The Ravens are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2009, and they will look to get on track Sunday against one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will visit M&T Bank Stadium in a game that has significant playoff implications for both teams.
"It's always important to right the ship," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "You want to bounce back, and you want to get back on the winning side of things. That's something that we've tried to do, and we need to do."
If the Ravens are able to pull off the upset, then they will clinch the AFC North for the second straight season and be guaranteed a home playoff game. The Ravens have missed opportunities to secure a playoff spot the last two weekends, but winning on Sunday would make them the NFL's only team to go to the postseason in each of the last five years.
"We know what this game is; they know what this game is about," safety Ed Reed said. "This game is important for both teams. This is the playoff time."
Winning on Sunday would also cap off a challenging week in Baltimore, which included replacing Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron with Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell. The Ravens hope the move provides a spark for the offense and the team, and allows them to move on from a pair of difficult losses.
"We lost two close games back-to-back, and our fans, everybody is not used to Baltimore losing two games in a row," fullback Vonta Leach said. "Obviously the players aren't either, we have to get back to basics and do the little things. We just have to stay the course and find ways to win games."
3 Matchups To Watch
LT Michael Oher vs. LB Von MillerOher will have his hands full this week with Miller, who is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Miller ranks third in the NFL with 16 sacks and he also has five forced fumbles on the season. Keeping him off quarterback Joe Flacco will be a priority for Oher, who has allowed two critical strip/sacks the last two weeks.
S Ed Reed vs. QB Peyton ManningThe two future Hall of Famers both expressed respect for one another this week. Manning emphasized that Reed is "the best safety in the game," as the Ravens' ball hawk has picked off Manning in each of their last two meetings. Reed is the leader of an injury-riddled defense, and the Ravens may need some big plays from him to spark the unit against Manning, who is in the conversation for the league's MVP.
WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Champ BaileyThe Ravens receiver has been quiet lately, and was limited to just one catch last weekend against the Redskins. He's going up against one of the game's elder statesman in Bailey, who continues to be one of the NFL's top corners even into his twilight years. Smith and Flacco haven't been able to connect on the deep ball in recent games, but hitting on a big play Sunday could help jump-start the offense.
3 Questions To Answer
What will the offense look like?The Ravens will get their first look at the offense under Caldwell, who took over for Cameron on Monday. Caldwell has said not to expect any wholesale changes, but that he will put* *his stamp on the offense. Caldwell is a proponent of the no-huddle, so the Ravens could look to go up-tempo on offense against a talented Broncos defense. They could also look to pound the ball on the ground with Rice to keep the ball out of Manning's hands.
How does Flacco respond?The pressure is going to fall on Flacco even more to lead the Ravens offense now that a change has been made at coordinator. The fifth-year quarterback has three more regular-season games left on the schedule before his contract expires this offseason, and he is looking to go into offseason negotiations on a high note. Flacco has a tough task ahead of him this weekend against a Broncos defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and second in total sacks.
Who is able to suit up on defense?The defense has been hobbled with injuries lately, and the Ravens are heading into Sunday uncertain about the status of several starters. Terrell Suggs, Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe and Jimmy Smith are all up in the air for this weekend. Veteran Ray Lewis is also eligible to play this weekend, but he would first have to get added to the active roster. The absence of those players would be a critical hit to the defense that needs to be at its best against Manning and the Broncos offense.
RavensTotal Defense – 375.9 (24)
Rush Defense – 129.3 (25)
Pass Defense – 246.6 (23)
Points Allowed Per Game – 21.0 (10)
Total Offense – 344.4 (18)
Rush Offense – 108.8 (17)
Pass Offense – 235.5 (16)
Points Scored Per Game – 25.5 (9)
Total Defense – 309.4 (4)
Rush Defense – 93.7 (6)
Pass Defense – 215.7 (7)
Points Allowed Per Game – 19.8 (4)
Total Offense – 390.1 (4)
Rush Offense – 106.1 (20)
Pass Offense – 284.0 (6)
Points Scored Per Game – 28.8 (2)