The prognosticators have the Ravens a heavy underdog for this Saturday. I can see why based on several factors but if you play well in all three phases of the game and you win certain match-ups any team can be beaten.
Let’s look at Saturday’s most important battles.
Ravens Offensive Tackle Michael Oher vs. Broncos Outside Linebacker Von Miller
Once again Oher will need to slow a speed rusher, something that he’s struggled with for most of his career. Between missed blocks and penalties Oher has had his issues with more athletic opponents. The Ravens will need to give him help with either a Tight End, a Running back helping to chip or both. Miller is a terror on the rush and even if he doesn’t get home with a sack he always provides plenty of pressure on his own. This a potentially huge mismatch and the Ravens must control it as best they can.
Ravens Wide Recievers Torrey Smith/Anquan Boldin vs. Broncos Cornerback Chris Harris
It’s usually best not to challenge Champ Bailey, so that leaves Harris, a player who ran back Flacco’s miscue in Week Fifteen for a pick six and 17-0 halftime lead. The Ravens must take some shots downfield with either Smith or Boldin to attempt to keep pace with the high scoring Denver offense.
Ravens Returner Jacoby Jones vs. Broncos Kick/Punt Coverage Team
Jones has put together an All-Pro Season and he was effective yet again in the Wild Card round against the Colts. He had 60 return yards last Sunday and was a great help in the field position battle. This definitely feels like a game where Baltimore could use several long returns or even a touchdown from their speedy wideout.
Ravens Inside Linebacker Ray Lewis vs. Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning
Manning is still considered one of the game’s best quarterbacks and while Lewis has lost a step he can still summon solid if not great performances. The chess match between Manning and Lewis should be a sight to watch. Both are regarded among the best all-time when it comes to preparation for a big game. How the Ravens defense can fare against Manning and his constant audibles will be a big part of this contest.