For Denver Broncos fans and Baltimore Ravens fans alike, the bye week is finally over, and it is time to get back to work.
This week’s matchup pits the Broncos (6-0, 1st place AFC West) against the Ravens (3-3, 3rd place AFC North) in what figures to be a pivotal matchup for both teams.
Denver has a flawless record following their bye week, and only one injury to report which has some fearing the off time came a bit too early for Denver this season, though it was nothing they could control.
The Ravens are a very intriguing matchup for the Broncos, especially since it will be a road game.
After starting the season 3-0, the Ravens appeared to be one of the NFL’s top teams following an impressive 2008 campaign which saw them win 11 games. It appeared as though they were on track to increase last year’s total following victories over Kansas City, San Diego, and Cleveland.
Then it went downhill.
The Ravens lost three straight games by a combined 11 points, including a two-point loss against Minnesota in week six on a missed field goal by kicker Steven Hauschka as time expired.
Three losses by eleven points would lead one to believe that the Ravens are much better than their record would indicate, and I think they are.
For the first time this decade, Baltimore boasts a better offense than they do defense, led by their passing game and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco has had an outstanding season so far, but the MVP of Baltimore’s offense has got to be undersized running back Ray Rice, who leads the team in both rushing and receiving.
Rice has rushed for 441 yards and three touchdowns on a six yard per carry average, and has 33 receptions for 325 yards and a touchdown.
The Ravens are in the top ten of every major offensive category, and boast the league’s ninth ranked run defense. This is a team that can get out to a large early lead, and hold on to it.
How will the Broncos counter?
The biggest thing for Denver will be running the ball. The Broncos have the league’s seventh best rush offense, but they did not look great running the ball against San Diego for some odd reason.
If the Broncos are unable to run the ball, Baltimore will be in the game until the very end, if they haven’t already run away with it. Inversely, if the Broncos can run the ball effectively, they will most certainly control this game from the outset.
Denver’s defense has been absolutely suffocating this season, ranking in the top ten of every major defensive category.
The biggest thing with Denver’s defense is that they are aggressive, and the Ravens like to run a lot of screen plays. If the Broncos blitz early and often, the Ravens will take advantage by dumping the ball to Ray Rice or Willis McGahee on a screen play.
Mike Nolan will have his unit well prepared, and the Broncos always seem to make proper adjustments during the game anyway.
If Denver can limit the big play on screen passes, it will be hard for the Ravens to really get anything going on offense. It doesn’t appear as though they will match up well with Denver’s outstanding defensive backs either.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos have some very favorable matchups. Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, Jabar Gaffney, and Tony Scheffler could have a field day against a Ravens defense that ranks only 24th against the pass.
Kyle Orton has played exceptional football so far this season, and virtually mistake free. If he can keep the ball away from Ed Reed’s grasp, the Broncos will have to do a lot to beat themselves offensively.
The Ravens have home field advantage in this game, but the Broncos are hungry for their seventh consecutive victory. If Baltimore is going to keep pace in the AFC North, they need to win this game and move to 4-3.
It should be an exciting contest in Baltimore on Sunday.