Few pundits have given them much of a chance, but the Baltimore Ravens have exuded a quiet confidence throughout the week as they travel to Denver to take on the No. 1 seed Broncos in Saturday’s AFC divisional round matchup.
The memory of a 34-17 beating suffered against these same Broncos in Baltimore last month has been a difficult one to erase, but the Ravens hope the return of five starters injured for that contest and the continued development of the offense under new coordinator Jim Caldwell will reverse those fortunes. Despite being a 10-point underdog, Baltimore aims to advance to the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row.
The Ravens are healthier than they’ve been at any point since the early stages of the season as the final injury report listed 17 players as probable for Saturday’s game. Offensive lineman Jah Reid was ruled out but was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Friday.
With Reid out for the wild-card game against Indianapolis, the Ravens made the long-awaited move to place veteran Bryant McKinnie in the starting lineup at left tackle while shifting Michael Oher to right tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele at left guard. Head coach John Harbaugh hopes the line shuffle will pay dividends again Saturday after the Denver defense pummeled Joe Flacco in Week 15, sacking him three times and hitting him nine times. It won’t be easy as Denver’s Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 29 1/2 sacks, the highest total among any pass-rushing duo in the league.
In his final meeting against Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense hope to finally get the best of the future Hall of Fame quarterback after nine straight losses. Baltimore hasn’t won a game in Denver since the 2001 season, the same year in which the Ravens won their last contest against Manning.
It will be bitterly cold in Denver with temperatures not expected to even reach 20 degrees for the 4:30 p.m. ET start. And, of course, the high altitude has been a topic of discussion as the Ravens play a game in Denver for the first time since 2006.
Saturday’s referee will be Bill Vinovich.
Baltimore will be wearing white jerseys and black pants while Denver sports its orange tops with white pants.
The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series by a 5-4 margin and own the victory in the only playoff meeting between the clubs, a 21-3 final in Baltimore on Dec. 31, 2000. That was the same postseason in which the Ravens won their only NFL championship in Super Bowl XXXV.
Here are Saturday’s inactives …
WR David Reed
S Omar Brown
CB Chris Johnson
LB Adrian Hamilton
OL Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
DT Bryan Hall
QB Caleb Hanie
WR Andre Caldwell
CB Tracy Porter
FB Chris Gronkowski
TE Julius Thomas
OL C.J. Davis
NT Sealver Siliga
Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day as Nestor Aparicio brings live updates from Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.