The Denver Broncos host the Baltimore Ravens in a Divisional round playoff matchup. Lets take a look at the offenses of both teams.
QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Ray Rice
FB: Vonta Leach
WR's: Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin
TE: Dennis Pitta
OL: Michael Oher (LT), Marshall Yanda (LG), Matt Birk (C), Bobbie Williams (RG), Kelechi Osemele(RT)
Baltimore Ravens Offensive Rankings:
Total Offense: 16th (352.2 YPG)
Pass Offense: 15th (233.7 YPG)
Rush Offense: 11th (118.8 YPG)
Scoring Offense: 10th (24.9 PPG)
Denver Broncos Offensive Rankings:
Total Offense: 4th (397.9 YPG)
Pass Offense: 5th (283.4 YPG)
Rush Offense: 16th (114.5 YPG)
Scoring Offense: 2nd (30.1 PPG)
If the Ravens want to win it will all come on the shoulders or well arm of Joe Flacco. Last time Flacco faced the Broncos defense, he didn't fair so well. Yes his stat line looks okay, but if you watch the tape you will see the true story. Flaccos stat line looked like this: 20/40 254 yards, 2 TDs and 1 Int. That one Int was a big one. It was a 98 yard Int by Chris Harris that went for a TD and was the key moment in the game. Now what does Flacco need to do to help his team win the game? Well for one he has to improve on the road. On the year Flaccos road numbers are well...average. On the road he is completing 57% of his passes for 1454 yards, and only has 7 TD's and 5 Ints. Meanwhile at home, he's completing 62% of his passes for 2,363 yards, and has 15 Tds and 5 Ints. Flacco will need too improve on those numbers and have a better showing if he wants to lead his team to an upset. Flacco is coming off a good showing against the Colts in the wildcard round. Flacco totaled 282 yards passing and 2 TDs. He was only sacked once and didn't throw an Int. Flacco will look to carry that momentum to tomorrow afternoons game.
Peyton Manning may indeed be your MVP and before the bye week was on fire. In his last 3 games Manning completed 70% of his passes, totaled 847 yards passing, 7 TD's, 1 Int and was only sacked twice. Manning will look to continue this hot streak against a tough Ravens D. Last time Manning played the Ravens he totaled 204 yards passing, only 1 TD and completed 60.7 % of his passes. It seemed like an off day for Peyton who missed a few passes that would have been big plays if accurate. One thing to keep an eye on saturday is the weather. It's supposed to be a cold one, 18 or so degrees at kickoff. Manning has struggled in the cold weather, so we'll see if this has any effect on him. Manning has opted to wear a glove on his throwing hand. Manning has worn it the last two games they played, and both games Manning threw for 3 TDs and went over 300 yards. So it will be interesting to watch. Now what does Peyton have to do to win? Not make any mistakes obviously, and win the Chess match against Ray Lewis. Yes the Ravens D does have Suggs and Lewis back, but both are far from 100% and can be a liability in coverage. The Broncos have to pick on Ray Lewis in the passing game. He's lost a step, and wasn't that great even before the injury. Eric Decker had a big game last time these two played, he was matched up on Cary Williams and did pretty well against him, so we'll see if Decker can get the best of him again. I don't know what to expect from Peyton, but i'm hoping he puts on a show for the home crowd.
The Running Backs
The Ravens have one the best runners in the league in Ray Rice. Last time Rice went against the Broncos defense, he didn't fair very well at all. Rice only had 38 yards on the ground and 3 yards in receiving. Rice didn't fair very well last week in the wild card round either. Rice had 68 yards rushing and 2 fumbles. The Broncos have to stop Rice and make Flacco have to make plays. Stopping Rice also limits the success of the Ravens play action, which allows Flacco to attack deep. A dark horse guy to keep an eye on is rookie runner Bernard Pierce. Pierce carried the ball 13 times for 103 yards. The Broncos defense has a tough task ahead of them, but they stopped Rice once, lets see if they can do it again.
Knowshon Moreno had one of his best games as a pro against the Ravens last they went against each other. Moreno was a big part of the offense, and i think he will be once again. Moreno carried the ball 21 times for 115 yards rushing and a TD. The highlight of his day was hurdling safety and future Hall Of Famer Ed Reed on an attempted tackle. If you somehow didn't see it, go youtube it. Moreno gashed the Ravens D that day, but they were without a lot of their key starters. They have Lewis, Ellerbe and Pollard back so we'll see if he has similar success for not. Another guy to keep an eye on is Jacob Hester. Hesters workload has increased every week, and he's been productive for the most part. Hester is a great pass blocker for Manning on third down, and also is somewhat circa 2009 Peyton Hillish looking when running the ball. We'll see Hester on short yardage and maybe in for Moreno when he needs a breather. It will be interesting to see how much work rookie Ronnie Hillman gets. Hillman had a big fumble against the Chiefs, and never saw the field after that. In the playoffs you cannot fumble or turn the ball over, so we'll see how much our coaching staff trusts the young explosive rookie. I expect a good showing from this group, and lets hope they don't put the ball on the ground at all.
The Receivers/Tight Ends:
Baltimore has some dangerous weapons to work with on offense. Receiver Torrey Smith is their big play guy. Smith did only total 49 receptions this season but averaged 17.4 YPC. Flacco will look to target him early and often. Champ Bailey and Chris Harris have to make sure he doesn't get a step or two on them. Anquan Boldin was the lead receiver for the Ravens though. He lead the team in receptions(65) and yards with 921. The guy i'm mostly worried about his Dennis Pitta. The Broncos have had issues with tight ends and Pitta is a good one. The Broncos did shut down these guys for the most part last time they played though. Smith was held to 1 catch, Boldin was held catchless and the only Raven to have a good day was Pitta. Pitta caught 7 balls for 125 yards, though most of his success came in the 4 quarter/garbage time. If the Broncos secondary is this good again, the Ravens have no chance.
The Broncos have two very good receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Thomas lead the team in receptions and yards. On the year DT had 94 receptions for 1434 yards and 10 TDs and Eric Decker had 85 catches for 1064 yards and a team high 13 TD receptions. The Ravens secondary will have a very tough task in stopping these two. Mannings safety blanket Brandon Stokley will be well rested and could see a good amount of action in the middle of this Ravens D. Tight End Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme figure to see alot of action as well. Baltimore is weak at corner but they do have Ed Reed back there. I expect Manning to attack the middle of the field, and use play action to attack them deep. I'm excited to see what this group can do against a not so great Ravens D.
Baltimores offensive line ranks 20th in the league. They allowed 38 sacks and 69 QB hits on Joe Flacco. Behind Baltimores O-Line, runners have averaged 4.3 YPC. Last time the Broncos played the Ravens they were without Pro-Bowl Guard Marshall Yanda. This unit will have a tough task against the Broncos D that specializes in rushing the passer and stopping the run.
The Broncos offensive line ranks 2nd in the league. They only allowed 20 sacks on QB Peyton Manning and a league low 45 QB hits. Baltimore will have too do a good job if they want to get to Manning. Clady and Franklin have been great at slowing down pass rushers coming off the edge. Behind Denvers O-Line, runners have averaged 3.8 YPC.