That's a tough one. One might think that a 3-3 team is just going to beat a 6-0 team and that the Denver Broncos will walk, run and throw all over the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. However, while the records are vastly different, these are two pretty good teams and the Ravens are definitely no walk-over.
People look at the Broncos top rated defense in just about every category, although before the season those same people would have expected those gaudy stats to be associated with the Ravens defense, not the Broncos. But just like the turnaround that teams have enjoyed this season, the games can do the same thing.
(More on "How to Beat the Denver Broncos" after the 'Jump')
Sixty minutes may seem like a long time, but a lot can happen in just a couple of plays, much less an entire game. Change a few plays in each game that both teams have played so far and we could just as easily be looking at the 6-0 Baltimore Ravens hosting the 3-3 Denver Broncos. However, we're not and while some may look at it as the Broncos have been good enough to win those close games while the Ravens have not, I'll take the thought that the Ravens are a lot better team than their 3-3 record indicates.
So then how does this .500 team, with the trend of blowing winnable games in the final moments overcome this issue against a team that probably won't be doing Baltimore any favors that say, a Cleveland team, might hand us? That's the easy part, just play sixty full minutes of football for a change of pace. Don't let the game come down to the final moments and have to put the pressure to win the game on the defense, much less the offense either. Return to what made this team a Championship Game team last season and that is by running the ball and by playing stout defense. Shutting down the Broncos running game is not out of the question, despite the run defense issues the team has had the past two weeks. Being able to move the ball on the ground against one of the NFL's best defense is also a possibility for the Ravens if they stubbornly stick to utilizing their dangerous trio of backs to wear down Denver's smaller but athletic front seven as the game goes on.
While many talk about the Ravens poor pass defense, the team had the entire Bye week to address that obvious issue and while we should expect Denver to try to exploit it, they won't try to win the game through the air, as that is just not what got them this far in the first place. Remember the Ravens really didn't amp up their defense and safety Ed Reed didn't unleash his great 2008 season until week nine of last year, so there's no reason we can't overcome this problem starting a week earlier in the eighth week in 2009. Tied into the defense's improvement would be taking a lead and stopping the Broncos' run game, forcing Kyle Orton to go to the air earlier and more often than their gameplan would prefer. Covering Brandon Marshall with extra help and not letting their TE get loose across the middle will be the best way to contain the big plays.
Offensively, the Ravens will need the big play and have been able to get them with surprisingly regularity this season. Doing it against the stingy Broncos defense is a tougher task but we still should be able to move the ball. Scoring against the Denver defense has proven tough, especially in the second half, which will determine the victor in this game. Coming out the gate to start the second half needs to be critical and not waiting until the fourth quarter when we enter the desperation mode is not the way to win.
Speaking of big plays, Sunday would be a great time to see the explosiveness of kick returner Lardarius Webb break out with a long one or even take it all the way to the house. At the same time, the Broncos' Eddie Royal did that twice in one game last time they played, so limiting his effectiveness is as big a key as our returns.
Finally, while our placekicking game is behind the eight ball right now, this would be a perfect chance for Steven Hauschka to quiet the naysayers by hitting all his attempts to either keep us in the game or even win it to erase the memories and the ghosts that are still haunting him.
All together, this is a very winnable game Sunday, but it will take the Ravens playing their best for sixty full minutes, while hoping the Broncos give us a couple of gifts along the way. If that does happen and it is definitely a possibility, the Ravens can begin the same turnaround of the season that they did last year on their way to the AFC Championship Game.