NFL Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos: Five Keys to Victory

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Five Keys to Avoiding the Upset

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are big favorites to beat the Baltimore Ravens and move onto the AFC Championship game, and there are a number of reasons for that. The obvious one is the state if the two teams heading into Saturday’s divisional game; the Broncos are rolling and the Ravens have struggled down the stretch.

The Broncos have won 11 straight games by seven points or more, won their last three by an average of 20 points and have scored 30 or more points in a team record 11 games this season. The Broncos are also the only team in the NFL that is ranked in the top five in both offense and defense. Last but not least, the Broncos are at home where they are 7-1 and have not been challenged since a week three loss to the Houston Texans.

The Ravens did get back on track with a wild card win over the Indianapolis Colts, although it was not as easy as the final score may have indicated. The Ravens defense only gave up nine points and points allowed is really the only statistic that matters. However the other numbers are alarming if you are a Ravens fan; they gave up over 400 yards of total offense, were on the field for 87 plays and gave up 120 yards versus the run.

The Ravens are still a good team but they are no longer a great team, and will have to play a perfect game to beat the Broncos. Even if they do that, the Broncos would have to help them. With that in mind, here are the five keys for the Broncos to take the next step towards their ultimate goal.

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Fast Start

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The easiest way for a big underdog to pull the upset is to stay in the game early, and maybe even get a lead. The Broncos must start fast and let the Ravens know that all of their emotion is not going to help them. Underdogs go into a game riding high but that confidence is paper thin; the Broncos can win the game early if they jump out to a quick lead. If the Broncos get out to a 10-0 or 14-0 lead in the first quarter, then they could be coasting into the AFC Title Game. If the Ravens get to halftime and the game is close, then it is going to be a fight to the finish.

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Protect the Rock

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

This one goes without saying but we are going to say it anyway; the Broncos cannot help the Ravens with turnovers. If the Ravens are going to beat the Broncos, they are going to need help. They are going to need some short-fields and easy scores to keep up with Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. If the Broncos are even or win the turnover battle, then the Ravens have no shot.

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No Cheap Touchdowns

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens best weapon might be Jacoby Jones on kick and punt returns; he’s really good. The only way the Ravens are going to be able to score with the Broncos is if they get a cheap touchdown, and Jones could provide that on a return. Kicker, Matt Prater needs to kick the ball through the end zone and the cover guys need to stay in their lanes. Punter, Britton Colquitt must do a good job with directional punting and hang time.

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Stop the Run

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens know that they cannot win a shootout with the Broncos, so they are going to run the ball and try to shorten the game. The Broncos defense must take away the run as they did in their December meeting. If the Ravens cannot run the ball, then the Broncos will make life miserable for quarterback Joe Flacco. If they can run the ball, then the Ravens can stay in the game.

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Play Broncos Football

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The simplest thing the Broncos can do is just play their game; if they play up to their capability, then everything will be fine. There’s nothing the Ravens can do to win the game if the Broncos play well, and do not help them. It boils down to this; the Ravens have to play perfect and get help from the Broncos to win. The Broncos just need to do what they have been doing for the past three months; if they do that then Ray Lewis will ride off into his retirement.

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