Last Sunday, the Ravens fell for the third consecutive week, beaten to a pulp by a rejuvenated Broncos team, 34-17. The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the final minutes of the first half. Joe Flacco began to drive the Ravens down the field to get a score, finding Torrey Smith near the goal line with 30 seconds left. Although the Ravens still had all three timeouts, they opted not to use one. Flacco rushed to the line and was picked off by Chris Harris, who took the ball back 98 yards for a touchdown, giving the Broncos a 17-0 lead at halftime. The Ravens got on the board with a field goal in the second half, but the Broncos answered with two touchdowns of their own, blowing the game open. In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Flacco finally got it going, throwing a 31-yard touchdown score to Dennis Pitta. Later in the game, Flacco found Pitta again, who broke tackles and scampered his way 61 yards down the field and into the end zone, finishing off the scoring for the day. The Ravens defense did not play all that badly, but the offense gave them no time to rest on the bench, tiring them out by the second half of the game. Despite the Ravens loss, a Steelers loss helped the Ravens clinch their fifth consecutive playoff berth, making the Flacco-Harbaugh tandem perfect in their years in Baltimore.
Player of the Game: Broncos WR Eric Decker-8 catches, 133 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Key Takeaway from this Game: It seemed as if the Ravens players, and fans for that matter, conceded this loss before we even kicked off. Peyton Manning knows how to take advantage of teams' weaknesses; the Ravens' weakness being their defense. The Ravens won't have it easy against playoff teams. We can only hope that they can stay in games and give our defense the rest it needs.
This Sunday, the Ravens host their regular season home finale against the 8-6 New York Giants, who are coming off a blowout loss of their own, losing 34-0 last week in Atlanta. In a matchup of two teams desperate for bounce-back victory, the Giants could be fighting for their playoff lives. And we all know how the Giants are able to pull things together late in the season, including last year's late-season run to a Super Bowl championship. We'll see which side of these two two-faced teams comes out to play Sunday afternoon. On offense, Eli Manning leads a dangerous attack which has been weakened on the ground, but still remains a large threat in the air. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has been sidelined with an injury, but expects to return (possibly on a limited basis) on Sunday. Backup running back David Wilson has taken over the reins and run for 155 over the past two games. In the air, the Giants present two very dangerous threats in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Cruz has caught nine touchdowns, and remains Manning's favorite target. But tight end Martellus Bennett has become another favorite of Manning's, racking up nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns. Bennett presents a matchup problem for the Ravens depleted linebackers corps. On defense, the Giants rank in the bottom 10 in three of the four major defensive categories, including yards per game. The most daunting of the Giants unit defensively comes on the defensive line. Linemen Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul have combined for 15.5 sacks on the season, and could prove to be game-changers against a struggling offensive line unit for the Ravens. The Giants are significantly less scary on other parts of the defense, including a secondary that is ranked 28th in the league in passing yards. If the offensive line can give Joe Flacco time in the pocket, he could use it to beat the weaker parts of this Giants defense.
Prediction: The Ravens need this one bad. Then again, so do the Giants. A Ravens win seals the division, and this team would love to have that off their backs heading to Cincinnati next week. If the Ravens offensive line can hold their ground, and give Joe Flacco time to throw in the pocket, the Giants could be in for a long day. But if they let their strong defensive lineman get to Flacco, it could be a long day for the Ravens. Expect the Ravens to open with a strong ground attack to open up play-action later in the game. I have the Ravens winning the game, 27-23.
Key Matchups for Giants at Ravens
Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Giants WR Victor Cruz Edge: Cruz
Analysis: Manning loves Cruz, and makes him one of the better receivers in the game. While Cary has made some big plays on pass deflections, he also has the tendency to let a receiver get away from him. If that happens against Cruz, we're in trouble.
Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo vs. Giants TE Martellus Bennett Edge: Ayanbadejo
Analysis: This is a close one, but Ayanbadejo has had a nice year filling this role. If he doesn't let this matchup affect other parts of his game, he'll win this one. Bennett is having a good year as well, and could very well take this one.
Ravens T Michael Oher vs. Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul Edge: Pierre-Paul
Analysis: Pierre-Paul is one of the premier pass rushers in the league, and will easily beat Oher in this matchup. Oher just can't lose it in a blowout.
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Giants CB Corey Webster Edge: Boldin
Analysis: I have a feeling Boldin will have a good day as Torrey Smith will be limited (if he plays at all) with a concussion. Webster is also known for giving up some big plays.
LB Jameel McClain-Neck-OUT (will miss remainder of season)
S Bernard Pollard-Chest-DBT
WR Tandon Doss-Ankle-QST
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Ankle-QST
FB Vonta Leach-Ankle-QST
LB Albert McClellan-Thigh/Shoulder-QST
RB Bernard Pierce-Head-QST
WR Torrey Smith-Head-QST
G/T Marshal Yanda-Ankle-QST
C David Baas-Hip/Shoulder-QST
TE Travis Beckum-Knee-QST
RB Ahmad Bradshaw-Knee/Foot-QST
S Kenny Phillips-Knee-QST
S Tyler Sash-Hamstring-QST
G Chris Snee-Hip-QST
DE Justin Tuck-Shoulder-QST
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 9 5
Bengals 8 6
Steelers 7 7
Browns 5 9
AFC North Outlook: If the Ravens win one of the final two games, the division is theirs.The Bengals host the Steelers, with a Bengals win eliminating the Steelers from playoff contention. The Browns visit the Broncos.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report. See you next week and go Ravens!