PressBox experts and friends weigh in with their predictions for Saturday's AFC Divisional Round game between the Ravens and the Broncos:
|What do you think? Leave your pick for the record in the comment section below.|
Keys to the game: Our defense needs to pressure Peyton Manning to have success against him. Ray Rice will have a bounce-back game. Joe Flacco needs to have a quick start.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Broncos 20
Actor, CBS' "The Good Wife"
The script couldn't have been written any better for the Ravens going into Saturday's divisional playoff game against the heavily favored Broncos. Denver should be favored no doubt. After all, they've won 11 straight and will be playing in their high-altitude home. But, one look at the Broncos' schedule during the win streak should suggest that they can be beaten. They are a balanced team with a good defense and defeated the Ravens commandingly a month ago in Baltimore. That day, Joe Flacco had possibly one of his worst games as a pro, but I think he plays better this time and we see a much closer game with a healthier, determined Ravens team. They need to protect Joe well and run the ball enough to sustain drives and keep our D rested.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Broncos 24
Stan "The Fan" Charles
PressBox publisher and host of "Inside PressBox" on ABC-2
Hey, call me a homer. I think the Ravens can and will win this football game.
Why do I feel this way? Yeah, yeah, I know the Broncos came to town and dismantled the Ravens, 34-17, in December. But if not for the two turnovers by Joe Flacco, that game could have been a lot more interesting, and the Ravens were missing several pieces to their puzzle on defense during that game.
Last week, I think Ray Lewis used his retirement more as a motivational tool for himself, to wipe away some mental rust. This week, I think he motivates the team. Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees will come up with a couple of wrinkles that fool Peyton Manning.
Manning is one of the greatest QBs to ever lace them up. That is evidenced by how many playoff games he has been in to date (19). But, his playoff record of 9-10 shows that he can be all too human when the chips are down. He is 6-4 at home, but that hardly says the Ravens can'’t be in this game. Or win this game. Flacco and his offense cannot turn the ball over.
Prediction: Ravens 30, Denver 27
Sports personality, 105.7 The Fan
This is the first time I have picked against the Ravens, but the Broncos at home with rest and, yes, the altitude have a distinct advantage. Plus, the Ravens' defense is far from 100 percent. Hope I'm wrong.
Prediction: Broncos 31, Ravens 20
President, Freedmont Mortgage
The Ravens find a way to keep Ray Lewis from ESPN a little longer.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Broncos 24
TV and radio sports statistician
The Denver Broncos are tied with the New England Patriots with the best home postseason record all time at 13-3. In addition, the Broncos were 13-1 this year in games decided by seven or more points. For the Ravens, Joe Flacco has nine touchdowns and two interceptions in his last five postseason games. He has also won 54 games in his first five seasons (second most all time to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan's 56). BUT -- Flacco has never played in the thin air in Denver. Neither has Haloti Ngata. That's gonna be a HUGE problem. Manning has had the Ravens' number over the years.
Prediction: Denver 31, Ravens 10
Executive director, Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation
We all know the Ravens played that Dec. 16 game with one hand tied behind their collective backs … no Marshal Yanda, no Bernard Pollard, no Dannell Ellerbe, no Ray Lewis, plus a brand-new offensive coordinator. Plus several played the game well beyond the status of nicked up, including Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Jimmy Smith. With that said, I think Baltimore will smack Denver's winning streak into the frozen tundra of whatever they currently call their stadium.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Broncos 17
The first thing I'm doing when trying to assess this game is throw out the last one these teams played, which for me was basically decided by two plays -- the fumble on the first drive and the interception at the end of the half. Those two plays were the difference in 13-21 points as the game was played.
The Ravens obviously cannot afford to have quarterback Joe Flacco have those kinds of plays again if they are to have any chance of winning. I'm not a Flacco basher and feel he's capable of much better than that game. I also realize that Peyton Manning, once he had a 17-point lead, played pretty much under wraps, so we really don't know how much damage he might've done.
I think the Broncos are the better team, and expect them to win, but I do think this can be a one-possession game at the end. But only if the Ravens can find a way to stay away from stupid penalties that have threatened to derail their season from the start.
The NFL Chick
With all streaks and records comes the day they are broken. All week long, fans have heard about the fact that Peyton Manning has won nine straight games against the Ravens, 9-2 overall. Ray Lewis has been there every single time, and guess what? His teammates now know it, too. I think the newly inspired Ravens finally find a way to get the monkey off their backs. Finally, a streak that will end in no better fashion than sending an opponent home for the season.
Prediction: Ravens 28, Broncos 24
Host, NBC Sports Radio
The Ravens are riding high on the Ray Lewis retirement announcement ... but having to play at Mile High is a totally different story. The Ravens looked impressive versus the Colts, but a well-rested Peyton Manning Broncos team will present a much more difficult challenge. I'm also hearing Willis McGahee may be active ... and you know how I feel about Free Willie! Peyton Manning and the Broncos' defense will dominate.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Ravens 17
President, Maroon PR
There is my heart and my head doing battle. My heart says that the Ravens will advance to the AFC title game, but my head says we are looking at Ray Lewis' final game. Denver is clicking on all cylinders and they are at home after a week off. It is a tall order for our guys. I think it will be a tight first half, but we will fall short and face too much Manning in the second half.
Owner, Orioles Hangout
I honestly think the Ravens can win this game, especially if they can win the turnover battle and, maybe even more importantly, the time of possession. It will be very important for the Ravens to be able to keep the three-and-outs to a minimum and for them to be able to run the ball. The weather is going to play into this a bit, and if the Ravens' defense can stay fresh and control the running game (my biggest concern honestly), I think they can keep the Broncos in check a bit.
The Ravens are pretty healthy overall, and although Terrell Suggs is still not close to a 100 percent, I think we can get some pressure onto Peyton Manning with him and Paul Kruger around the ends. I really think Joe Flacco wants to get this win to make up for his poor game last time they played as well.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Broncos 20
PressBox Ravens beat writer
The Ravens want to win it all for Ray Lewis, but Peyton Manning is also writing one of the year's best stories in Denver. The six-day turnaround and a consistent, powerful Bronco team will prove to be too much.
Prediction: Broncos 30, Ravens 23.
Talk-show host, 105.7 The Fan
Thirty-two ears ago, Al Michaels uttered that now-famous phrase, "Do you believe in miracles?" Well, I believe in destiny. And the Ravens' destiny is to face New England in the AFC Championship Game without Lee Evans or Billy Cundiff. Call me crazy ...
Prediction: Ravens 23 Broncos 20
Chairman, Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame
I think with the big four defense players (Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis) on the field for only the second time this season, the Ravens have a good chance.
Fantasy football expert, FansFantasyFootball.com and PressBoxOnline.com
This one is going to be tough. Facing the No. 2 defense on the road, a place the Ravens have struggled this year, is a tall task. Maybe the reshuffled line stifles the Broncos' rush tandem of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Maybe the O-line opens up the holes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and maybe Joe Flacco plays his best road game of the year. Even with all that, the Ravens' defense must limit Peyton Manning and stop Knowshon Moreno cold to make the Broncos one dimensional. The secondary must not allow Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas to roam free. The Ravens must play better than they played last week versus the Colts, and they can’t turn the ball over. That’s too many MUSTs and IFs for me. The Broncos have had a great year and are simply the better team. Maybe the week layoff hurts them. Let’s hope so.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Ravens 24
Posted Jan. 9, 2013