Sunday, December 16, 2012 will feature one heck of a football matchup in Baltimore.
The scorching hot Denver Broncos will be visiting M&T Bank Stadium to square off with the reeling Baltimore Ravens, who lost their second consecutive game on December 9 for the first time in QB Joe Flacco's career.
Right now, there probably aren't many people picking the Ravens to beat the Peyton Manning-led Broncos, and with good reason.
Should the Ravens emerge victorious, however, it goes without saying that stopping the 36-year-old veteran will have been a key cog in the win.
So how can this struggling defense slow down Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense?
Rush Peyton Manning Effectively
If there was ever a week for the Ravens' pass rush to come up big, this is definitely it.
Manning has been MVP-worthy so far this season.
Yet he's a pocket passer. So if Baltimore can successfully, and consistently, apply pressure on Manning, there is a chance that they can force the Broncos to punt on a regular basis.
Of course, rushing Peyton Manning and forcing him to have a bad game is much easier said than done, but that's what makes Denver one of Baltimore's biggest tests of the 2012 season.
Who wins Sunday's matchup?
Double Team Demaryius Thomas on a Regular Basis
This is a big one.
Since Peyton Manning's arrival in Denver, it seems as though Demaryius Thomas has finally realized his potential and an elite wideout.
So far this season, Thomas has accumulated nearly 1,200 yards (1,197 to be exact) and eight touchdowns.
Thomas played in 11 games, catching just 32 passes for 551 yards and four TDs.
With Thomas' speed, double teaming him on a regular basis is crucial.
The Raven's cornerbacks have struggled this season (though Cary Williams has been better of late and Corey Graham has been a pleasant surprise), and they'll need all the help they can get this weekend against the likes of Demaryius Thomas.
Taking away Peyton's favorite target and deep threat would go a long way to slowing him down.
Pay attention to the Middle of the Field
It's something that has eaten the Ravens alive this season.
The pass defense hasn't been anything special this season on the whole, but the coverage over the middle of the field has been especially bad.
Just last week, the Ravens gave up a 28-yard completion to Redskins' fullback Darrel Young.
Leaky coverage up the middle this game could be extremely damaging.
The Broncos' Eric Decker is one of the better slot receivers in the league and can really carve up a defense, especially one with such a weak presence in the middle as Baltimore's.
Locking down Decker must be another priority for Baltimore.
Should they be able to execute those three things on defense, there is a very good chance that the Ravens can snap out of their two game slump and improve to 10-4 on the season.
This game plan requires just about every part of the Ravens defense to play nearly flawless football though.
From linebackers covering the middle of the field, to the corners and safeties keeping Thomas in check, and down to the pass rushers applying pressure on Peyton Manning and not giving him much time to work with.