There isn’t much time to celebrate as the Ravens now must go on the road to make their championship dreams come true.
Next stop, the thin air of Denver in the AFC Divisional round.
The Broncos own an 11-game winning streak and have a hall of fame quarterback in Peyton Manning. The odds look stacked but let’s take a closer look at the Ravens opponent.
1) Big-play Offense. As usual there will be a ton of focus on Peyton Manning and rightfully so. I mean, how many other franchises would trade their quarterback after making the Divisional round of the playoffs? The move has totally revamped the Broncos offense as they have shed their gimmicky run-based attack for a more conventional downfield assault. Denver has become one of the league’s top big play teams as they registered 71 plays over 20 yards or more and scored 10 touchdowns from those plays. Only three teams in the NFL were better in that department – one being the Baltimore Ravens.
2) Peyton Manning. The NFL’s favorite pitchman proved skeptics wrong by turning in an MVP type season after recovering from neck surgery. Now he must prove the doubters wrong in the playoffs where he has been inconsitent over his career. He’s 9-10 all-time in 11 playoff appearances. His last appearance in 2010 was the seventh time Manning had been eliminated in one playoff loss during his time in Indianapolis. Over the years though Peyton has dominated Baltimore. The Ravens have lost nine straight times to Manning, including twice in the playoffs.
3) Knowshown Moreno. Moreno’s career has been plagued by inconsistency but he’s made the most of his chance when starter Willis McGahee went to the injured reserve in mid-November. His best game was Week Fifteen against Baltimore where he ran for 115 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. Denver will want to achieve that balance in their offense again so Manning’s fakes can have greater impact.
4) Elvis Dumervil / Von Miller. These two pass rush threats lead an aggressive Denver defense that finished tied for the league lead in sacks with 52. The Broncos also had two other players with at least five sacks, Wesley Woodyard (5.5) and Derek Wolfe (6.0). That said the dynamic duo of Dumervil and Miller are the ones giving quarterbacks nightmares and keeping their heads on a swivel and not looking downfield. They were the top tandem in the league with 28 1/2 sacks between them. They often move around depending on the formation and must be accounted for in any protection scheme.
5) Cold Weather. The forecast is calling for temperatures in the 20′s with a 40 percent chance of snow. That might be a concern for warm weather or dome teams but the Ravens are used to that climate playing in the AFC North. Historically Manning hasn’t played well in bad elements either however his last two games were played in the cold and performed just fine even while wearing a glove for the first time in his career.