Ravens vs. Broncos previewImage Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

No one in Baltimore is more critical of the Ravens than I am. I’m not satisfied with five straight trips to the postseason, I want a Super Bowl. I never say that Baltimore was two fluke plays away from winning the AFC Championship game last year because down the road no one will ever remember the team that got close. And I hate making excuses for a team that I think has a Super Bowl caliber roster.

Yet for some reason, I have a strange confidence about the Ravens divisional playoff matchup on Saturday in Denver against the Broncos. Vegas thinks I’m crazy and most of the national media thinks I’m nuts, but I’m just not sold on this Broncos team and think that Baltimore could be in just in the right spot for an upset.

Here’s why.

Never Underestimate A Week Off

More so than in any other sport, football is all about momentum. A postseason bye week is fantastic for resting guys that have been banged up throughout the marathon 16 week season, but it also completely change a team’s season-long flow at the most critical of times.

Back in 2006, the 13-3 Ravens welcomed the Colts to Baltimore in the divisional playoff round after the franchise’s first postseason bye week. The well rested defense kept Peyton Manning out of the endzone, but the offense failed to make it there themselves. In a disastrous upset, the Ravens fell 15-6 to a team that would go on to win the Super Bowl.

It wasn’t that the Colts were a better team, but their weak defense began to click at just the right time and they carried that much needed momentum all the way to the big dance. I’m not ready to say that Ravens are a team of destiny just yet, but if they are, it starts with momentum.

Cold Weather

Yesterday on BSR, I discussed Peyton Manning’s terrible postseason numbers in games below 40 degrees. If you missed it — they’re bad, he’s 0-3 with one touchdown and seven interceptions. I don’t expect him to suddenly put this trend behind him in what should be a 22 degree game.

Eliminating an aspect of Manning’s game will help the Ravens focus on stopping Knowshon Moreno. He crushed Baltimore with 115 yards and a touchdown in week 15 and he’ll become the Broncos’ main target on Saturday. I’m sure that Dean Pees’ defense will be prepared for those plays.

On the other side of the ball, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce should set up long drives for the Ravens offense. Pierce led the Ravens in rushing yards against the Colts with 103 and provides a more traditional bruiser type to the offense to compliment Rice’s quick bursts, cuts and stiff arms. I expect more screen passes and less plays down field. The Ravens must win the time of possession battle to win this game and they know that. The weather completely changes their game plan.

Perhaps The Broncos Are Just A Tad Overrated

Yeah, I know that the Broncos finished their season winning 11 games in a row, but I wasn’t blown away by the second-half schedule. Denver’s opponents after week 8 had a combined 35-64 record and only two of Denver’s opponents had winning records at the time of their games (Buccaneers and Ravens).

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, the only guy who seems to agree with me on my prediction this week, breaks down why he thinks the Ravens will pull off an upset.

The Ravens are no doubt battle tested. Denver? They’ve been in cruise control since October. If Saturday’s game is close in the second half, are we certain the Broncos will respond under pressure? I know Baltimore’s been through those wars this year. Denver? Eh, it feels like it’s been decades since they’ve faced any sort of adversity. For the first time all season, Baltimore’s actually healthy on defense, too. With the exception of Lardarius Webb and potentially linebacker Danell Elerbee, all of Baltimore’s key defensive stars will be in action, ready to go. Last Sunday’s 24-9 win over the Colts marked the only game this season that the Baltimore defense had Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed in the lineup together. They all played well. Younger veterans Paul Kruger and Corey Graham played even better.

One Last Hurrah

You remember the emotions of Ray Lewis’ final home game? Remember when he led the defense with 13 tackles and his freshly rested legs helped him to be a force in the middle of the field? That’s not going away.

This is it for Ray and it’s likely it for Ed Reed in a Ravens uniform. This team is changing and they’ll be losing a huge veteran presence after this postseason. They’re determined to make sure the storied career of a future Hall of Famer doesn’t end in Denver, they want it to end with the confetti falling in New Orleans and one more ring.

Again, Schrager puts it perfectly.

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.

I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

But I like Baltimore on Saturday.

I’m going with my gut. I’m siding with the guys with the veterans, with the gritty cold weather proof team with momentum. I’m picking a Ravens upset.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of Baltimore Sports Report and host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @zamwi or send him an email: zach@baltimoresportsreport.com.

About The Author

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and host of the BSR Podcast. He's a loyal Orioles, Ravens and Capitals fan who is obsessed with baseball, loves traveling, In-N-Out Burger and Walt Disney World.


