As a Ravens fan, it seems a bit odd to be sitting at home watching the NFL playoffs with no skin in the game. Oddsmakers forecasted 8-9 wins for the 2013 Baltimore Ravens with many over/under win totals set at 8 ½ wins. Vegas listed the Broncos, Patriots, 49ers and Packers as stronger candidates and set the Ravens with sports book odds as low as 12:1 and as high as 25:1 to repeat as Super Bowl Champions.
Riding the wave and glory of Super Bowl XLVII, we didn’t want to believe the forecasts and wrote them off as just further evidence supporting the popular local opinion that the Ravens get no respect on a national level.
Yet here we are about to watch the conference championships as spectators only. I guess they were right.
You do have to admit that if the Ravens aren’t in the mix the two championship games are just about the best pairings of all the playoff participants. So here we go with this week’s outlook as I attempt to continue the hot playoff hand that escaped me all season while predicting Ravens games.
Patriots @ Broncos (-5 ½), 3:00 EST
Over/Under @ 57
It practically impossible to not look at this game as Brady v. Manning despite the knowledge that it’s so much more than that. We’ve heard often that Brady holds a 10-4 advantage over Manning in head-to-head competition but let’s face it, that’s a bit overplayed. Brady simply put has had more success against the Colts and Broncos defenses than Manning has had against Bill Belichick defenses.
Today, Manning gets the fast track and ideal conditions in Denver and that’s when he excels. Expect Belichick to take the bend-but-don’t-break approach and eliminate the deep pass from Manning’s repertoire. The Patriots will force Peyton to work underneath. Wes Welker could have a big day.
On the flip side look for the Patriots to continue to do what they have done so well down the stretch – run the football and control the clock. The Broncos nicked up defense will deploy the resources to stop the run and that will open up some play action for Brady who will undoubtedly target injured CB Chris Harris’ replacement. Call it Operation Get (Tony) Carter when the Broncos show nickel.
This one promises to be a very close game that goes down to the wire but in the end the more balanced team on both sides of the ball will prevail. And that team is the Patriots.
PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Broncos 23