Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos Point Spread – Pick

Baltimore Ravens (11-6 SU, 7-9-1 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS)
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Date/Time: Saturday, January 12th, 2013, 4:30 p.m. EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
TV: CBS
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Bal +9/Den -9
Over/Under Total: 45.5

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With an AFC Wild Card victory already in hand the Baltimore Ravens now will attempt to go on the road to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on Peyton Manning and the red hot Denver Broncos in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game Saturday on CBS.

Baltimore secured their date in Denver Saturday afternoon with a, 24-9, victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the opening round Sunday. Middle Linebacker Ray Lewis came back to lead an inspired Ravens defensive effort that bent a lot, but didn’t break, and Joe Flacco and the offense went back to their ground-n-pound running attack to get past the Colts and punch their ticket to the second round.

But now it gets difficult, as they will take on Manning and the Broncos who are riding an 11-game win streak that propelled them to the AFC West title and all the way to the top seed and homefield throughout the AFC playoffs.

Saturday’s AFC Divisional playoff tilt will also be a rematch of week 15 action that saw the Broncos go into M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and lay a, 34-17, whoopin’ on the Ravens. Don’t be fooled, the Broncos victory over the Ravens back in December was even more lopsided than the score shows, as they led 31-3 midway through the third quarter before taking their foot of the pedal.

With the Broncos rested and red hot, and playing at home in the upper atmosphere of Mile High, it should be no surprise that Denver opened as 9-point favorites. With the large point spread still less than 24 hours old, most of the early money has come in on the underdog Ravens, but ironically the sportsbooks that have moved off the opening number have actually gone up to either minus -9.5 or even -10.

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The over/under total opened at 45.5 and has held there after the early steam at most books, but the few that have moved the number have gone up to 46 to bring the push back into play.

Offensively it will be interesting to see how much the week off will affect the Broncos and Manning, since they finished the regular season pretty much hitting on all cylinders averaging nearly 400 yards (398 - 4th in NFL) and over 30 points (30.1 - 2nd)) per game. Denver scored an average of 36 points in their final three games, starting with the 34 they put on the Ravens the last time they met in week 15, so the bye week may end up cooling them off as opposed to gaining any advantage with the week watching.

Also, it’s not like the Broncos needed to rest anyone during the bye. Other than the natural bumps and bruises following a 16-game campaign, the Broncos are healthy with just return man Trindon Holliday (ankle - questionable) and extra defensive back Tracy Porter (concussions - out) on the injury list out of the players that contributed to the Broncos 13-win season (not including the players already on I-R).

Manning and the Broncos will be playing against a different Ravens defense then the last time they met though, as Lewis returned to his linebacker spot to put all of the Ravens big-name defenders on the field all at once for the first time all season. The Ravens did give up an alarming 419 yards to the Colts last week, and they also “allowed” Indy to hold almost a full 15-minute time advantage on the Ravens offense, but they did hold the Colts to just three field goals. Those two trends could prove fatal against the Broncos however, unless the Ravens defense can find a way to get off the field on third down (allowed Colts 45%, 9-of-20).

The Ravens rediscovered their roots on offense last week with 172 yards on an impressive 32 carries (5.3 ypc). But before anyone anoints O-Coordinator Jim Caldwell as the savior and the Raven run attack as being back, a deeper look at their offensive numbers paints a slightly less rosy picture.

First, a majority of those running yards came from backup running back Bernard Pierce (13 carries for 103), and Pierce came up huge in place of Ray Rice who put the ball on the ground twice with two drive-killing fumbles and ended up the game clearly in the Ravens doghouse. Those yards also came against the Colts, the team that entered the game as the 29th-ranked run defense in the league, a far, far cry from what they’ll face this week against the Broncos and the 3rd-ranked unit in the NFL (91 ypg allowed).

In fact, the Denver defense has been overshadowed by Manning all season long but they deserve as much credit for the No. 1 seed as anybody. LB Von Miller (18.5 sacks) and DE Elvis Dumervil are one of the best, if not thee best pass-rushing duos in the game right now, and when combined with veterans Keith Brooking, Wesley Woodyard and Champ Bailey in the back-half the Broncos were the quietest 2nd-ranked defense the NFL has probably ever fielded (291 ypg; 4th in scoring at 18.1 ppg).

Prior to the Broncos victory in week 15, the Ravens had actually enjoyed a mini two-game win streak SU over Denver (31-17 in 2009, 30-7 in 2010). However, Baltimore hasn’t won a game in Denver since a, 20-13, win at Mile High in 2001, going 3-1 SU (2-1-1 ATS) in games played in Denver in the head-to-head series.

As far as betting trends are concerned, the home team (5-2 ATS in L7) and the favorite (4-0 ATS in L4) have enjoyed this series in recent history. Overall Baltimore is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 head-to-head meetings, but the Broncos are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home playoff games whereas the Ravens are a draining 1-5 ATS in their last six AFC Divisional playoff games.

The over/under trends are a toss up, as just about every Ravens trend points to an under wager (5-1 in L6 playoff games, 4-1 in L5 Divisional games) while every Broncos trends points to the over (5-1 in L6 playoff games, 8-3-1 in their 12 AFC games this season).

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game kind of reminds me of the BCS National Championship game. We’ve got a well respected team showing up as a huge, along with huge public backing. And then reality sets in and the better teams blows them out. I like Denver to win and cover convincingly.

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