Baltimore (+10) at Denver
The Baltimore Ravens disposed of a good, young Colts team in throwback B-More style; with strong defense and a heavy dose of the running game. While Ray Rice was held to 68 yards on 15 carries, teammate and Temple alum (215 stand up) Bernard Pierce carried the pill 13 times for over a buck, racking up damn near eight yards per carry (7.9 to be exact).
Anquan Boldin added another stellar performance to his strong pro career with 145 yards receiving—a franchise record.
The Ravens and their fan base were silly amped about celebrating the Hall of Fame career of legendary linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced that this will be his final season. That energy showed throughout the game, with the crowd as loud and geeked up as any of the playoffs thus far.
This week’s game, however, will not be played in Baltimore. The Ravens are headed to Mile High with a rolling Denver Broncos team ready to rock.
Denver finished the regular season on an 11-game winning steak and many consider them the favorite to win the Super Bowl. While there’s no doubt they’ve been impressive over the 11-game win steak, a closer look at their opponents during that stretch reveal a relatively poor quality of competition.
The AFC West was one of the weakest divisions in football, with Oakland and Kansas City—clearly two of the league’s worst—and San Diego not far ahead. Even more concerning is the fact that Denver played three of the remaining playoff teams this season, losing every game. Atlanta, Houston, and New England all had their way with the Broncos.
I don’t see this game being a blowout. Peyton Manning will throw for at least two touchdowns, probably three, and plenty of yards to good targets like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
The key to their offense really hitting on all cylinders will be Knowshon Moreno and the run game, which could have a tough day against a still fired-up Ravens linebacking corps. Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis will bring their "A" game, keeping this thing respectable.
I look for Von Miller, one of the NFL’s most disruptive forces, to have a strong impact on the game, recording at least two sacks and hurrying Flacco into some bad throws, probably causing at least one pick. Flacco will throw two interceptions and one of them (to Champ Bailey perhaps?) will prove to be costly.
I know I’m going a little heavy on the Nostradamus tip here but bear with me, ya dig?
When you get right down to it, I just can’t see one of the best quarterbacks of all time, on his home field, losing to Joe Flacco. I’m sorry but I just can’t see it.
Flacco is a decent, slightly above average QB. Nothing more. The Ravens can win with him, but if they want to win a Super Bowl, they better have a bad-ass defense and amazing run game. They’ve got some ingredients of what they need, but not the full recipe. Some of those ingredients are nearing expiration dates.
Peyton Manning will see to it that Ray Lewis’ phenomenal ride ends at Mile High.
PICK - Denver 31, Baltimore 20