  1. Breaking news!!! Zach Wilt predicts Romney wins in a landslide.

  2. If momentum is beating up on one of the youngest teams in the nfl with a ROOKIE qb who threw for a lot of yds than they might actually have something there.If allowing 140 plus yd rushing with a young offensive line is momentum they might actually have something there.All that with a head coach who just returned only to lose the OC on game day.If squeaking into the playoffs because the squealers and bungles were bad is momentum ,might have something.

    Manning won’t be confused by a defense that isn’t even close to what it used to be.The reason he only had 200 yds passing last gm is because Moreno ran all over them.If thats not there he will have 300 plus yds,take your pick, which will it be?

    Its great they think their better but so is the 2nd ranked defense in the nfl (denvers in case your wondering) if whipping the colts makes them feel like they have momentum good but it wont be the same on saturday.

  3. you do realize that a rookie QB in his 1st playoff game led an offense to 419 yards of total offense? allowing 419 yards is not great defense, it’s not even good defense. Now that so called defense is going to play Manning. Manning will have a field day and end Ray Lewis’s career.
    Broncos = 3rd vs the rush and 3rd vs the pass (in yards allowed). Colts: 29th and 21st in the same categories.
    Broncos are a better team. You say they are overrated?? 11 straight vs. NFL teams. Professional Athletes. this isnt college football where a team from a bum conference can have a great record because they play a bunch of nobodies. You can only play the schedule you are given. they had 3 losses all year and every one of those 3 teams are much better than the Ravens. Falcons: 13-3 (number 1 record in NFL) Patriots (number 2 record in afc) and Texans (number 3 record in NFC). The Broncos are 7-1 at home.
    Also, what momentum are you referring to??? you lost 4 out of your last 5 in the regular season and are on a 1 game winning streak. That’s momentum???

    • good to see another fan of the good team,guess their all out praying the weather will do bad things to Manning….and hoping two wins in the last six games is MOMENTUM.

      • Here’s my prediction:

        BK, go-broncos, and banjo will be no where to be found on this website after Saturday’s upset by the Ravens.

        Vegas odds are 5000-1 against them posting anymore after about 7:45 pm eastern time 1/12/2013.

        • Raven 2488 invaded our space and challanged us to some trash talking.Your right about after 7:45 pm because i’m not a rub your nose in it kind of guy.Wonder if any of the trash talking crows (thats what a raven is right) will show up on the DP after chicken dancer is forced into retirement.

        • Waiting for my Denver boys…where are ya?!?!?!

    • Where are you BK?

  4. Peyton Manning owns the Ravens! So much so, that some of that turf that Ray Lewis ate last weekend actually belongs to Peyton.

    Just food for thought: Isn’t grass eating what horses (Broncos) do? I mean, is it possible that number 52, with a crow on his helmut, actually regrets not having had a snorting Bronco on his helmut these last 14 years, and that’s why he showed the whole world what he would rathered have had? I don’t blame him. I too would much rather eat grass then whatever it is that crows eat. What is that by the way? Oh yeah….garbage….

    Broncos Forever!!!

  5. Something else to watch for and count on……………The whole game plan is going to be designed for ray(the chicken dancer)lewis.he can still play the run but Manninig is coming after him in the passing game.He will be forced to do what he hasn’t been able to for yrs and thats cover anybody.He will be chasing recievers all day,TE,RB, Slot guys.So they will have to try zone and Manning LOVES those concepts.Its going to start and finish right there,count on it.

  6. This is the most boring fan site i have ever seen.where is all the so called raven fans.not feeling very confident are we?

  7. I think that Baltimore will defeated the Broncos as it said in article they had a very easy schedule lately and I think Baltimore will give ray 1 more Super Bowl but of course we will all see shortly won’t we

  8. go-broncos – Come on man! Boring site? It’s different here on the East Coast… We work over here and not sit on our asses like you mid-westerners… And yes, I did call you over for some banter… Glad your here…

    Gotta agree with MGW, you guys will not be found after the Ravens pull out the upset of the playoffs and put Manning into retirement for good…

    You see, our pass rush is back with Suggs and now the up and coming force Paul Kruger… I’m giving Kruger 2 sacks Saturday himself…

    Ravens always held Manning to low scores in the playoffs because the guy chokes. He’s the great QB during the season but come crunch time he’s more like Archie Manning…

    Horseface Elway will be sitting up in the Exec Suite wondering what happened to his Bucking Broncos…

  9. Where ya at Bronco fans?

    Von Manning you here? No?

    Go-Broncos – I can’t hear you…

    Deepwater69 – You must have drowned yourself!

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