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NFL Baltimore RavensDenver Broncos

2013 NFL Playoffs: Ravens vs. Broncos, the X-factors

James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

@craigballard77

The Denver Broncos host the Baltimore Ravens on divisional weekend and we know the stars will be guys like Peyton Manning, Von Miller, plus Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense. This article is a look at a few potential X-factors in this tilt (for a detailed game preview CLICK HERE).

The Ravens have a built-in X-factor since their best defensive players are playing together again this weekend. Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata played together for the first time this season in their Wild Card weekend victory over the Indianapolis Colts. I like the Broncos to win this game, but I feel intrigued that this foursome could carry the day for the Ravens.

We know that the Ravens will want to feed Ray Rice, but Bernard Pierce is getting more and more action lately. The rookie had one game in the first 15 weeks where he had as many as 10 carries, and he was averaging just five carries per game. In the last three weeks he is averaging 16 carries per game, and he is averaging 105 rushing yards with those carries. In that span he is averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per carry. It is worth noting that he has zero touchdowns since November 4th, but Rice last scored a touchdown over one month ago so we will surely see Pierce get action vs this Broncos defense that is No. 3 overall vs the run.

The Broncos passing game is led by 1,000+ guys like Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, but an X-factor here could be tight end Jacob Tamme. In his career almost all of the 224 times he was targeted, the guy targeting him was Manning. We know Manning is having (another) massive season, especially at home, and the last time Manning and Tamme were in the playoffs (2010 Colts) Tamme caught five of the eight passes Manning tossed him. Four of those five catches resulted in first downs, and in 2012 Tamme averaged four catches per game at Mile High Stadium so I do anticipate a few big catches in this game for the five year veteran. Over their years together in games where Manning throws a touchdown pass to Tamme their team is 4-2.

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