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Ravens vs. Broncos: Preview & Prediction

Silly me. The last two weeks, I predicted victories for the Baltimore Ravens over both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. Alas, both games were disappointing last second losses and now the 10-3 Denver Broncos come to town.

Garrett Ellwood

In fact, if the Baltimore Ravens followed my predictions, they'd be 13-0 headed into Sunday's game, since I have predicted they'd win every one of their games so far this season. Before you say how crazy I am, other than the blowout at the hands of the Houston Texans, there was every reason to expect Baltimore to win the other three games they lost in the 2012 regular season.

The Ravens could have and should have beaten the Philadelphia Eagles in week 2 and as mentioned above, lost the last two games in excruciating fashion, both games they were winning and should have won. At the least, prediction-wise, they could easily be 12-1 headed into this weekend's game, since those three other losses came by a grand total of seven points.

Wouldn't that be great, as if they actually were 12-1, they'd be fighting to stay a game ahead of the Texans for the #1 over AFC playoff seed. Now, they are still fighting for playoff seeding, but it's for the #3 seed and perhaps the #2 seed as well, if the San Francisco 49ers can beat the New England Patriots this weekend.

Unfortunately, Ravens fans, this will be the first game this season that I am actually going to predict a loss for the home team. I've actually thought the Ravens would have won every game this season, even the beatdown in Houston. However, I just cannot see this team rebounding in such a drastic turnaround to beat one of the greatest quarterbacks to lace up the cleats.

While I approve the move to fire OC Cam Cameron and replace him with QB coach Jim Caldwell, we all know the plays won't be changing anytime soon, but hopefully the play-calling will. Will that be enough of a change to elevate QB Joe Flaco to the level he needs to offset the way Broncos QB Peyton Manning should be able to operate like a skilled surgeon and pick apart the porous Ravens secondary, especially one witha limited pass rush?

I just don't see it happening Sunday. I'd love to justify a three-game losing streak predicting games by me if the Ravens screw that up and upset the Broncos to make me look like I jumped off the bandwagon. I haven't and there is no bigger fan out there, but I am a realist and call 'em like I see 'em.

Look Ravens fans, let's be as real as we can at this point of the season. The Ravens have issues on both sides of the ball unlike any 9-4 team. If this was the 3rd game of the season and we had just lost our first two like we just lost our last two, there'd be widespread panic at One Winning Drive and throughout Ravens Nation.

Don't get me wrong, other than the Texans loss, Baltimore has been in every game, competitive to the end, regardless of the outcome. They should be competitive on Sunday as well, but in a close game, are you going with Flacco or one of the two best quarterbacks in the league this year?

Make no bones about, his neck injury that caused him to miss the 2011 season is a thing of the past and he is playing at his All-Pro level while Flacco's inconsistency makes one wonder which Joe Flacco will show up and even if the good one does, for how long? Both halves or just one of them?

When was the last time Flacco or the Ravens played two solid halves of football? It was the 55-20 blowout of the Oakland Raiders and trust me, this Broncos team is no Oakland. Because of Manning's success, the Denver defense gets little attention but their ability to rush the passer is going to give the Ravens fits on both ends of the line. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller cause nightmares and the way Michael Oher has been playing and the injury to Marshal Yanda should give every fan multiple reasons for concern.

At the same time, I am not predicting a blowout loss, but once again, a close enough one to make you wonder, "what if?" This is still a home game and while the Ravens winning streak was broken two weeks ago, this is still one of the toughest stadiums to win in on the road. The Ravens will make a game of it, but fall short in the end. There will be highlights but also low lights and in the end, the Ravens will be on the losing end of the scoreboard.

I'd love to be proven wrong and watch a huge rebound win to re-energize this frustrated fan-base. However, I have a hard time betting against Peyton Manning when there is as much riding on this game for the Broncos as there is for the Ravens and when the chips are down, I've got to go with the guy who has proved it over and over again rather than the guy who has consistently proved it otherwise. Sorry, Ravens fans.

Broncos: 31-23