The 10-3 Denver Broncos are going after their 9th straight win, but they’ve never beat the 9-4 Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore since the team moved there (0-5 on the road including one playoff game). Peyton Manning on the other hand is 7-2 against the Ravens with 17 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and an average QBR of 95.5. Overall, the Ravens hold a 3-5 advantage over the Broncos all-time. The Ravens enter week 15 having lost two games in a row which hasn’t happened since 2009. Four Broncos (Justin Bannan, Brandon Stokley, Matt Willis, and Jim Leonhard) played for the Ravens at one time or another in their careers. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. MDT on CBS with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf calling the game.
Broncos: It’s not just enough to move the ball effectively. The Broncos had 428 yards of total offense last week against the Oakland Raiders, but they had to settle for four field goals. That won’t cut it against the Ravens who are 10th in scoring defense and 1st in red zone defense. The Broncos should be able to run on the Ravens who have given up at least 172 yards on the ground in four games this season. The Broncos look to have guard Chris Kuper back in the lineup which would be huge. Manning was sacked three times in the first half of last week’s game, and 17 of his 19 sacks this season have come when Kuper hasn’t been in the lineup. The Broncos are 2nd in scoring (28.8) and 4th in yards per game (390.1). Manning has had four 300+ yard passing games during the team’s eight game winning streak.
Ravens: It’s very unusual for the offensive coordinator of a 9-3 team to get canned, but that’s what happened to Cam Cameron after the Ravens’ last loss. Manning’s former coach in Indianapolis, Jim Caldwell, will take the reins of the offense. The team is 9th in scoring (25.5) and 18th in yards per game (344.4). The Ravens can be explosive on the ground and in the air, particularly with Ray Rice who has 872 rushing yards and 409 receiving yards. In fact, Rice is the 3rd most targeted receiver on the team, and he comes up big on third down. Of course, the Broncos also have to account for Anquan Boldin who leads the team in receiving yards (828) and Torrey Smith who leads the team in receiving touchdowns (7). Tight end Dennis Pitta is a huge threat in the red zone as well. With Rice and Pitta, the Broncos’ linebackers and safeties will have a massive workload on Sunday.
Broncos: Joe Flacco has been sacked 12 times in the last four games. In the Ravens’ four losses this season, Flacco has been sacked 11 times, he’s thrown 5 interceptions, and he’s lost 2 fumbles. Von Miller is 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 16, and Elvis Dumervil is 2nd with 6 forced fumbles. If those two guys can apply pressure, Flacco will make some mistakes. With Caldwell steering the ship now, expect Ray Rice to touch the ball more, and expect to see more no-huddle because that’s what Flacco excels in. It seems like if defenses can apply enough pressure to Flacco, the passing game tanks. Flacco has failed to go above 200 yards passing in six games this season.
Ravens: This isn’t the Ravens defense that we’re used to seeing. They’re 28th in yards allowed (375.9), and they have a 25th ranked rush defense and a 23rd ranked pass defense. That’s what injuries to a few key stars will do to you. The Ravens haven’t been able to get stops in crunch time which is really killing them. Bernard Pollard leads the team in tackles with 98, Paul Kruger leads the team in sacks with 8, and Cary Williams and Ed Reed each have 4 interceptions to lead the team. Ray Lewis won’t decide if he’ll play until Sunday.
Broncos: The good news is Matt Prater is back on track after making all four of his field goals last week. Kickoff coverage for the Broncos has to be spot on. The Ravens are averaging 28.7 yards per kick return compared to the Broncos’ 23.8 yards per return.
Ravens: Jacoby Jones is deadly in the return game. He has 2 kickoffs returned for touchdowns and 1 punt returned for a touchdown. Kicker Justin Tucker has only missed two field goals this year, both from 40-49 yards out.
Broncos: John Fox knows that this is an important game. It goes a long way in securing 2nd place in the AFC. However, he’ll get his men ready to play like it’s just another notch on the belt.
Ravens: John Harbaugh is as good a coach as there is. He’s led the Ravens to back-to-back 12-4 seasons, and won plenty of playoff games. The only one that’s missing is the AFC Championship. Expect a chess match between Fox and Harbaugh.
Prediction: Broncos – 27 Ravens- 24