Flacco: Ravens must continue their rebound from previous meeting with Broncos
If the Ravens are going to extend their season and Ray Lewis' career, they will need to find a way to beat Peyton Manning, who has won nine straight against the Ravens. And they'll need to do it on the road, where the Ravens haven't exactly looked invincible. It's no surprise, then, that most national media expect the top-seeded Broncos to prevail.
Most, but not all. Foxsports.com's Peter Schrager writes, "Every single football fan without a 410 or 713 area code seems to want Brady vs. Manning next weekend, but I’m not quite ready to etch CBS’s dream AFC Championship matchup in stone. I’m on an island this week, and this island is littered with crab cakes, Jim Palmer stories and Barry Levinson movie references."
Here is how some of the national media see the game:
Tedy Bruschi, ESPN: Broncos (no score given):
"I think the secret to the Denver Broncos' success is that defense... Top five versus the run, the pass, lead the league in sacks with 52. ... Defense is going to help this team win this game."
Elliott Harrison, NFL.com: Broncos 30, Ravens 20
"Can the Baltimore Ravens stop the run? That's the question in my head for this divisional-round opener. Teams have gotten a tremendous amount of movement on Baltimore's front seven -- with or without Ray Lewis -- so you should expect Peyton Manning to audible to more running plays than usual. (Unless, of course, the team just calls more runs in the huddle than usual because of the Ravens' weakness in that area.) The Denver Broncos have averaged more than 148 rushing yards per game in their last four outings, with six touchdowns on the ground.
The other concern for the underdog Ravens is their dependence on the home run. Joe Flacco hit a few long balls on Wild Card Weekend, but the Indianapolis Colts certainly don't have a corner of Champ Bailey's ilk, or a comparable secondary overall to Denver's group. The Broncos' defense has given up the fifth-fewest passing plays of 20-plus yards. Now, it's important to note that when Ray Rice is inside the white lines Sunday, he will be the best player on the field. The Ravens should try to get the ball in his hands 25 times, with a sprinkling of Bernard Pierce. Limit Peyton's possessions = best chance to win for Baltimore."
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Broncos 27, Ravens 17
"The Ravens have a little extra juice for the playoffs, given any game could be the last for Ray Lewis. They'll need every bit of it to slow down the Peyton Manning express. The Broncos' 11-game winning streak included a 34-17 romp in Baltimore.
As much trouble as Lewis and the rest of the defense will have against Manning, there should be more issues for the Ravens' offense. With Von Miller leading the way, the Broncos will be stingy toward Ray Rice and the running game, and even more dangerous with the league's best pass rush against Joe Flacco. A second ring isn't in the cards for Lewis, but Manning will still have that great chance."
Peter King, SI.com: Broncos 27, Ravens 20
"Love the Baltimore shakeup on the offensive line, re-inserting a newly motivated (at least for now) Bryant McKinnie at left tackle; he played a dominant game against the Colts, keeping Joe Flacco free of Dwight Freeney, and I don't doubt he'll play very competitively against Elvis Dumervil here. But this is Peyton Manning we're talking about, Manning on a mission with the kind of skill players that match his best days in Indianapolis. And it's Manning with a nine-game win streak against the Ravens (including playoffs). He's won those nine by an average of 14 points per game. I understand the emotion of playing for Ray Lewis, but unless the Ravens force three or more turnovers (and that's possible, if last week's effort is any indication), I don't see them holding Manning down."
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Broncos 33, Colts 21
"The Ravens were riding high off the emotion of Ray Lewis' retirement news last week, but that's not in play here. And this is a tough trip to a tough place to play. Oh, by the way, Peyton Manning is waiting and rested. The Broncos beat the Ravens in Baltimore earlier this season, handling them with ease. I see it happening again. The Baltimore pass defense doesn't have the rushers to get after Manning. He will sit back and carve them to pieces. That will put a lot of pressure on Joe Flacco to keep up. I don't think he can. The Broncos have great cover players, and they have great pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. They will get after Flacco in a big way. Ray Rice could take some of that pressure off, and the Broncos aren't great against the run, but Denver will score often and up the pace. Manning has owned the Ravens in his career, and it continues here. Ray Lewis is sent to retirement."
Peter Schrager, Fox Sports.com: Ravens 27, Broncos 20
"Baltimore isn’t supposed to win Saturday’s game in Denver. If Las Vegas sportsbooks are any sort of indication, this game’s not even supposed to be close. But I covered a Steelers team that rode a veteran’s last ride into Indianapolis and beat Peyton Manning in the 2005 divisional round. I covered a Giants team last year that waltzed into Lambeau and Salsa danced out as victors. I was in that Ravens locker room on Sunday. There was a certain unity — a certain desperation — that reminded me of both of those teams. ...
Peyton Manning has won his last nine games against Baltimore, including the two times he’s faced the Ravens in the playoffs. Throw it all out the window. Here’s your big upset special."
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Broncos 34, Ravens 17
"All season long the Ravens looked like a team where if you've got multiple wide receivers who can make big plays, the Ravens are going to have a very tough time. ... It's not the kind of Ravens defense that we've gotten used to over the last decade or so. I just don't see it."