2012 NFL Playoffs: 5 Reasons Why the Baltimore Ravens Upset the Denver Broncos
Even though Ray Lewis is arguably the greatest linebacker to play in the NFL and at the age of 37 he returned from a torn triceps injury to record 13 tackles in the Ravens playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts, The Denver Post columnist, Mark Kiszla, is giving the Ravens no respect or a chance to win this weekend.
Kiszla wrote: "But, like [Ray] Lewis, their very passionate but washed-up warrior, the [Baltimore] Ravens now seem better at striking a pose than striking fear in the hearts of a foe."
Why should he give them a chance? The Denver Broncos beat them handedly 34-17 in Week 15, and they have an 11-game win streak heading into this matchup.
Not only does he think this, but the rest of the world does too. The Broncos are a 10-point favorite over the Ravens.
Despite Denver being the heavy favorites and on a hot streak, here are five reasons why the Ravens will upset the Broncos this weekend.
Baltimore Ravens Are Fully Healthy
In their Week 15 matchup, the Baltimore Ravens were missing a significant amount of their starters.
On the defensive side, starting linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe and starting safety Bernard Pollard were all injured.
On the offensive side, the Ravens best offensive lineman, Marshal Yanda was inactive, while Torrey Smith and Bernard Pierce both left the game with injuries.
Without those six players, the Ravens are a completely different football team. Anytime a team is missing one key player, it significantly changes their team, let alone missing six of them.
With the Ravens fully healthy heading into this matchup, expect a much improved and deeper team than the one that showed up in Week 15.
Jim Caldwell's Experience
Not only were the Baltimore Ravens missing a significant amount of players due to injury against the Denver Broncos in their regular season matchup, but it was also Jim Caldwell's first time calling plays as an offensive coordinator.
The Ravens offense looked atrocious in Caldwell's debut, with Ray Rice running for only 38 yards and Joe Flacco posting a QBR of 0.4.
Since then, the Ravens offense has completely turned around and Caldwell appears to have a much better understanding of what plays to call. In the Ravens last two games that their starting offense played the entire game (Week 16 and AFC Wild Card Round), the Ravens offense combined for 972 total yards and 57 points.
With Flacco playing at a high level under Caldwell, and Rice and Bernard Pierce making up one of the best backfields in the NFL, this Ravens offense is going to be much improved from their Week 15 matchup.
Joe Flacco's Improvement
Joe Flacco played perhaps the worst game of his career against the Denver Broncos this season. On the opening drive of the game, Flacco lost a critical fumble on a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak in the Broncos territory.
Though, what killed the Ravens was the pick-six that Flacco threw at the end of the first half when the Ravens were on the Broncos two-yard line.
Those two turnovers resulted in 10 points for the Broncos and they went into halftime with a 17-0 lead over the Ravens. Heading into the half down by 17, with a pick-six to end the second quarter, all of the life had been sucked out of the Ravens team and fans.
If Flacco doesn't commit those two turnovers, what would have the game been like? Instead of going into the half down by 17, chances are the Ravens would have been at least tied with the Broncos.
Since Flacco's horrible game, he has been on fire under Jim Caldwell's offense. In his last two complete games, Flacco has thrown for 591 yards, four touchdown passes and ran for one touchdown.
When Flacco is in a groove, he looks like he could be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. With a string of solid outings, look for a much improved and confident Flacco this weekend.
Peyton Manning's Week 15 Performance
What people do not realize about the Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos Week 15 matchup is that the Ravens defense held Peyton Manning in check, especially in the first half.
If Joe Flacco doesn't commit those two critical turnovers in the first half of the game, this matchup was going to come down to wire. The Ravens defense only allowed Manning to throw for 204 yards and one touchdown, while sacking him twice.
This game wasn't won by the Broncos and Manning's offense. It was a game that was lost by the Ravens due to a couple of horrible plays by Flacco.
With Flacco on a roll as of late and the Ravens defense being able to contain Manning, the Ravens have a great shot of pulling off an upset this weekend.
Ray Lewis' Emotion
If you watched the Baltimore Ravens game last week, you saw the impact that Ray Lewis has on this team.
Lewis is the heart and soul of this team. When he is out there on the field with them, the Ravens play at a much higher level. They know this is his last time in the playoffs, and they are going to do whatever it takes to get Lewis to another Super Bowl.
Lewis was still injured when the Ravens played the Denver Broncos during the regular season. It negatively impacted them.
Not only does he add another playmaker to the Ravens defense, but what makes Lewis so important to this team is that he is the greatest leader in all of sports. You can guarantee that he is going to have the Ravens fired up for this AFC Divisional playoff matchup this weekend.