Ravens Vs. Broncos

Nfl Week 8

M&t Bank Stadium, 1 P.m., Chs. 13, 9

October 26, 2003|By Jamison Hensley

SCOUTING REPORT

Ravens run offense vs. Broncos run defense -- RAVENS

With the NFL's top ground game, the Ravens are the only team in the league with more yards rushing than passing. Jamal Lewis has rushed for 100 yards in five straight games and has broken a run of at least 17 yards in each game during that stretch. But the league's leading rusher has averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in two meetings against the Broncos, whose leading tackler (Al Wilson) roomed with Lewis at the University of Tennessee. Considered more physical than past Denver defenses, this group has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season with a run defense that ranks ninth in the league.

Ravens pass offense vs. Broncos pass defense -- BRONCOS

Protecting banged-up quarterback Kyle Boller is critical against a sack-happy Denver front four. Dating to last season, the Broncos have totaled 44 sacks in 14 wins and 15 sacks in nine losses. Boller gained some confidence by throwing for 302 yards in a failed comeback attempt against Cincinnati. But the rookie has yet to throw for more than 100 yards in consecutive games and will be slightly hindered by a sprained left (non-throwing) shoulder. Just like last season, the Ravens will take their shots downfield with tight end Todd Heap, who had his breakout game against Denver. The Broncos' secondary is underrated and not known for making big plays, but it has limited quarterbacks to less than 183 yards passing in five of seven games.

Broncos run offense vs. Ravens run defense -- EVEN

To win, the Ravens must contain running back Clinton Portis. With Denver down to its third-string quarterback, it wouldn't be surprising to see Portis carry more than 30 times. A slashing-type runner, Portis has gained more than 100 yards rushing in four of his six games this season, including 117 in Minnesota last Sunday. The Ravens have traditionally excelled against the Broncos' running scheme because they use their athleticism and quickness to maneuver around Denver's cut blocks. In their past three meetings, the Ravens have held Denver to 3.2 yards per carry (200 yards on 63 attempts).

Broncos pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense -- RAVENS

No. 3 quarterback Danny Kanell missed Friday's practice and is recovering from the flu, but he's still expected to start his first game in 35 months. Kanell has a reputation for being inaccurate at times and has struggled with deep throws. The Ravens probably will blitz to test an offensive line that allowed five sacks last week and to hurry the stationary pocket passer into quick decisions. With Ed McCaffrey (knee) sidelined, the Broncos are left with three receivers - Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie and Adrian Madise. Denver will look to match up Lelie, a laser-quick deep threat, against Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller.

Special teams -- EVEN

The Ravens beat Denver last year on the strength of their special teams and could capitalize again today. A blocked punt, a 64-yard kickoff return and a return of a missed field goal for a touchdown led to 17 points for the Ravens. The Ravens' coverage teams are among the best in the NFL and should have no trouble handling punt returner Deltha O'Neal or backup kick returner Reuben Droughns, who is filling in for the injured Chris Cole. The Ravens are looking for a spark from their return game and likely will have Dedric Ward run back punts for the first time this season.

Intangibles -- RAVENS

The Ravens have owned Denver for the past three years, delivering emotional blows in the playoffs and on Monday Night Football. Plus, the rash of ailments to three quarterbacks has to plant doubt in the Broncos' locker room. Denver has lost its past two road games by a total of nine points. Since 2000, the Broncos are 16-4 following losses.

Prediction -- RAVENS

Death, taxes and the Ravens beating Denver. Relying on a resurgent defense, the Ravens will make it four years in a row over the Broncos by keeping them out of the end zone. Look for the Ravens' pass rush to force a couple of interceptions from Kanell - or whatever healthy body Denver pushes out there - and set up some easy scores for its offense. Ravens, 20-9.

GAME FACTS

Records

Broncos 5-2 Ravens 3-3

Line

Ravens by 2

Vs. spread

Broncos 4-3 Ravens 3-3

Series

Ravens lead 3-1

Last meeting

Ravens won, 34-23, on Sept. 30, 2002, in Baltimore.

NFL rankings

Broncos offense: Overall (12), rush (3), pass (21).

Broncos defense: Overall (4), rush (9), pass (6).

Ravens offense: Overall (20), rush (1), pass (31).

Ravens defense: Overall (9), rush (10), pass (17).

Quick hits

Broncos have outscored opponents 109-53 in the first half for the best first-half differential (+56) in the AFC.

Ravens LB Ray Lewis has team-high 48 tackles, with two interceptions and one sack, in the past three meetings with the Broncos.

Injuries

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