Several factors stacking up against Ravens Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver heads into Saturday's rematch with the Ravens buoyed by several distinct advantages:

  1. They know they're the better team, and if they weren't already sure of that, their Week 15 boatrace job proved it.
  2. This team is loaded with veterans who are quite aware the Ravens are looking at Saturday as a chance to avenge that game.
  3. Having a week off bought Chris Kuper and Ryan Clady time to heal up; the chances of either one not playing would appear slim or nil.
  4. Previously injured key defenders Terrell Suggs (reaggravated Achilles) and Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) were further hobbled during Sunday's win over Indy.
  5. Baltimore faces the triple whammy of a shortened week of preparation combined with a trip up to 5,280 and two time zones over.

That latter quartet of factors could loom even larger than normal.

While it's true the Ravens defense will have back several starters (Ray Lewis, Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard) who had missed the first showdown, it's still an aging, banged up defense. Ed Reed has been playing with a torn shoulder labrum all season, and Haloti Ngata hasn't been healthy either.

They have less time to recover from Sunday, and they will not be given any extra days to acclimate to Denver's altitude or time zone, as they're arriving Friday.

Compare this to how John Fox has handled Denver's early games this year - each time the Broncos encountered a 1pm East Coast kickoff, he had them travel on Friday, two days ahead of time. In the Ravens' case, they are dealing with two factors (time change, altitude) which would each call for an early arrival, and they'll still only be coming to Denver a day before playing.

Combine that with a shortened week against a well-rested Broncos team, and we're looking at what could become a demoralizing and brutal second half on Saturday for Baltimore.

Broncos

Videos: John Fox, Wesley Woodyard, and Mike Adams speak after practice, from which BTV reports; Eric Decker visits with NFLN.

Willis McGahee, who isn't eligible to play until the AFC title game, is expected to return to practice today.

Saturday will be the playoff debut of Mike Adams, after nine seasons in the league; Wesley Woodyard says he wears 52 because of Ray Lewis.

Peyton Manning has won only one of four divisional playoff games he's played following a bye, but that came against the Ravens three years ago.

A Denver win on Saturday could take Mike McCoy out of contention for the Bears job, and Jeff Legwold sticks with the incredibly dumb suggestion that Fox would consider Norv Turner as a replacement. Again, there is no way Air Coryell is coming to Denver while Peyton Manning is in town. Nothing could make less sense. Given the lack of football intelligence displayed there, it's hard to buy Legwold's suggestion that Ken Whisenhunt would be another consideration. Our money would instead be on either Tom Moore reuniting with Peyton, or Adam Gase being promoted from QB coach.

Should the Broncos lose Saturday, the coaching staff's punishment will be a free trip to Hawaii to coach in the Pro Bowl. Hmm.

Dave Krieger provides the obligatory reminder of what happened when Jacksonville came to town in the '96 playoffs, but that (expansion) team was far easier to overlook than these Ravens.

Through his citation of trivial counting stats and arbitrary landmarks, Jeff Legwold shows exactly how not to use statistics while trying to prove a lame point.

Ravens

Baltimore got CB Asa Jackson back from suspension and cut LB Sergio Kindle from their practice squad.

Obviously, CB Cary Williams would say "history means nothing," given how Eric Decker worked him over again and again in Week 15.

Baltimore moved the pocket for Joe Flacco on Sunday, but good luck doing that against the likes of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.

As the entire sports world slobbers over the soon-to-end career of Ray Lewis, here's a chilling reminder of the many sketchy details surrounding the time Lewis was charged with murder.

Pollard is likely to be fined for a hit he made on Colts WR Reggie Wayne; John Harbaugh says Pollard deserved the penalty flag he received for it.

Jim Fassel wasn't particularly impressed by Lewis's play in coverage on Sunday, and figures the Broncos will take advantage of that with their tight ends.

Coaching/GM Carousel

The Chiefs introduced Andy Reid as their new head coach yesterday; he's likely to consider Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress for his staff. Sam Mellinger lays out the tasks ahead of Reid in Kansas City.

Indy OC Bruce Arians was released from a Baltimore hospital and will soon interview with the Bears, Eagles, and Browns.

Philly will interview Bengals OC Jay Gruden, and he's also expected to sit down with the Cardinals.

Chicago will meet with legendary Bears linebacker Mike Singletary and former Broncos ST coach Mike Priefer; both are currently on Minnesota's staff.

The LOLJets have indeed fired OC Tony Sparano and will not bring back QB coach Matt Cavanaugh, while DC Mike Pettine may join Doug Marrone's staff in Buffalo, where he was introduced as the new head man yesterday. Marrone is also interested in Jacksonville's Mel Tucker as a DC candidate.

Atlanta personnel director David Caldwell will sit for a third interview with the Jaguars regarding their GM vacancy; Jason La Canfora says that if Caldwell gets the gig, Mike Mularkey is likely out.

Dallas fired RB coach Skip Peete.

Mike Tanier applauds both the plodding nature of Chicago's coaching search and Buffalo's thorough, quick, and low-profile process to hire Marrone.

News

RIP Arena Football League wideout Chandler Williams, formerly of the Vikings, Chiefs, Dolphins, and Falcons, who died at 27 during a flag football tournament.

As feared, Seahawks DE Chris Clemons has a torn ACL and is done for the season; Cowboys WR Dez Bryant will have surgery on his broken finger.

Texans RB Arian Foster changed his Twitter avatar to a quote from the Boston Globe's hacktastic Dan Shaughnessy, who called the Texans "fraudulent" while likening the upcoming matchup as a bye for the Patriots.

Analysis

Of course, the weak decisions to punt and attempt field goals all weekend long didn't get past Jack Moore. Once again, Marvin Lewis's team is a one-and-done, and a good part of that has to be attributable to his fourth-down choices.

Pat Kirwan agrees with Fassel and expects the Broncos to attack the struggling Ray Lewis with their tight ends on Saturday, and he says the Seahawks are playing Moneyball rather well, despite Bill Polian's stupid claim that there is no such thing in the NFL.

Bucky Brooks previews the weekend's matchups and says the Ravens must get a big performance from Joe Flacco to have a chance.

Matt Bowen studies the Patriots' play-action decimation of the Texans defense during their prior matchup.

Les Carpenter thinks Shanny's perpetually unchecked power is partly to blame for his decision to leave RG3 on the field long enough to worsen his knee injury. Let's all remember that this is the same guy who kept Terrell Davis on the field in SB 32 despite TD saying he couldn't see, due to his migraine attack.

Judy Battista looks back at a lame group of wild card games as a fine reminder that the last thing we need is an expanded NFL playoff field.

Christmas Ape translates PK's MMQB; Ravens safety Bernard Pollard glowingly likened Peyton Manning to a MacBook; obviously he means a Pro.

After last night's snoozefest, here's a little shoutout to those who claim college football is more exciting than the NFL.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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