For both teams, on the outside, it looks like a battle between two future hall of famers on opposite sides of the ball. In truth, this will be a test to show us if the Denver Broncos have what it takes to go all the way, while the Baltimore Ravens try and make the very difficult happen.
Fact: History is against the Ravens in almost every way, and especially in one specific ones. They become the fourth team in NFL history to play two playoff games in the space of six days. The previous three teams – the Steelers in 1977, the Oilers in 1991 and the Jaguars in 1997, all lost their next game.
But aside from history, the Ravens will also be fighting their shortcomings which led to a loss against the Broncos less than a month ago in Denver, 34-17. Knowshon Moreno had a big game that day, running for 115 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens struggled holding the Colts on the ground, giving up 152 yards last week, even with Ray Lewis in the lineup.
Moreno (525 yards, four touchdowns) is probably going to be more important than usual, as the dropping tempratures in Denver will take the game a bit from Peyton Manning. Manning, who played his home games in a dome for most of his career, is 0-3 in playoff games in which the temperature at kickoff is less than 40 degrees. He’s a combined 64 for 120 for 612 yards with one TD and seven INTs in those contests, and will play with a glove on his throwing hand, something he hasn’t worn all season.
He was 17 of 28 for 204 yards with a touchdown in a 34-17 win at Baltimore in Week 15, but the Ravens didn’t have Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard, Marshall Yanda and Ed Dickson in that game, which might make for a very different game this time around.
The key for the Ravens is going to be defense, obviously, and Joe Flacco’s ability to make the play-action work. That means two things: Get Ray Rice a lot of touches early and establish the PA plays, something that happened only five times in the previous game against the Ravens.
When it comes to defense, it’s keeping disciplined against Manning on the line of scrimmage. The Ravens have won all their playoff games under Harbaugh when keeping opponents under 14 points, and have lost all of those in which they allowed 15 or more.
Predictions – The Baltimore Ravens’ offense this season has been too predictable, and their defense unable to shut down team completely. Against a rolling Denver Brnocos team, that’s just not going to be enough.