BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-6)
at DENVER BRONCOS (13-3)
AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game
Kickoff: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Denver -9, Total: 46
The Broncos try to extend their win streak to 12 games and earn a berth in the AFC Championship when they host the Ravens on Saturday afternoon in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
In Week 15, the Broncos embarrassed the Ravens in Baltimore, a 34-17 victory in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate (Denver led 31-3 going into the fourth quarter). The Ravens were shorthanded defensively in that game, and last week’s Wild Card victory over Indianapolis was the first time this season they’ve had their four defensive stars (LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed, OLB Terrell Suggs, DL Haloti Ngata) in the lineup at the same time. Denver has been on fire of late, winning 11 in a row overall (9-2 ATS). The club also went 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS at home this year.
Can the Broncos roll to another victory on Saturday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL playoff game.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco has now won at least one playoff game in each of his five NFL seasons, and he's coming off his best postseason game ever with a 125.6 passer rating in last week's 24-9 win over the Colts, as he threw for 282 yards on 12.3 YPA with 2 TD, 0 INT and just one sack taken. The Broncos do boast a fierce pass rush though with 52 sacks (T-1st in NFL), helping them to finish third in the league in both rushing defense (91.1 YPG) and passing defense (199.6 YPG). Flacco was not sharp in the loss to Denver this year (20-for-40, 254 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT), but he's posted three straight solid road playoff games, completing 63-of-100 passes for 696 yards, 5 TD and 2 INT (91.9 rating). And now he's got a more potent ground game to lean on with the emergence of rookie Bernard Pierce who ripped off 103 yards on just 13 carries (7.9 YPC) last week, while Ray Rice had his typical 117 total yards, including 4.7 YPC. But Rice lost two fumbles against the Colts and has just one rushing touchdown in his past six playoff games. The Rice/Pierce duo combined for just 17 carries on 58 yards (3.4 YPC) in the Week 15 loss to Denver though. Top WR Anquan Boldin had an outstanding effort last week with five catches for 145 yards and 1 TD, but he was held without a reception in the loss to Denver, due mostly to the blanket coverage of future Hall of Fame CB Champ Bailey. In that meeting, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta caught seven passes for 125 yards and 2 TD (both in the fourth quarter of garbage time), and the big man also caught a TD pass in last week's win over Indy. Baltimore committed just 16 turnovers during the regular season (tied for 2nd-fewest in NFL), and the Broncos have just seven takeaways in the past six games combined.
Since winning his only Super Bowl, Manning is just 2-4 in his past six playoff games, leading his team to a mere 20.7 PPG. But his numbers have been pretty strong during this stretch with 1,893 passing yards (316 YPG, 7.8 YPA), 11 TD and 4 INT. He didn't fare too well against Baltimore in Jan. 2010 though, throwing for just 5.6 YPA in a 20-3 win. But Manning has otherwise had great success against the Ravens in his career, beating them nine straight times with 2,226 passing yards (247 YPG), 15 TD and 6 INT. And despite the sometimes inclement weather in Denver, Manning has a 112.3 passer rating at home this year with 22 TD passes and just 3 INT at Sports Authority Field. Although WR Demaryius Thomas has been the team's best receiver (94 rec, 1,434 yds, 10 TD), it was Eric Decker who was most outstanding against the Ravens in Week 15 with eight catches for 133 yards and 1 TD. Although Baltimore's 20th-ranked run defense (122.8 YPG) entered the playoffs allowing just 114 rushing yards (3.3 YPC) over its final two games, the team allowed 152 yards to the Colts last week and let RB Knowshon Moreno rumble for 115 yards on 21 carries (5.5 YPC) in Week 15. Moreno will be playing in his first-ever playoff game on Saturday, and he'll try to avoid Ravens LB Ray Lewis, who is trying to prolong his career for one more week. Lewis had 13 tackles (9 solo, 4 assists) against Indy in his first action since Oct. 14.