1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Broncos

1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Broncos
January 12, 2013, 8:00 am
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1. Ray Rice will have more rushing yardage than Bernard Pierce.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but in fact Pierce outgained Rice last week (103-70), and in the win over the Giants (123-107). Rice, though, needs to be the Ravens' workhorse. He was held to a season-low 38 yards on 12 carries by Denver last time, but the Ravens need more from him. That big offseason contract was for games like this.

2. Both will have at least 10 carries.

In the last meeting between these teams, the Ravens threw 40 times -- plus three sacks -- and ran 19. Then again, the Ravens fell behind 17-0 by halftime and threw virtually the entire second half. They need to have success running the ball, and both Rice and Pierce will be a part of that.

3. Dennis Pitta will have at least five catches.

The Broncos had all sorts of trouble with Pitta, who had seven catches for 125 yards in the last meeting, including a pair of touchdowns. He remains one of Flacco's top third-down targets, and Flacco will look for him often.

4. Von Miller will have a sack.

The Broncos beast of a linebacker had 18.5 sacks this season, but none against the Ravens. He will test the Ravens' new-look line, and expect the Ravens to try to move the pocket to keep the pressure off. But don't expect Miller to go two straight games against the Ravens without a sack.

5. Peyton Manning will not throw for 300 yards.

Here's a curious stat courtesy of the Denver Post: In Manning's nine wins over the Ravens, he has never thrown for 300 yards. But he threw for 300 yards in both losses. Maybe that's because he was playing from behind. Manning will take his shots, but expect an efficient, measured game from him, and the Ravens want to limit how much he has the ball.

6. Denver tight ends will have at least six catches.

Lost in the Ray Lewis-finale hoopla last week was this: Lewis had a lot of trouble in pass coverage. Andrew Luck frequently found receivers over the middle just out of Lewis' reach. Peyton Manning loves finding his tight ends, and the duo of Jacob Tamme (52) and Joel Dreesen (41) totaled 93 receptions this season. They totaled just two catches in the meeting between these teams in December, but expect more this time around.

7. A Denver receiver will top 100 yards.

It might be Eric Decker, who had 133 yards last time these teams met. It might be Demaryius Thomas, who had 204 yards against the Steelers in the playoffs last year. The bottom line is these guys can make big plays any time they touch the ball, and the yardage will add up.

8. Denver will have a touchdown pass of longer than 30 yards.

Peyton Manning loves the double move, and expect Manning to use out-routes to set up a deep ball or two. He doesn't have the arm of Joe Flacco, but the Broncos receivers can catch and run. Eric Decker had a 51-yard touchdown catch in the first meeting when he got behind Cary Williams.

9. There will be a key special teams turnover.

Turnovers will help decide this game, and weather could be a factor. Look for one of the return teams to put a ball on the ground. The Ravens were plus-9 for the season in turnover margin, the Broncos were minus-1.

10. Broncos 23, Ravens 20

Looking at the last meeting, a 34-17 romp by the Broncos last month -- as a template for this game is probably a mistake. Remember, were it not for a 98-yard interception return right before halftime, the Ravens would likely have been trailing 10-7 at the half instead of 17-0. They were missing several key starters -- Marshal Yanda, Ray Lewis, Ed Dickson, Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe -- who are all expected to play this time around.

The Ravens are also offensively a bit more in rhythm with Jim Caldwell at the controls. The last matchup was his first game as offensive coordinator. Still, they are facing Peyton Manning, who has beaten them nine straight times, as well as one of the league's best defenses. And the Ravens are on the road, where the offense has consistently struggled. Denver has won 11 in a row, and while that streak has to end sometime, it won't be this time. The Ravens will battle to the end, but the Broncos survive in Ray Lewis' final game.




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