Who Will Need To Step Up Big Against Denver?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Although football is a team game, and it will take a great combined effort from the entire Baltimore Ravens team for them to take down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who needs to step their game up the most for the entire team to be successful tomorrow?

Joe Flacco:

Of course most fans would look right to the quarterback of a team when they need a win against a high scoring offense like Denver and Flacco must be on top of his game if the Ravens want to move on to the AFC Championship game for the second straight year. However, no matter how great Joe plays he will need help from his supporting cast. The offensive line will need to limit a very dangerous Denver pass rush but at the same time Flacco needs to work with his pass protection and know when to step up in the pocket and when to stand pat. The quarterback and the offensive line need to flow together as one unit and be able to read the defense together to know where and when the pressure will be coming from. Some of Joe's best throws against the Colts were made when he stepped up past the pressure and found receivers down-field for big gains.

For Flacco to succeed his receivers will need to create separation and fight hard for the ball once it is in the air. We saw a lot of that from Anquan Boldin last week and it changed the whole game for Baltimore. Many of those passes to Boldin were highly contested but he went up and took the ball out of the air before the defender could do anything about it. we will need to see more of that this week.

Offensive line:

Last week we saw the emergence of the Ravens best offensive line group. It is still a mystery as to why the team waited so long to use this particular grouping but they will need the same effort from the same group of players in Denver for the offense to succeed.

Bryant McKinnie had a good game against the Colts and held the left side down well with rookie Kelechi Osemele at left guard. The combination of these two on the left makes that side of the line much stronger.

On the right side right tackle Michael Oher still had his issues. He was flagged for a couple of penalties and was beaten badly a few times by one of the leagues premier pass rushers Robert Mathis. However, Oher is working with Marshal Yanda on the right side who may be the teams best over all linemen and both seem to excel in run blocking so don't be surprised to see the team run behind this combination to the right side more often this week.

Mckinnie and Osemele get the edge in pass protection but Oher and Yanda are the more athletic of the linemen and can block farther down-field for the run game. If Oher can get his penalties under control and the team uses a tight end or running back to help out on the right side in passing situations the Ravens offensive line could have a great impact in Saturdays game. Or, they could fall apart and become effected by the thin air in Denver as most big bodied men do, in which case the Ravens will be in for a long, hard day.

Defensive line:

In this post I'm going with the theme that football games are won in the trenches. Well, and of course quarterback play has it's part as well. So, just as the offensive line is key to the success of the offense, the defensive line will be the key to the success of the defense.

Last week the defensive line played great. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was harassed all day by Paul Kruger and company due to well timed blitzes and great pass rushing schemes by defensive coordinator Dean Peas. The Ravens will need an equally good effort this week form the boys up front on defense.

By now I'm sure that most of you have heard the comments made by former Raven and Bronco Trevor Pryce but in case you haven't I'll sum it up for you. Pryce stated that the "secret" to beating Baltimore was to simply knock over nose tackle Terrence Cody, put a body on Ray Lewis and run all over them... Okay.. Well, I guess Pryce is still tasting some sour grapes since the Ravens released him mid-season a few years ago. Pryce also hinted that knocking over Cody wasn't exactly a hard thing to do. Let's hope that Cody took that to heart and uses it as "tacklin Feul" to borrow a line from "The Water Boy". Poor Trevor, ever since the Ravens released him all he has done is go to that Joke of a team in New York and get demolished by the Ravens every time they played. I guess I'd be pissed too. The sad thing is the Ravens said they had plans on resigning him the following week. It was his decision to follow Rex Ryan to New York.

Now that the Ravens seem to be as healthy as they have been all year the defense is playing great and hopefully that play will continue even against the purple and black Kryptonite that is Peyton Manning. If the defensive line can shut down the run game before it starts and make the offense one dimensional, hopefully, the Ravens can start to tee off on Manning with the pass rush and perhaps force a turnover or five.

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