By Samuel Njoku
Denver Broncos fans got their hearts broken last January when Joe Flacco flung a 70-yard touchdown pass that forced overtime with Denver at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Ravens went on to beat the Broncos by a field goal and later became Super Bowl champs. The Ravens head back to the scene of the crime on Thursday, September 5 and the Broncos hope to have a different outcome this season.
Denver’s Offensive Might
If there is one quarterback in the league that the Ravens hate to play, it’s Peyton Manning. Gameday is a lot tougher when you know Peyton is calling the shots for the opposing team. But that is exactly the kind of pressure Baltimore will face when they head to Denver on Thursday to battle the Broncos.
Last season, the Ravens defense had a great game plan against the future Hall-of-Famer. And it paid off with a huge win in the divisional round of the post season. The Ravens will most likely take what they learned from that game and apply it here. Baltimore attempted to get decent pressure with a four-man front and hoped to get excellent coverage from their secondary. Don’t expect the Ravens to blitz much in this contest.
Denver will most likely play a lot of three wide receiver sets. They have perhaps the most dynamic group of receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and newly acquired Wes Welker. Expect Manning to spread the Ravens defense out and force them to account for every receiver on the field. The Ravens currently have only four cornerbacks on the active roster. That will make things even more challenging for Baltimore as rotations will be limited.
The Broncos won’t be fielding a one-dimensional offense either. They’ll test the Ravens run defense with two decent running backs. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman will share the load and attempt to take pressure away from Peyton Manning. The Ravens have to be careful not to allow Denver’s running game to get any momentum. If they do, the play action attack of Manning and company will be too lethal to overcome.
This Broncos team will not be fielding the same defense they did in January, but they still have a lot to prove. With Von Miller currently serving a suspension and Elvis Dumervil now playing in Baltimore, the Broncos may not be nearly as effective in pass rushing situations. But the Denver secondary was torched by Flacco and will look to redeem themselves. Champ Bailey is dealing with a knee injury and won’t be 100 percent if he plays. That could present an opportunity for Flacco who looked his way often in last year’s divisional playoff game. Expect the Broncos to focus less on Flacco and more on Ray Rice. Similar to Manning, Joe Flacco is almost impossible to stop when equipped with an effective play-action attack.
John Fox lead the Broncos to the playoffs in his first two years as head coach for Denver. The Ravens have won the All-Time series against the Broncos with a 5-4 record. Baltimore also has a 2-0 record against Denver in the postseason. However the Ravens have never defeated Peyton Manning in the regular season.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.