Ravens rushing vs. Broncos run defense -- BRONCOS
The loss of star running back Jamal Lewis has turned the Ravens from the fifth-best rushing team to the third worst. The line gets pushed back too often and RB Terry Allen has struggled to break tackles. The right side of the Ravens' line is raw, with OG Bennie Anderson making his first start and OT Sammy Williams going for his third start while trying to work through a knee injury. With the additions of DT Chester McGlockton and defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, Denver has been stout so far against the run, ranking sixth in the league.
Ravens passing vs. Broncos pass defense -- RAVENS
The Broncos, who ranked last in pass defense last year, remain vulnerable despite new starting CBs Denard Walker, a four-year starter with the Titans, and Deltha O'Neal, their 2000 first-round pick. Denver has allowed more than 240 yards passing in each game. Ravens QB Elvis Grbac needs protection to be effective. The Broncos have six sacks from five different players.
Broncos rushing vs. Ravens run defense -- RAVENS
Denver's cut-blocking scheme proved to be ineffective in last season's wild-card matchup, when the Ravens held the Broncos to 42 yards rushing on 18 carries. Ravens DTs Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa used their deceptive agility to negate the Broncos' speed along the offensive line. The Ravens rank first in the league in stopping the run, allowing 2.4 yards per carry. Denver has had a 100-yard rusher in eight of its past 18 games, winning all eight.
Broncos passing vs. Ravens pass defense -- BRONCOS
The Broncos have the ability to spread the field and bank on the decision-making of Brian Griese, the NFL's top-rated quarterback. Last week at Arizona, Griese completed 17 straight passes. Denver's Rod Smith, the league's leading receiver, has carried the load with Ed McCaffrey out for the season, making 23 of the team's 43 catches. Last season, Ravens CBs Chris McAlister and Duane Starks teamed to limit Smith to three catches. Teams are completing 62 percent of their passes against the Ravens but are only averaging 4.2 yards per reception.
Special teams -- BRONCOS
Jermaine Lewis will not be at full health, which limits the Ravens' return game. Ravens P Kyle Richardson is only netting 31 yards on his punts, but half of his eight kicks have been inside the 20-yard line. The Broncos are averaging 42.1 net yards on their punts, which is fourth best in the NFL. Denver K Jason Elam has made four of five field-goal tries, with a 65-yarder being his only miss.
Intangibles -- BRONCOS
The Ravens have yet to rekindle the emotion from last year's championship season. The Broncos have the best home record in the NFL since 1974, winning 76 percent of their games (168-54-1). The thin air of Mile High favors a deeper and healthier Denver team. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has a reputation for repaying tough losses, which means the 21-3 wild-card drubbing has not been forgotten.
Prediction -- BRONCOS
The Ravens will respond to last week's wake-up call. But the running game is still on snooze. Broncos, 21-20.
Records: Ravens 1-1; Broncos 2-0.
Line: Broncos by 4 1/2 .
Vs. spread: Ravens 1-1; Broncos 2-0.
Series: Broncos lead 1-0.
Last meeting: Broncos won, 45-34, on Oct. 20, 1996, in Denver.
Quick hits: Ravens QB Grbac has beaten the Broncos the past four times he's played against them, all with the Chiefs. ... Ravens' Shannon Sharpe needs 8 yards to pass Jackie Smith and 70 to pass Ozzie Newsome for second and first place, respectively, in NFL history for receiving yards by a tight end. ... Broncos have won seven straight at home and have scored 30-plus points in seven of their past eight overall. ... QB Brian Griese is 41-for-49 on first and second downs. ... Rod Smith has 100 receiving yards in his first two games. No Broncos WR has done it the first three.
RAVENS: Out: OT Leon Searcy (arm). Doubtful: TE Todd Heap (ankle). Questionable: WR Jermaine Lewis (leg), DE Michael McCrary (knee), WR Brandon Stokley (knee), OT Sammy Williams (knee), FS Rod Woodson (leg). Probable: LB Brad Jackson (chest).
BRONCOS: Out: QB Steve Beuerlein (elbow), RB Terrell Davis (knee). Probable: LB Bill Romanowski (hip), CB Jimmy Spencer (Achilles).
Ravens scout George Kokinis sizes up the Broncos:
Strength:Team speed and depth. As a whole, the offensive line runs real well and opens up seams, which allows them to have a good cutback running game. Their depth allows them to keep rolling in fresh players to counteract the thin air.
Weakness: The loss of WR Ed McCaffrey. Their running game is predicated on how well the line cuts on the back side and how well the receivers block. McCaffrey is one of the best at receiving and blocking.
Key matchup: Ravens DT Sam Adams vs. Broncos G Dan Neil. This is intriguing since they played against each other in high school and college. Neil says he can't block Adams, but he works effectively in Denver's system.