NFL Gridiron Gab Week Five Preview: Denver at Baltimore

Flacco is starting to hit full stride

Week 5: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday October 10, 2010 1:05 PM

Line: Ravens -7 O/U 40

Anyone who thinks that last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t the win of the season so far for the Ravens is kidding themselves. Although the phrase is thrown around far to often in the NFL today, last Sunday was a must win game. Had they lost, the Ravens would have been down a full two games in the division and would face a monstrous uphill battle for the playoffs. Think of it this way. According to ESPN only 35% of teams who go 2-2 to begin the season make the playoffs. However, teams that go 3-1 have a 61% chance of making the playoffs. That’s a huge swing.

Although nothing can compare to the unbridled rivalry circus that is Baltimore v. Pittsburgh, this weekend’s matchup promises to be a war of the most unexpected shade. The Baltimore Ravens are currently the #1 ranked passing defense in the NFL, the Denver Broncos are currently ranked the #1 passing offense in the NFL. I doubt many prognosticators could have predicted that as we approach week five of the season. This game has all the makings of a show, and should provide for some high drama. With that, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game. Keys to the Game

Pressure Kyle Orton

Pressure Kyle Orton. In his career, Kyle Orton is 1-1 against the Baltimore Ravens, with his only win coming way back in 2004 when he was with the Chicago Bears (the Bears won at home in that game 10-6). His only loss to the Ravens came last season with the Denver Broncos flying high on a 4-0 start to what was to become a disastrous season. In both games Orton has been held to fewer than 160 yards passing.

This season, by contrast, has been a reawakening for Orton. He’s currently on pace for a ridiculous 5,000 yard+ season and has been lighting up opposing secondaries at will. This may have much to do with his flagging running game, but the young gunslinger has kept cool and managed to zip the ball all over the field to unheralded wideouts like Brandon Lloyd and rookie Demaryius Thomas.

To beat this Broncos team into the ground the Ravens must first and foremost apply pressure to Kyle Orton. Although his numbers have been absolutely electric, he’s still averaging an INT a game and has looked fallible at times. Like Jarrett Johnson did last year, the Ravens must get in this young man’s face and show him where he’s at.

Do Not Get Lazy

Although the Broncos running game is suspect at best (currently dead last in the league statistically) the Ravens cannot fall into the trap of failing to account for the rush. The Broncos will absolutely try and run the ball early on the Ravens, they’d be fools not to. If they don’t even make a cursory showing of rushing the ball, then the play action won’t work and the whole offense game plan will be blown. That being said, the Ravens must still account for the run game even if they don’t respect it very much. Can’t get caught napping here.

Avoid the Trap Game Letdown

Coming off games against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Ravens are 3-6. For whatever reason, they simply do not rebound well after such an emotional hard hitting contest. To avoid a very nasty upset this week, the Ravens must be mentally focused and ready to face the onslaught of a very good passing attack. Most of the team is tired, and undeniably battered, but being a professional means picking it up and playing to win despite the exhaustion. Ravens cannot afford to lose to a conference opponent.

Focus on the Three Headed Monster

The Broncos’ run defense is not the stuff of legend. it is a unit that is adequate at best and ranks somewhere in the bottom-of-the-middle league wide. One of the early keys for the Ravens in this game (and the season going forward) is to implement more of the three headed monster attack. During the off season, teams learned to account for Ray Rice, it’s only natural that it happens. To combat this the Ravens have got to start switching up the looks more often and use Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain instead of just Ray Rice all the time.

Protect Joe

Last week against the Steelers we saw what happens when you give Joe Flacco full protection. He’s calm, he’s coordinated, he’s intelligent, and he’s deadly accurate. Although it may stymie the offense a bit, the Ravens have got to use more of the max protect packages for Joe that used against the Steelers. If they do this the kid will be all world by the end of the season, and you’ll have a foursome of happy receivers.

Ravens Gab Predictions

Jonathon Scruggs (4-0) : Although I try to avoid trap sayings like the Broncos have never won in Baltimore, I can’t help but say that the Broncos have never won in Baltimore. I think the Ravens win this one, but the final score is much closer than I’d like, and the game is contentious all the way down to the final minutes.

Ravens 24 — Broncos 20

Matt Jergensen (4-0) : I must concur with Mr. Scruggs. This game screams “Trap” and I don’t like it one bit. The Ravens have battered the Broncs around this past decade but they also fall victim to a letdown after Steeler victories. Good thing I don’t care about history so much. The Ravens defense finally gets a few turnovers to help the offense.

Ravens 28 – Broncos 17

Gene Winner (3-1) :The Ravens are coming off a great win, they should be fired up! The secondary will be challenged and will need to continue to play smart. Look for Ray Rice to get some more reps.

Ravens 31 – Broncos 17

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