jim Caldwell is now firmly established as the Ravens play-caller, unlike the last time these two teams met, when the Ravens offense was still dealing with the Cam Cameron aftermath and Caldwell was pressed into action. After watching the wild card game, I think it’s clear that Caldwell has found a play calling groove, both within the offence and more importantly with Joe Flacco, so I don’t expect the Ravens to be held to only 6 points within the first three quarters.
The final thing that I would like to point out for this game, is that in all the years of the Ravens having Joe Flacco as their playoff quarterback, they have never seemed to play badly on the road, instead they have visibly relished the occasion of trying to knock off a team in their own back yard. When you look at Flacco’s playoff record on the road he’s won four and lost four, and although not a winning record, a quarterback that’s at .500 on the road in the playoffs is someone you can trust if enough plays are made around him. Just imagine if Billy Cundiff had made that field goal or T.J. Houshmandzadeh / Lee Evans had made their catches, then Flacco’s record could easily be much better. For me, he’s proven he can make the plays, and that’s what matters in the playoffs.
When you judge this matchup based on the stat lines and on-field evidence from a month ago, there’s a clear-cut favorite, and that’s the Broncos, but the Ravens are not the injury-depleted, offensive shambles that they were a month ago, they’re a playoff team that are playing inspired and have the playoff form to pull this one out on the raod.
If you want to call me out, feel free to follow me @rosswatson20 and let me know how you feel.