Ravens vs. Broncos: Ray Lewis' Final Game Will Be an Instant Classic

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIJanuary 12, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 06:(EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.)  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens talks to the media after his final home game after defeating the  the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. After 17 seasons in the NFL, and 13 Pro Bowl selections , Lewis is set to retire after the Ravens playoff run ends in 2013.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The last time the Baltimore Ravens stepped onto the field with the Denver Broncos, they were embarrassed by their opponents.

Ray Lewis wasn’t there, and the Broncos' physical defense looked more like the Ravens defense than the Ravens did.

But that was then, and this is now.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Lewis is back commanding the Ravens defense that allowed just nine points against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round.

Will that be enough for Baltimore to defy the odds and find a spark on the road to deny Peyton Manning another bid at a Lombardi Trophy?

Chuck Pagano and his heartwarming and unifying story weren’t enough for the Colts to empower them past the Ravens last week.

Will Manning’s inspirational comeback story get it done?

It all starts on the ground for both of these teams. Manning will be under heat from the reinvigorated Ravens’ pass rush.

Can Lewis add a spark that can help Baltimore fare a little bit better against the Denver run this time?

You bet.

The dynamic of this game will be completely different than the previous matchup on Dec. 16. Denver ran the ball down the Ravens’ throat to the tune of 45 attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Denver complemented that performance by completely shutting down Ray Rice, limiting him to just 38 yards and only 12 carries.

Odds are that this game isn’t going to be nearly as one-sided as the first matchup. It will be much closer than people think. Denver is currently a 10-point favorite (according to Bovada).

One thing is certain: This is one playoff game that is not going to disappoint.

Whether it is Lewis’ swan song or not, there is little chance that the Ravens will be shut down as they were the last time.

Not with this much on the line, not in the playoffs and not with so much passion from the Ravens’ emotional leader on defense.

Be sure to tune in with every expectation of an instant classic in Denver.