Denver Hosts Baltimore in Divisional Opener

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos enter this weekend's divisional playoff game with Baltimore as favorites.

Baltimore travels to Denver on Saturday afternoon to take on the Broncos in the first of this weekend’s four divisional playoff games. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM ET from Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Ravens (11-6, 4-4 road) are heavy underdogs entering the game, and having fallen to these same Broncos at home on Dec. 16, few expect the Maryland side to take down the Super Bowl favorites in the Mile High City.

Denver (13-3, 7-1 home) will return to the field after last weekend’s bye. The Broncos have not lost a game since before their Week 7 bye in October, tallying 11 straight victories to finish with the best record in the AFC.

Betting Straight Up

Bovada currently has Denver at 5/22 (-440) to win outright, with the underdog Ravens at 16/5 (+320).

Denver outranks Baltimore on both sides of the football. The Broncos have the No. 2 scoring offense (30.1 PPG), second only to New England, and the No. 4 scoring defense (18.1 PPG). Baltimore meanwhile scraped into the top 10 in scoring (24.9 PPG) and ranked No. 12 in points allowed (21.5 PPG).

Denver ranked in the top three in opponents’ total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards, while Von Miller ranked third in the league in sacks (18.5) and Elvis Dumerville tallied 11 (14th).

Baltimore’s offense, which struggled almost consistently throughout the season, ranked 17th passing the football. Joe Flacco could be in big trouble this weekend.

The Ravens lead the all-time head-to-head series 6-4, including a win in the only playoff meeting (Dec. 31, 2000) between the sides. That meeting came in the wild-card round and was played in Baltimore. The Ravens would go on to win Super Bowl XXXV that season.

Baltimore’s success against the Broncos has not translated to the Mile High city though. The Ravens are 1-3 when playing in Denver. That one win came way back on Sep. 30, 2001. The Ravens have lost both meetings since.

Peyton Manning is 9-2 all-time against Baltimore. Those two losses (1998, 2001) came early in his career, and the Broncos quarterback has won nine straight since. That streak includes two postseason games in which Manning – then with the Colts – defeated the Ravens in the divisional round. In both those years (following the 2005 and 2009 seasons), the Colts went to the Super Bowl.

Reports have been quick to speculate this week that Manning has not fared well in cold weather playoff games. With temperatures expected to be between 10 and 22 degrees, Manning will look to buck a 0-3 record in postseason games where the weather has fallen below 40 degrees. The big difference this year is that Manning has been playing in the cold weather of Denver. It’s worth pointing out those losses came early in Manning’s career, at a time when he couldn’t buy a playoff win.

Baltimore has won its opening playoff game in five straight seasons. The last four of those have seen the Ravens fall at the next stage, with the team’s last postseason with at least two wins coming during the 2008 playoffs. Baltimore is 3-4 all-time in divisional playoff games.

Betting the Spread

Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens are marginal favorites to cover a point spread that stands at 10.

The point spread opened at 9.5 and has subsequently increased to 10. Such a high deficit this late in the season has seen bettors take a look at both sides when it comes to covering.

Bovada currently has Baltimore (5/6) as favorites to cover the spread ahead of Denver (1/1).

Denver (11-4-1 ATS) has posted the league’s best record against the spread this season, and has covered in its last five games. The side has gone 9-2 against the spread during its 11-game winning streak, with only San Diego and Kansas City fending-off the Broncos’ attack, and those games were close. San Diego lost by seven to cover an eight-point spread, while Kansas City lost by eight to cover a 10-point spread.

Baltimore (7-9-1 ATS) has been less consistent, and has dropped four of its last six against the spread. Three of those four losses came has underdogs. The Ravens did however cover in last week’s win over the Colts.

In the meeting between the two sides on Dec. 16, the Broncos covered a three-point spread – which had opened at Evens – with a 34-point rout of the Ravens.

Betting the Total

The total for the game currently stands at 45.5, having edged upwards from 44.5 at opening.

Denver saw the total go over in 10 games this season. Only New England and Detroit (both 11) witnessed more games go over in the league. Eight of the last 12 Broncos games have forced the total over, although last time out (Vs. Kansas City, Dec. 30), the two sides forced a push.

Seven of the first 11 Baltimore games saw the total go over, but six of 10 since have gone under. That includes last weekend’s game against Indianapolis and the two previous games.

In 10 head-to-head meetings, Baltimore (6-4) has averaged 22.6 points per game and Denver (4-6) has averaged 17.3 points per game. Whilst the advantage would appear to be with Baltimore, these numbers take a sharp turn at Mile High.

Denver averages 20.8 points per game in four head-to-head meetings between the sides in Colorado, while Baltimore averages just 16.8 points per game. All of these numbers fall well short of this weekend’s 45.5 mark, and would suggest that the under might be a smart choice. But then again, Peyton Manning was only involved in one of those games, and it wasn’t in the Mile High city.

Denver is current favorites to win the AFC (11/10) and Super Bowl XXXVII (11/4).

Odds of Baltimore winning the AFC stand at 9/1 and Super Bowl XXXVII at 18/1.

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