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AFC Division Round: Baltimore vs. Denver Spread, Odds


Saturday’s AFC showdown offers up opposing rhetorics between two different teams: a surging Bronco offense and a stout Raven defense.

Denver opens as seven point favorites and for good reason. Peyton Manning has quieted all naysayers in his return to the NFL after two offseason neck surgeries by simply harnessing his knowledge of the game and picking apart opposing defenses with ease.

The Broncos will carry an advantage in almost all facets of the matchup (17 of 19). The only statistical categories they stand at a deficit are in red zone defense and special, both of which only boast a marginal advantage. Moreover, Denver ranks near the top of the league in three of the more substantial categories, which include O/D-lines and third-down efficiency (on both sides of the ball). It’s pretty simple to determine that the Ravens are overmatched.

If the Broncos get out to an early lead, it will inevitably force the Ravens to abandon the run, which means fewer touches for Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice. Furthermore, if Denver can hold Baltimore to third-and-long conversions, then game over. The Ravens rank in the bottom half of third-down conversions when faced with 5+ yards to go.

The biggest question mark that remains for the Ravens is their offensive line, which, on good days, can stand as mediocre. In the last half of the season, Baltimore has steered clear of its pocket protection scheme (which hasn’t faired well) and have opted to move quarterback Joe Flacco out of the pocket and into space. We could see it play out further with two of the NFL’s best pass rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.

Meanwhile, the biggest key for the Ravens is to get Rice off to a good start. They have an uphill battle against the Broncos, who rank towards the top in the league in run defense. In fact, the only team that has topped 100 yards against them this season during their 11-game win streak.

Prediction: Ray Lewis’ inspiration return will fall short at the hands of Manning and a stealthy Denver offense. Broncos 27, Ravens 17

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