The Denver Broncos enjoyed their bye week as the top seed in the AFC, and they enter this divisional round riding an 11-game winning streak.
They were no doubt glued to their television sets last week watching their opponents this week, the Baltimore Ravens, take out the upstart Indianapolis Colts 24-9 in a dominant defensive performance in the final career home game for Ray Lewis. The Broncos are -8½ favorites on Saturday with the total set at 46.
RAVENS – BRONCOS PLAYOFFS BETTING LINE:
OPEN: BRONCOS -9 | CURRENT: BRONCOS -9 | O/U: 46
1. Why Baltimore will cover the spread: The Ravens will cover this spread if they get running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce more involved in the offense, even if in Rice’s case it means getting him more involved in the passing game. In the win over the Colts, Joe Flacco had 23 pass attempts while Rice had 19 touches. Sometimes balance is nice, but in this case Baltimore has to get its best player the ball more often.
A second key to a Ravens’ cover is defending Peyton Manning as well as they did in a regular season meeting between these two clubs. Yes Denver won that game 34-17 at Baltimore, but Manning had only 204 passing yards with 51 yards coming on one bomb to Eric Decker. Take away that one play and Manning had 153 passing yards on his other 27 attempts for a measly 5.7 yards per attempt. If you want a third key for Baltimore, it is not turning the ball over as the turning point last time was a 98-yard interception return for a Denver touchdown.
2. Why Denver will cover the spread: Denver will cover this spread if running back Knowshon Moreno continues his resurgence since taking over for the injured Willis McGahee. Moreno had a nice outing in the first meeting rushing for 118 yards in 22 carries, and that plus the Pick Six were key reasons why the Broncos overcame an ordinary game by Manning. A second key would be Manning being Manning, as he did finish second behind only Aaron Rodgers this season in QB Rating at 105.8.
3. Total Talk: The Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL right now, but it is only fair to mention that their schedule ranked only 29th in the league in SOS according to the Sagarin Ratings, and they went 1-3 vs. teams ranked in the Sagarin Top 10. And who was the one win against? Well, that would be these 10th ranked Ravens, who were one of just two teams that the Broncos beat all season that finished with a winning record with the Cincinnati Bengals being the other.
If the Ravens achieve their keys, they can easily stay in this game from start to finish, and we have just a slight lean toward the ‘under’ here, as we expect Baltimore to milk some clock with its running backs.
4. Betting Trends for Ravens/Broncos: Baltimore is 7-2 ATS in the last nine head-to-head meetings and the ‘under’ is now 5-1 in the last six Ravens’ playoff games. The Broncos are 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games vs. teams with winning road records.
Denver 24 – Baltimore 20
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