NFL Playoff AFC Divisional Playoffs, January 12th, 2013
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos -9.5 OvUn 46
After our 4-0 opening run in the wild card games, we look to extend that run when the ravens The Baltimore Ravens head to Mile High for their AFC playoffs game with the Broncos, in a game where two of the game’s greats will perhaps meet for the last time.
This could be linebacker Ray Lewis’ final game if the Ravens should lose to the Broncos. He announced his retirement last Wednesday. However, he has to think his chances of playing another game are good after his team’s play last week.
The Ravens played inspired football against the Colts last week, limiting Andrew Luck and holding Indianapolis to just 9 points, all field goals. Ray Lewis led the team in tackles with 13 while Paul Kruger was the defensive standout for the Ravens, harassing Andrew Luck and notching 2.5 sacks.
Baltimore unleashed offensively, as well. The Ravens gained 441 yards of offense and were led by Joe Flacco’s 282 yards and two touchdowns and won the game 24-9.
Despite their massive win last week, Baltimore gave up 152 rushing yards. That could be a cause for concern this week. In a previous matchup with Denver this year, Knowshon Moreno ran for 115 yards and a touchdown on the Ravens defense. Denver won that meeting 34-17.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos should be able to pick up where they left off in the regular season. He had an MVP type of season; he was tied for completion percentage at 68.6 and finished second in passer rating with 105.8. He also led a team that averaged over 30 point per contest and won its last 11 games.
His recent history also bodes well for a playoff win. Manning has won nine straight games against the Ravens but had a passer rating of just 68.3 in postseason games.
Denver’s defense has been playing just as well as their offense at home. During the Broncos’ six game home win streak, they have given up just over 237 yards and 13.5 points at Mile High.
Also, despite home field advantage for the Broncos, Manning’s play in playoff games where the temperature is less than 40 degrees has been subpar. He is 0-3 in these contests and has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions.
Willis McGahee has returned to practice for the Broncos but is not eligible to play until the AFC Championship game. However, his progress looks good in limited reps. Guard Chris Kuper and left tackle Ryan Clady will play against the Ravens, despite nagging injuries to both of the lineman.
Backup running back Bernard Pierce was limited in practice, but is expected to play Sunday and back up Ray Rice. Terrell Suggs aggravated his surgically repaired Achilles tendon in the win against the Colts Sunday, but is expected to play through the pain this week if necessary.
Denver opened as rather large -9 favorites. The number has moved to -9.5 almost exclusively, but some books are pushing the number to -10. The total opened at 46 and has stayed close to that number at most shops, but some online bookies have the number at 46.5.
America’s feel good story of Ray Lewis’ final year and his win at Indianapolis last week was exciting news, but we do not think this story has a fairy tale Super Bowl run ending.
While Manning isn’t prolific in cold weather, he has not been used to playing in that environment. Of course, when he plays few games outdoors, and against good playoff teams, he may have struggled in the past. This year’s Denver team, while we think is a bit overrated, has won 11 straight and is clearly a better team than the Ravens.
Ultimately, Joe Flacco will have to play well for Baltimore to win this game, and we just do not see that happening. He threw two picks in the loss to Denver at Baltimore in December and will have an even tougher time at Mile High against the likes of Champ Bailey. The Ravens struggle to move the ball through the air, which could become an enormous problem if they are forced to play from behind.
Manning will get his in this game as Baltimore’s secondary is average at best. The Colts and the mediocre Vick Ballard and company ran for 154 last week, and Knowshon Moreno is a much more talented back. This aging, banged up defense won’t be able to keep up with a well rested Denver team.
We like Denver at home, minus the points; Broncos -9.5
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