When the Broncos host the Ravens this weekend, Joe Flacco may be the focal point.
Flacco, the embattled fifth-year quarterback for Baltimore, is one of the more inconsistent signal-callers in the NFL.
In the regular season, he finished with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and the times he turned the ball over was key to his team's successes and failures.
Flacco threw 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in wins, pretty solid numbers. Compare that to eight scores, six picks and four fumbles lost in losses and it becomes clear; force Flacco to turn the ball over and you will beat him.
Take Week 15 for instance, when the Broncos bested Baltimore 34-17. Denver not only forced a fumble – along with three sacks – but Chris Harris picked off a pass and took it 98 yards into the end zone for the 17-0 lead right before the half.
Last Sunday, Flacco enjoyed his second-best game of the season; going 12-23 for 282 yards with two touchdowns and zero turnovers as he led his Ravens to a 24-9 win over the Colts in the Wildcard round.
Which Flacco will it be this Saturday afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium?
The Broncos boast the best pass-rushing attack in all of football, recording an NFL-best 52 sacks, meaning the Ravens' QB will almost certainly get less time to make decisions and throws. When he got it going last week, it was on deep routes to Anquan Boldin down the sideline, routes that require deep drops that could get Flacco dropped in the backfield. Boldin's five catches for 145 yards led the game last Sunday, and he had zero receptions against Champ Bailey and the rest of Denver's deft defensive backfield in the first matchup.
Of course, if the Broncos can shut down Ray Rice like they did in Week 15, it will put even more pressure on Flacco to perform as flawlessly as possible. He's folded under pressure before, and he's got to prove he can win big games when his team needs him most.
The Divisional round game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. MT and will be televised on CBS.
More Denver Broncos:
- Denver Broncos familiar with Baltimore Ravens
- Chris Kuper likely to return for Denver Broncos versus Ravens
- Peyton Manning named finalist for FedEx Air Player of the Year
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on twitter or facebook for all your Denver Broncos news and opinion.