It may seem a little hard to believe, but we are already into week 15 of the NFL season. Week 15 marks one of the most vital weeks for many teams that are still fighting for playoff contention, and teams trying to get better seeding for the postseason. The Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos are two of those teams. With the Broncos at 10-3 are looking to wrap up a first-round bye, and the Baltimore Ravens are in the same boat, but beginning to slide. In fact, the Ravens think this mini slump was bad enough to warrant the firing of offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron. The move comes as a shock to many, and a pleasant surprise to some Ravens fans, but one thing is certain, Joe Flacco has no more excuses. Flacco was given the reigns to this team as the Ravens provided him with the tools around him to make him a successful quarterback. They possess one of the best running backs in the game, Ray Rice, coupled with an outstanding duo at wide receiver, Anquan Boldin. Flacco will look to impress against an above average Broncos’ defense.
Flacco currently has thrown for 3220 yards and 18 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. Not horrible, there is certainly much worse, but at this point in his career he needs to be a game changer. The training wheels are off, and Flacco needs to command the offense a little more effectively. The problem with him is consistency. One game he will torch opposing defenses, making it appear that he is on the elite level, and then he will follow it up with a dud. It has been the story of Flacco’s career, but considering the defense has been less than impressive this season, he needs to step up. The Ravens’ offense ranks 18th in the NFL, which wouldn’t be so bad if the defense was a typical Ravens defense, but that isn’t the case. The pass offense is currently the 14th best in the league, with Rice and the running game sitting in 17th. That is of course uncharacteristic for Rice. However, with the defense slumping, the Ravens have been forced to throw the ball more often. I can’t see the Ravens doing much damage in the playoffs with this type of identity crisis. They will be going up against a pretty well put together Broncos’ defense. The Broncos are led by perennial pro-bowler Champ Bailey, who has the defense in 4th in terms of yards allowed at 309.4. Talented linebacker Von Miller is having himself an impressive campaign as well.
If you were to put nameless, blank jerseys on the Ravens defense and watched them play this season, no one would come to the conclusion that it’s the actual Ravens playing. There have been injuries to blame, including key injuries to linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. They also lost talented cornerback Lardarius Webb for the year. Nevertheless, it is shocking for the Ravens defense to be so unrecognizable after dominating every week for over the last 10 years. In fact, the Ravens have finished in the top-10 with regards to defense for the last nine seasons. That run will most definitely be broken here, as the Ravens rank 24th in total team defense. Particularly shocking is their 25th ranking against the run.
While the Ravens are searching for an identity, the Broncos have seemingly found one as the season has progressed. Peyton Manning is up for the MVP award and has taken the Broncos to another level. I don’t see any Broncos’ fans wishing for Tim Tebow back after his improbable run with them last season. Manning has found a rapport with an array of targets surrounding him, most notably, receiver Demaryius Thomas, who is hitting his full potential with Manning tossing him the rock. Thomas has 1197 yards and 8 touchdowns with still a few games to go. The offense is the 4th best in the league, scoring 28.3 points a game and averaging 390. Even with Willis McGahee sidelined, the offense has been firing on all cylinders under Manning.
Broncos vs. Ravens Spread and Betting Odds:
Denver Broncos -3 (-105)
@ Baltimore Ravens +3 (-115)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Broncos vs. Ravens Pick:
While the perception of the Ravens is a team in utter confusion, I tend to look at the positive side of things. The Ravens are still one of the better teams in the NFL without a doubt at 9-4. The Ravens thrive at home, even knocking off the New England Patriots earlier in the year in the comforts of M&T Bank Stadium. They have only dropped one game this year at home, a mishap against the Steelers led by Charlie Batch two weeks ago. The Ravens looked primed to bounce back last week, but a W was stolen from them late in the fourth. With an injured RG3 on the sidelines, the Redskins and Kirk Cousins tied the game up 28-28 with a touchdown and successful 2-point conversion. The ‘Skins ultimately won 31-28 in overtime.
After two crushing defeats by a field goal, and the message that was sent out with the firing of Cam Cameron, I like the Ravens to get back on track. Many may try and look at the Cameron firing as a negative, but I think it wakes them up for this matchup with the Broncos. This is the Broncos last tough test of the season, as they play a couple of cupcakes in week 16 and 17 (Browns and Chiefs). As dominant as the Ravens are at home, it’s hard to ignore the 3 points here.
PICK = Ravens +3