Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent
The weekend is finally upon us where, once and for all, a week of speculation is put to rest. The Ravens go to battle with the Denver Broncos in a game that many have written off as an easy win for Denver, leaving the Ravens as 10-point underdogs. Let me tell you why it is not wise to write off the Baltimore Ravens.
The team that played three weeks ago and got smashed by the Broncos in Baltimore will not be showing up this week. The Ravens offense as of late has been stepping up to make plays, unlike in the last match-up where the first half was plagued by turnovers that Denver capitalized on easily. Joe Flacco put up fantastic numbers against the Colts last week (12/23, 282 yards, 2 touchdowns, 125.6 quarterback rating) and played very well in the Giants game.
If the Ravens want to win, the offense needs to come out strong and maintain a presence in the game. The Ravens have also had quite a few players step up and make plays when they need them to, such as corner backs Chykie Brown and Corey Graham. Both of who have been playing well the last few weeks they have started. The Ravens have also appeared to have figured out their offensive line situation by putting Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and putting Micheal Oher at right tackle, where he belongs. The offensive seemed to hold up well against the Colts, giving Flacco a lot of time in the pocket and holding the Colts to one sack. Another major part of the Ravens’ offense has been Ray Rice (rushed for over 100 yards, despite two fumbles) and Bernard Pierce (rushed for a combined 300 yards in the last two games) on the ground.
The Ravens also are a healthier team with safety Bernard Pollard, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, right guard Marshal Yanda, tight end Ed Dickson, and of course Ray Lewis all making returns to the field. Out of all of these players, Lewis brings the most impact. Not necessarily physical impact (though Lewis did lead the team last week with 13 tackles), Lewis brings a mental presence unmatched by any other player on the Ravens defense. He, just like Peyton Manning, is a chess master at football.
Oh, yeah. Manning. That guy. You have probably heard his name all week. And for good reason, he is probably one of the best quarterbacks to ever live. Bernard Pollard even called him “A MacBook” (which is where Ashley Fox of ESPN got her clever opening line for her article she posted earlier in the week). Is he a computer? Coach John Harbaugh said in his press conference earlier in the week, “he might have the brain of a computer, but he is still a man.” Could not put it better myself. Can you one hundred percent shut down Manning? No, but you sure can contain him. He threw for just over 200 yards against the Ravens four weeks ago, his fewest this year. He is also historically is shaky in the post season, Manning is 0-3 in his post season career in game below forty degrees (it is supposed to be around seventeen degrees at kick off) and 1-3 in post season games after a bye week. Manning is not a young guy either. He is 36. As Gerry Sandusky put it, “He has to battle Mother Nature and Father time.”
So am I saying that the Ravens have the win locked up and should begin preparations for the AFC Championship because it is going to be a bit brisk out in Denver? Of course not. What I am saying is: do not count the boys in purple out. They have surprised in the past and they absolutely love when they are the underdogs. They feed off the energy to prove people wrong and go out and play hard. If they can contain the Denver offense and Flacco and the Ravens offense show up ready to work, there is a very good chance the Ravens move on.
Expect a good match-up between the Broncos and the Ravens. Forget the point spread. My prediction is 23-20, Ravens out on top. We, in all likelihood, will be throwing Justin Tucker a parade when he gets back to Baltimore. Ray Lewis’ career will not end in Denver, contrary to popular belief.