Scouting report

Ravens vs. Broncos

December 11, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Broncos run defense

When backup Chester Taylor is healthy, the Ravens' pattern has been to give him more carries than starter Jamal Lewis. In his past two games, Taylor has gained 99 yards on 30 carries. A week after recording his first 100-yard game of the season (113 yards against Cincinnati), Lewis was limited to 17 yards on a season-low eight carries last Sunday. Lewis' five lost fumbles are the most among NFL running backs. The Broncos have the third-best run defense in the NFL, but they had major lapses in the fourth quarter against Kansas City last week. Outside linebacker Ian Gold leads Denver with 84 tackles and three forced fumbles.

Edge -- Broncos

Ravens pass offense vs. Broncos pass defense

Denver has the NFL's fourth-worst pass defense, which is a deceptive ranking. The Broncos only allow 6.55 yards an attempt, the ninth-best average in the league. The Ravens aren't a threat to stretch the field with quarterback Kyle Boller, who has averaged a lowly 5.45 yards per attempt. Boller didn't throw an interception last Sunday but still has seven picks in five starts. Denver has 16 interceptions, including seven by cornerback Champ Bailey (two touchdowns). Ravens receiver Derrick Mason has tailed off the past two games, catching six passes and dropping three. Pass protection could be a problem considering three starters are banged up (left tackle Jonathan Ogden, left guard Edwin Mulitalo and center Mike Flynn) and two backups are starting on the right side (guard Brian Rimpf and tackle Tony Pashos).

Edge --Broncos

Broncos run offense vs. Ravens run defense

This is the biggest concern for the Ravens. Their run defense has been shoddy lately, allowing three running backs to reach 100 yards in four weeks. The Broncos have the second-best running game in the NFL and can attack in so many different ways. Running backs Mike Anderson (70.8 yards a game), Tatum Bell (6.2 yards a carry) and Ron Dayne (6.3 yards a carry) have combined for 15 touchdowns this season. When the Ravens have wanted to shut down the run this season, they have replaced a safety with a fourth linebacker. But the Ravens don't even have a legitimate fourth linebacker today because of injuries. They will be missing two key starters in their run defense: linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring/injured reserve) and defensive end Tony Weaver (back).

Edge -- Broncos

Broncos pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Denver quarterback Jake Plummer has finally found consistency in his career, completing more than 62 percent of his throws in each of his past seven games. But he has thrown three interceptions the past two weeks after going eight games without one. Receiver Rod Smith (63 receptions and five touchdowns) has accounted for about 30 percent of Denver's catches. Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister is expected to return to the NFL's No. 7 pass defense after missing the past six quarters with a hamstring injury. Deion Sanders is scheduled to make his second start at safety alongside Ed Reed, who has no interceptions in six games this season. Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who had a career-high three sacks last Sunday, will go against left tackle Matt Lepsis, who has allowed only half a sack in 12 games this season.

Edge -- Broncos

Special teams

Ravens kicker Matt Stover has converted 21 of his past 22 field-goal attempts, including two game-winners over the past three games. The Broncos' Jason Elam, who has eight field goals beyond 40 yards, has connected on 13 of his past 14 tries. Despite his decision-making blunders, Ravens punt returner B.J. Sams leads the AFC with an 11.2-yard return average. Denver punter Todd Sauerbrun is third in the AFC with a 45.4-yard average. Ravens punter Dave Zastudil is averaging a career-best 43.6 yards, which is 2 yards higher than his career average.

Edge -- Even

Intangibles

The Ravens have won four straight games against Denver, but that streak means only that the Broncos will not overlook a 4-8 team. The road continues to be an unkind place for the Ravens, who have lost nine in a row away from home. Denver is 6-0 at home this season, winning by an average of 14.7 points. The weather (a projected 51 degrees) shouldn't be a factor for the Ravens, but the altitude will be.

Edge -- Broncos

Prediction

Remember all those Ravens wins over the Broncos, like the playoff victory in January 2001, or the big upset on Monday Night Football in September 2002? Denver certainly does. Today is payback time.

Broncos -- 30-6

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