Saturday’s AFC divisional NFL playoff game featuring the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos is a clash between future Hall of Famers that will ultimately be remembered as one of the best players, if not the best player, at their respective positions. It’s the potential Ray Lewis curtain call facing off against the resurrection of former Colts starting quarterback Peyton Manning. One of them will play next weekend for a chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The other will either hang up the cleats for good or prepare for a potential final season in the NFL.
The bucking Broncos come into today’s game riding an improbable 11-game winning streak during which they have trampled opponents on both sides of the ball. In fact, the Broncos easily disposed of the Ravens not too long ago in week 15 by a score of 34-17, proving the Ravens stingy defense could be cracked if properly attacked. Though in the Ravens defense, starters Ray Lewis and Bernard Pollard missed that game due to injury. They will be back on the field today.
It’s going to be hard for anyone to bet against Peyton Manning right now. After missing all of last year while recovering from multiple neck surgeries that were supposed to end his career, Peyton has gotten better as the season has progressed and put up MVP-worthy numbers. His team has averaged just over 30 points-per-game this season, a total that would likely spell a win today if it can be reached.
The Ravens rode Ray Lewis and an impressive defensive performance last week to write off the Colts with a 24-9 victory. In addition to trying to slow down Ray Lewis, quarterback Joe Flacco will need to improve his road performance which has struggled of late. The Ravens starting quarterback has dropped his last two road postseason starts and only thrown for 431 yards combined between them.
A big factor in today’s game could be the weather. With temperatures expected to be in the 20s at game time in Denver, Peyton Manning will have to shrug off his history of sub-par performances in the cold. Over his career, Manning is 0-3 with seven picks versus only one touchdown in playoff games with temperatures under 40 degrees. Due to the cold, he will have to wear a glove on his throwing hand – something he has yet to do post-surgery.
Today’s first AFC divisional playoff game kicks off at 4:30pm EST / 1:30pm PST in high definition on CBS free over the air or via a satellite/cable subscription. Though not free, you can watch the official online live streaming version via NFL Sunday Ticket here. My prediction is the cold does a number on Peyton Manning’s efficiency and the Ravens put up another strong defensive stance, holding the Broncos to minimal points in a 16-13 upset victory that defies the odds.