Ravens vs. Broncos: X-Factors Who Could Fuel Baltimore Upset in Divisional Round
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Baltimore's opening up as 10-point underdogs (via SportsBetting.ag), so clearly Vegas doesn't like the team's odds.
While the Broncos are the most complete team in the league, the Ravens played well in Week 15 when these teams met during the regular season. The 34-17 scoreline doesn't indicate how close the game actually was.
Ray Rice, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and Joe Flacco have been and will be getting the most attention in the pregame buildup. With the exception of Boldin, those are the players who have been stalwarts for the Ravens for many years.
However, Baltimore will need more from lesser known players in order to get the kind of performance it's going to take to knock off Peyton Manning and Broncos.
Here are three of those X-factors.
Bernard Pierce, RB
Bernard Pierce only ran for 532 yards the entire 2012 season, which makes his performance in the Wild Card Round all the more surprising.
He ran for 103 yards on 13 carries.
Baltimore would be best served by slowing this game down and running the ball down Denver's throat. That way, the Broncos' defense would stay on the field for long periods of time and, more importantly, would keep Manning and the offense off the field.
It would be ideal for Pierce to spell Rice on occasions and use his bigger frame to bring a different dimension to the Baltimore rushing attack.
Dennis Pitta, TE
Flacco is going to have to take what the Denver defense gives him. When he finds his receivers are blanketed, Dennis Pitta is a solid checkdown.
In addition, Pitta is the guy that Flacco relies on when Baltimore gets inside the red zone.
He wasn't an elite tight end this year, but he proved very reliable. Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns.
In the Week 15, he was the Ravens' leading receiver with seven receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Flacco just needs to be patient and hit Pitta with some short passes to slowly but surely move the Ravens down the field.
Cary Williams, CB
When it comes to stopping Manning in the secondary, Cary Williams will have to step up. He's been the Ravens' best corner in 2012.
It's no secret that Denver is going to throw the ball in order to win. Knowshon Moreno is the reason the Broncos had the fourth-best offense in the league in terms of total yardage.
That praise would fall on Manning and his favored receivers, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Williams needs to ensure that Thomas and Decker don't get space in the secondary.
He was tied for the team lead in interceptions with Ed Reed, picking off four on the season, and he registered 17 pass deflections, which was the most on the team.
If Williams can get a key interception, he could very well turn the tide in favor of Baltimore.
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