Hello Ravens fans, I'm Bronco Mike a writer over at MHR. I've been looking forward to the matchup for weeks now as it bodes as one final test for our team against a top AFC team. We didn't fare too well earlier on in the season losing to both Houston (31-25) and New England (31-21). The Houston game was marred by horrible safety play, a healthy helping of Arian Foster and big pass plays down the field. The New England game was marred by the supersonic no huddle that kept our defense on it's toes all game. I see this matchup more on par with the Houston game. Your running game is still something to be feared and Flacco and co. can use it to take shots downfield. Before I ask some questions, let me give you a run down of our team.
Currently ranked 4th overall in yards, and 3rd overall in points per game. Our strength is of course our passing attack led by Peyton Manning. Manning is having a phenominal year. In 9 games this season, he has completed 70% of his passes or more, and has 7 300 yard games. If I had to sum up our passing game, it would be a lot of patient short throws working the short and intermediate portions of the field with some shots over the top. We have tended to throw a lot of WR screens based on presnap reads. The shots downfield usually come from a play fake out of shotgun and against man coverage on the outside. Teams lately have started to play a lot of cover 2 to double our receivers on the outside. The answer to that has been to move Demaryius Thomas around into the slot and find favorable matchups there. Our TE's play a big role in keeping the chains moving.
Running wise, we have struggled to gain consistent yardage between the tackles in recent weeks. Part of this is due to the injuries of Willis McGahee who is a very tough runner between the tackles, and some instability in our offensive line due to the injuries of RG Chris Kuper. Kuper figures to be playing this week. Knowshon Moreno is coming off of a couple of good games back to back. Last week against the Raiders he carried a heavy load going for about 120 on 32 carries. Overall, our running game is used consistently even when it is sputtering. The biggest reason why is to keep the playaction as a viable option. Scheme wise, we've used a lot of zone blocking and pulling of the guards. A consistent staple lately has been the stretch play with the option to cut to the backside.
Overall, this is a pretty balanced attack, but make no mistake, our offense ticks along with Peyton and goes as he goes. Protection wise, the interior of our line has given up the most sacks. Much of that is due to the play of backup Manny Ramirez. He's filled in admirably, but he isn't a quality starter. If you're going to get sacks it's going to be from pressure up the middle or really well designed blitzes that Peyton doesn't pick up presnap.
Matchup wise, you can double DT----he's even shown the ability to beat these. But that leaves Stokley, Decker a TE, and the back out of the backfield as good options for Peyton. You take one thing away and he'll use someone else---I can't remember the last time the Broncos had a QB that spread the ball so well to his receivers.
If you're football savvy, the Broncos run their offense in 11 personnel almost exclusively, though they change things up in the redzone based on matchups. If you don't know what "11 personnel" means just ask in the comments.
This unit probably has Broncos fans just as excited if not more excited than our offense. After some inconsistent play and play calling early in the season, this unit is playing with a lot of swagger. Simply said, we have no glaring weaknesses right now. We're ranked 5th overall in yards and scoring defense. After facing a slate of QB's throughout the year that included Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Drew Brees etc, our passing defense is ranked 7th overall. What has been a pleasant surprise as the season has progressed has been our rushing defense which is also ranked 7th in the league.
Our base defense plays more like a 4-3 even front team. In that look we see a combination of Justin Bannen, Mitch Unrein, and Kevin Vickerson at DT, rookie Derek Wolfe or Robert Ayers at LDE, and Elvis Dumervil at RDE. Our linebackers in this base defense are Keith Brooking as the Mike, and Wesley Woodyard/Von Miller on the outside. Champ Bailey at corner along with Chris Harris and Rahim Moore and Mike Adams at safety.
Our subpackages and nickel/dime packages are more of a hybrid front that plays more like a 3-4 or odd front team. Look for Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers to kick inside and or Von Miller to become the other bookend rusher. Brooking comes out and is either replaced by DJ Williams or Danny Trevathan. If Woodyard is unable to go, both DJ and Trevathan should be the LB's in this look. Also, Jim Leonard is the 6th DB in dime, and Tony Carter becomes the man on the outside kicking Chris Harris into the slot on these looks.
This defense brings a lot of interesting looks blitz wise. They utilize overloads to get Von Miller in one on one situations, they utilize stunts and twists from the DT's, they utilize a heavy dose of corner and safety blitzes, and they utilize some zone blitz schemes as well. Coverage wise, they tend to play a lot of man on the outside with some safety help, and they tend to play some zone underneath in the middle of the field.
Some players to look for:
-Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Both have caused a plethora of fumbles this year around the edge. Von is just as disruptive a force in the running game as he is in the passing game. His coverage has come a long way this year, a few weeks ago he had a pick 6.
- Chris Harris and Tony Carter. Both are undrafted free agents---make no mistake though, they do not play like it. Both are very good in coverage and both have jumped routes and have taken INT's to the endzone.
-Wesley Woodyard. Started due to DJ Williams suspension and quite frankly has pushed Von as our defensive MVP. He is a tackling machine that has made some big plays in coverage as well.
- Derek Wolfe/Robert Ayers. Wolfe has played the role more as a two gapper holding double teams and the point of which leaves his teammates free to make plays. He has a relentless motor and has shown the ability to disrupt the pocket from the inside, though this aspect has been more inconsistent. Ayers sets the edge on rushing downs. On passing downs, he's been used with his hand in the dirt and standing up from the linebacker position to rush. Most of his career sacks have come from the interior of the line.
Britton Colquitt is the best punter in the league. He has a strong leg, but he doesn't outkick his coverage. He is also good at directional kicking and pinning teams inside the 20/10. His coverage units are also outstanding. David Bruton and Omar Bolden are two of the fastest guys on our team. More often than not they are the ones who get downfield to make the play or force a fair catch.
Matt Prater is a strong armed, clutch kicker, who has been wildly inconsistent from 40-49 yards. He had some shaky games prior to going 4-4 last week.
Trindon Holliday is our blazing fast return man that has already taken a few to the house since being claimed off waivers from the Texans about 5-6 weeks into the season. If he gets a little crease or some open space it is bad news for you guys.
Questions about the Ravens
I know this post is a bit long already, so I'll try and be succinct here.
- What is the injury status going into this game? What key pieces might not be available?
- What is your verdict on Flacco this year? Is he living up to expections?
- What do you expect your offense to look like with the firing of Cam?
- Who on defense has stepped up on defense to replace all of the guys that went down.
- What has your offense struggled with this season?
- Who are the strengths and weaknesses of your offense (individual players)
- What has your defense struggled with this season?
- Who are the strengths and weaknesses of your defense (individual players)
Overall I expect this to be a very tough game. I can't remember the last time we beat you guys, and I don't know if we ever have on your field. I'm definitely excited and pumped to see this game---it will go a long ways towards determining playoff positioning.
If you have any questions or comments, fire away---cheers!