We’re back with Ebony Bird’s Tynan Patrick to go Inside the Villain’s Venue and get to know the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos played them recently (week 15) and easily won, but the Ravens seem to have hit their stride going into the playoffs.
Let’s see how the returning Ravens will impact the game, whether Joe Flacco can lead them to a Super Bowl, and how the Ravens’ run game can be slowed as we go Inside the Villain’s Venue with Ebony Bird.
Predominantly Orange: The last time these two teams met, Ray Lewis and Bernard Pollard weren’t in the secondary. How do you think their presence will change things this go around?
Ebony Bird: Lewis is going to do what he does, which is continually make solid decisions in the run game. The Broncos will try and get him matched up in pass coverage against a tight end or back but the Ravens will try and avoid that as much as possible by using Pollard to play many of the mid-range zone coverages and playing man with the tight ends. Pollard excels at playing within about 12 yards of the line of scrimmage and has been the unsung hero of the Ravens’ defense all season long. Having these two back isn’t going to save the Ravens if they play as poorly as they did a few weeks ago, but it could be a few point difference in the game.
PO: The Colts put quite a few miles on the Ravens’ defense. Do you think the 87 plays that the Ravens’ D had to play combined with traveling to 5,280 feet above sea level on a short week will leave them flat?
EB: I don’t think you will see a flat Ravens D. The Colts ran a ton of plays but the Ravens a pretty well rested. Lewis has been out for weeks, Pollard missed most of the last quarter of the season, Ngata sat out the last 2 games, Reed sat out a game, Suggs sat out three of the last four games. So essentially half the defense had a bye week or two coming into the playoffs and practices will be light this week, basically just walk-throughs. Also, the Ravens have never come out flat in a playoff game under Harbaugh. They have lost some games, but they haven’t been flat.
PO: How have teams been able to slow Ray Rice and Bernard Price in the running game?
EB: They had some bad games during the Ravens losing streak, but the entire team was playing pretty poorly so I think they should get a pass there. They ran at will against the Giants and the duo racked up over 200 scrimmage yards last week and those are the last two games the Ravens have played to win and the only games we have to look at to see what new OC Jim Caldwell likes to do on offense. The Ravens know that they need to run the Broncos into the ground if they want to win this weekend, control the ball and keep Manning on the sidelines.
PO: Does Joe Flacco have what it takes to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl?
EB: I don’t think this should even be a question. If Lee Evans holds on to a football, Joe is already a Super Bowl quarterback. He has already proven he is capable of going to a Super Bowl, his WR just couldn’t hold on and his kicker couldn’t extend the game to give them a chance. Joe is extremely capable though.
PO: What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
EB: This game won’t be as ugly as it was a few weeks ago. That Ravens team was in a tailspin and lacked focus and intensity. Since then they seem to have found their swagger and mojo and they are playing for their beloved leader who will be retiring at the end of the season. This is going to be a very emotional Ravens team. I don’t know if it will be enough to win the game, but they will certainly put up more of a fight than many seem to expect. I think this game will be decided late and not by halftime like it was before.