The Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver to face the Broncos, who are the top seed in the AFC, in the second round of the playoffs.
Baltimore has faced Denver just once in postseason play, hosting them in the wild card round at PSINet Stadium back in 2001 and rolling to an easy victory en route to the Super Bowl. The Ravens certainly hope that history repeats itself.
With that said, the Ravens hope that it isn't more recent history that repeats itself. The Ravens hosted the Broncos last month and were blown out, with much of the blame falling on the shoulders of Joe Flacco.
While it was an ugly performance and final score, the Ravens can take a few positives away from that game. Despite being without Ray Lewis, the defense held up well, especially in the first half, even though it was on the field for long stretches of the game.
The Ravens also could have easily gone into the half down 10-7 instead of 17-0 if not for a poor throw by Flacco that resulted in a 99-yard interception returned for a touchdown. It was also Jim Caldwell's first game as offensive coordinator, and he seems to have settled into his new position over the past few weeks.
If the Ravens can play as well defensively as they did last time against Peyton Manning, they have a chance. The Ravens can't ever seem to beat Peyton Manning, but ironically, he has put up numbers well below his usual averages in most of his previous games against Baltimore.
Offensively, the Ravens need to be unpredictable, avoid turnovers and keep the pressure off of Flacco. If Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are winning their matchups with Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie, the Ravens don't stand a chance. It would also help if the Ravens can hit some big plays down the field and get Ray Rice to bounce back from a disappointing effort against the Colts.
Prediction: The Ravens are a confident team feeding off of the emotion surrounding Lewis' return and impending retirement. It's hard to imagine the Ravens will get blown out again by Denver, but it's also tough to see them going into Denver and beating a rested team lead by Peyton Manning. As much as it pains me, the final ride ends in Denver.
Broncos 26, Ravens 16