2012 NFL Playoff Preview and Pick: Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos
The first game on tap for the divisional round of the 2012 NFL playoffs will be the Baltimore Ravens at the Denver Broncos. Denver had a first round bye while Baltimore took care of business at home against a stingy Indianapolis Colts team.
Denver has been on fire heading into the playoffs. Peyton Manning is showing no signs of slowing down after having neck surgery the previous year. Any doubts about him being able to perform have been completely erased.
Baltimore comes to Denver after an emotional first round win at home against the Colts. LB Ray Lewis announced that he would retire at the end of the season. That proved to be a jump-start for his team as they came out with a win in his final home game.
When: 4:30 pm ET on Saturday, January 12th, 2013
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO
Here’s what to watch for on both sides of the ball when the Broncos and Ravens square off on Saturday afternoon:
Its very simple. If Baltimore cannot find a way to stop, or even slow down, Peyton Manning this game will be an absolute blowout. Manning has been masterful in carving up defenses just about any way he wants. In week 15, these two teams met in a 34-17 win for the Broncos in Baltimore.
Also, RB Knowshon Moreno has been able to effectively run the ball as of late. Against Baltimore in week 15 he had 115 yards and a TD on 21 carries. With all attention on Manning and the passing game Moreno thrived. If Moreno is even remotely effective and Baltimore is forced to keep an extra man up front, Manning will have a field day.
The newly nicknamed WR tandem of “Black and Decker” (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) will have to be contained. The problem is that you can only double-team one. And even if you take those two out TE’s Joel Dreesen and Jacob Tamme, along with slot WR Brandon Stokly, are still weapons for Peyton Manning. Manning can audible to any play to get any one of those guys open. And typically, when he does audible, those plays go for big yards.
LB Ray Lewis and S Bernard Pollard were out for Baltimore when they met in week 15. As significant as impact players as they are, I don’t think they will be enough to make up the difference needed to stop Manning. Baltimore’s defense has shown some aging and traveling two-thirds cross country with the thin air in Denver only gives the Broncos more of an advantage.
The Denver Broncos don’t have a dominant defense but they do have decent corners in Champ Bailey and Chris Harris who can pressure wide receivers. DE Elvis Dumervil and LB Von Miller can create huge problems for offensive lines.
First, RB Ray Rice will need to be effective running the football. Enough so to at least make the Denver linebackers think run first. If Denver bottles Rice up early it will be a tough hill to climb.
Next, QB Joe Flacco will need to have time to pass. If he gets decent time, he has to be decisive and accurate. The knock on Flacco has been poor throws and poor decisions that have led to three and outs and turnovers. Flacco will not be able to get into a shootout with Peyton Manning; trying to match points for points. He has to take what Denver gives him and recognize the right opportunities to take a few deep shots to WR’s Anquan Boldin or Torrey Smith.
Flacco needs to control the pace of the game. Baltimore cannot afford to have too many three and outs and give the ball right back to Peyton Manning. Flacco’s game management will be key for Baltimore. Flacco’s job could be on the line in this game. I think he knows the organization and fans are looking for him to step up in a big moment. His job could be on the line.
Sorry Baltimore, I’m not giving you guys much of a chance here. I think the old age of that once dominant defense finally shows in the thin air in Denver. Peyton Manning will have his way and get out to a big early lead the Joe Flacco is not-in-the-least capable of coming back from. Too much Peyton Manning to handle, 34-10 Broncos.