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Ravens vs Broncos: Five Keys to the Game

It's Game Day!

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The players, and the fans have been waiting for this day for a long time. We all remember what the Ravens did to the Broncos on a cold January night. It's time for revenge ladies and gentlemen. I will take a look at what the Broncos have to do come away with a victory tonight.

1. Contain Ray Rice, Let Joe Flacco Try To Beat Us:

Ray Rice is their biggest weapon on offense. Stop him, and the Broncos win. Simple as that. If we do not slow him down, expect the Ravens to pound the ball, and control the clock. Also this will set up the play action pass which Flacco is deadly with.

The Broncos have the guys to do it. Big guys Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson hope to clog the middle, and ends Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers are pretty good at setting the edge as well. The Broncos will count on young guys Danny Trevathan, Nate Irving and Duke Ihenacho to stop Rice when he bounces runs outside. A lot of pressure are on these young guys. If these guys struggle it could be a long night for the Broncos defense.

If the Broncos slow down Rice this will put the ball is Joe Flacco's hands. Sure he had a impressive postseason, but he's been pretty average during the season. I'm willing to bet we see the average Joe Flacco tonight. Flacco is barely a 60% career passer in his career so I like our chances.

2. Next Man Up:

If you would have told me six months ago the Broncos would be heading into the 2013 season opener without Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, and Champ Bailey In the starting lineup, I would have called you crazy. Well that's the case for tonights game. No time to dwell on who we are missing, but time to dwell on who is replacing them In the Lineup.

The Broncos need to generate a pass rush. Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson, rookie Sylvester Willams, Mitch Unrein have to create pressure upfront. The Coaching staff has to step up too. Jack Del Rio and Jon Fox are two of the better defensive minds in football. Good scheming and game planning can be huge.

The Broncos will be without Champ Bailey in secondary, but I believe the Broncos won't miss a beat. DRC has looked great in camp/preseason and Chris Harris is a stud. Tony Carter can get the job done, and rookie Kayvon Webster has also looked impressive. Not saying the Broncos won't miss Bailey, but they will do just fine without him.

One of the Broncos running backs have to step up as well. Whether it be Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno, or a combined effort from all three. They need a solid run game. This will set up the play action for Manning which makes him even more deadly, it also will help the Broncos control the time of possession.

3: Limit The Mistakes

The last time these two teams played the Broncos played a very sloppy game. Peyton Manning had two costly Interceptions(one going for a touchdown, and another In OT that lead to the game winning Field Goal for the Ravens). Matt Prater kicked the ground instead of the ball, and there was plenty of coverage mistakes. The Ravens capitalized on all these. So If the Broncos want success tonight they need to limit mistakes, cause the Ravens to make mistakes, and win the all important turnover battle.

4. Hurry Hurry:

Look for the Broncos to do just that. The Broncos want to run their hurry up offense early and often tonight. A quick start from the Broncos would set the pace in the Broncos favor. The Ravens are a grind it out, run the ball team that likes to eat the clock. If they fall behind early, they will have to change it up, and throw the ball more.

Also the hurry up offense does two things.

1. Tire out the opposing defense.

The Broncos want to run a total of 25-35 plays a quarter while in their hurry up offense. That's a lot of snaps. Add in the Mile High Air, and the warm weather in Colorado. It could be a long night for the Baltimore Ravens defensive players.

2. Limit Substitutions:

With Manning and crew running to the line, defenses cannot send in their formation subs. Denver Bronco Andrew Mason shares his opinion on this...

Baltimore rotated Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil in the preseason -- Upshaw played 58 snaps, Dumervil 38 -- and Peyton Manning could respond to whichever linebacker is on the field by tailoring his line-of-scrimmage calls to account for the strengths and weaknesses of each.

This is where Manning is at his best. Changing the play at the line, and exposing mismatches. It will be interesting to see If the Broncos go after Dumervil on running downs.

5. Limit The Big Plays:

The deep ball hurt the Broncos big time in the Playoffs. Smith had a pair of long touchdown receptions, and Jacoby Jones caught the now infamous Flacco Hail Mary. The Broncos have to play tough press/bump coverage. Do not let Smith and Jones have free release.

It will be interesting to see how the Broncos go about this. Champ Bailey will be out, and DRC and Chris Harris figure to start. We'll see Tony Carter in on Nickel downs. Carter is arguably the Broncos fastest corner, so we might see him on Smith. Either way the Broncos cannot allow the Ravens a free release.

Go Broncos!