For the past 5 years, the Ravens have made the playoffs. In each of those years they have been able to win at least one game before falling short of the Super Bowl. It’s an impressive feat to win so many playoff games, but what it really comes down to is Baltimore has failed in each of those years. Playoff victories start to lose their appeal when a Super Bowl appearance never comes. So will this year be any different? Well the Ravens may have their toughest challenge of the entire playoffs this Saturday. Many are predicting Peyton Manning will come away with a Super Bowl victory in his first year in Denver.
The Broncos are easily the hottest team in the NFL. After a slow 2-3 start, Denver has reeled off 11 straight wins to end the year. One of those wins came against this very Ravens team. A 34-17 victory for Denver was both closer and farther apart than the score indicates. Most of Baltimore’s points came with the game well out of hand. They were shutout in the first half and racked up some points with Denver playing mostly prevent defense. However, one play really crushed the morale of the Ravens and turned the landscape of the game. In a 10-0 game with about a minute left in the half, Baltimore was charging towards the endzone. Instead of reaching the endzone to make a 3 point game and Baltimore’s ball in the second half, Joe Flacco forced a ball to Anquan Boldin that resulted in a 98 yard pick 6 for Chris Harris. That play absolutely took the Ravens out of the game.
Baltimore actually held Manning in check for the most part. If Baltimore had kept the game closer, maybe Manning would have turned it up a notch, but that remains to be unseen. The Ravens defense is healthier now since that game. Ray Lewis will be active, and he plays like he did last week he will be a big factor. The scariest matchup for the Ravens has to be their porous secondary though. Cary Williams was torched several times against Decker and don’t forget that they also have Demaryius Thomas. Since this game, Corey Graham and Chykie Brown have stepped up a bit and Jimmy Smith is fully healthy, but it is still not a comforting matchup.
Denver has one of the elite offenses and defenses in the NFL. That is what makes them such a challenge. This isn’t just Peyton Manning doing his usual thing, they have one of the better defensive teams as well. Led by Von Miller and Champ Bailey, they have been shutting down offenses while Peyton and offense have been racking up points. That is why Denver is nearly 10 point favorites in this game. I think Baltimore can come out ahead in this one, but it won’t be easy to say the least. Baltimore will need to play lights out and this one will likely fall on Flacco’s shoulders.