With the midway point of the season vastly approaching in the NFL, we are starting to realize who the contenders are and who the pretenders are. There are still three teams that are undefeated going into week eight and three teams that have yet to win a game as well.
A definite contender would have to be the Denver Broncos, who currently sit as one of the three unbeaten teams thus far. The Broncos have won some very close games this season beating the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and the San Diego Chargers last Monday night. The Broncos enter Week Eight with a record of 6-0 and lead the Chargers by three games in the AFC West.
Denver will try to keep up their winning ways in Week Eight when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens. Baltimore started off hot, winning their first three games, but since then they have cooled off losing their past three in heart breakers against New England, Cincinnati, and last week against the previously unbeaten Minnesota Vikings.
The Ravens were down big to the Vikings but managed to battle back taking the lead in the last few minutes. Minnesota drove down the field and kicked a field goal with just minutes remaining putting them in the lead by a score of 33-31.
The game wasn’t over, however, as Joe Flacco led the Ravens down the field putting them in field goal range to win the game in the last few seconds. Unfortunately for Baltimore, kicker Steve Hauschka missed the game winning field goal extending the Ravens losing streak to three.
Baltimore now sits at a mark of 3-3 coming off their bye week placing them third in the AFC North behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Ravens will try to erase the label of pretenders and prove that they are contenders this season.
The Ravens are led by second-year quarterback Joe Flacco, who is proving to people that last year's great season was not a fluke. Flacco has a completion percentage of 64.4 percent and has thrown for 1,674 yards so far this season with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Baltimore’s rushing attack is led by Ray Rice who has rushed for 441 yards with three touchdowns and Willis McGahee who has rushed for 202 yards with five touchdowns.
The Ravens receiving corps is also led by Ray Rice who has 33 receptions for 325 yards with a touchdown. Derrick Mason and Todd Heap have also contributed, with Mason catching 26 passes for 381 yards with three touchdowns while Heap has 24 receptions for 262 yards with two touchdowns.
The Baltimore defense is not what it used to be, but key players are still there like Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed. Lewis leads the defense in total tackles with 53 with the next closest being Suggs and Trevor Pryce each with 31 total tackles.
The sack leaders on the Ravens are Pryce and Jarret Johnson each with four, while Suggs is next in line with two sacks. In the interception department Dawan Landry and Ed Reed once again lead the team with two interceptions apiece with Reed returning one for a touchdown.
The Ravens have lost some key players on defense and are not the same powerhouse that they used to be.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have really never had an explosive offense before that could win them games. Baltimore has always relied on their defense to get the job done with their offense just managing the game.
It seems that has all changed as of this year as the offense of the Ravens is being relied on to score points and win games. The Ravens defense is not doing their job thus far and must step it up in order to beat the Broncos this week.
The Denver Broncos are the complete opposite of the Ravens this season so far as Denver has one of the best defenses in the league as well as a reliable offense led by quarterback Kyle Orton.
Orton was traded to the Broncos from the Chicago Bears for quarterback Jay Cutler at the beginning of the season. I would say that the Denver fans are pretty excited about their new quarterback being as the Broncos are undefeated and leading their division while the Bears are 3-3 sitting third in the NFC North.
Orton has thrown for 1,465 yards with a completion percentage of 63.9 percent so far this season with nine touchdowns and just one interception.
The Bronco running game is led by Knowshon Moreno who has rushed for 381 yards with a touchdown while Correll Buckhalter has also contributed rushing for 313 yards and a touchdown.
Denver’s receiving corps is led by Brandon Marshall who has caught 29 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. Jabar Gaffney and Tony Scheffler have also contributed as Gaffney has 18 receptions for 242 yards while Scheffler has 16 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
Eddie Royal is also proving to be a threat for Denver as he returned a kickoff and a punt return back for touchdowns last Monday night against the Chargers.
The Denver defense is one of the best, if not the best defense in the league so far this season. D.J. Williams leads the team with 46 total tackles, while Andra Davis and Brian Dawkins each have 38 total tackles. Elvis Dumervil leads the team in sacks with 10 while Darrell Reid is second on the team with three sacks.
Six players on the Denver defense have interceptions this season with Renaldo Hill, Andre Goodman, and Champ Bailey being some of them.
Denver has vastly improved their defense from last year and look to stay perfect against the Ravens this week.
In order for the Ravens to pull off the upset, they must be able to stop Denver’s offense and get some turnovers. Kyle Orton is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at not turning the ball over. Orton does not force the issue too many times during the game but if the Ravens can get consistent pressure on Orton throughout, Baltimore stands a much better chance in forcing Orton to make a mistake.
The Ravens must also be able to protect their quarterback Joe Flacco, as Denver has one of the best defenses in the league. Last Monday night, the Broncos defense sacked quarterback Philip Rivers five times, which was a career high for Rivers being sacked in a game. If the Ravens want to upset the Broncos they must be able to give Flacco enough time to find his receivers and move the ball down field.
Denver, on the other hand, must keep doing what they have been doing so far this season by playing good defense and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. As long as Denver keeps to their game plan they will beat the Ravens and remain undefeated.
My prediction for the game is that it will be a hard-fought matchup between two great teams, but the Ravens will knock off the Broncos in a very close game. I believe that Baltimore is in a must-win situation after losing three straight. They have to prove that they can compete with teams like Denver and win on a consistent basis.