NFL

NFL Football is Back: Denver Hosts Baltimore in Playoff Rematch

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Joe Flacco’s billboard is plastered on the outside of Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Fitting, because the impact of what happened in this same venue in January changed so many fortunes, including Flacco’s. The Baltimore Ravens were within a few plays of not having a chance to win a Super Bowl title. There was the 4th and 29 play against San Diego in the regular season, and then the deep bomb from Flacco to Jacoby Jones to tie the playoff game in Denver.

Just think what the perception of Flacco would be if either of those things never happened. Does NFL expert Ron Jaworski actually rank Flacco in his top five quarterbacks based on film study of a season when Flacco was more middle of the pack in passing numbers?

It is a chance for Flacco to affirm the huge postseason that followed that play. The Ravens went in to that game as a huge underdog, with Denver’s defense ranking highly in the regular season. Instead, the Baltimore offense went toe to toe for much of the game, even before that big throw. This one would seem to shape up as an offensive shootout, with the same question. Can the Ravens offense keep up with Denver.

Baltimore has plenty of defensive turnover, though what they lose in experience, they make up for in improved speed. Denver, meanwhile, will be without Von Miller after his suspension, to go along with Elvis Dumervil, who will now be playing on the other sideline.

Keys to the game: What kind of defensive pass rush pressure can the Broncos get on Joe Flacco? How quickly does the Ravens’ revamped defense come together to slow down the new dynamic receiving trio of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker?

The Line: Denver favored by 7.5

The Pick: High scoring, close game. The defending Super Bowl champs are a huge underdog, so I’ll go with them to keep it close. Revenge? These are professionals, man, go out and play the game. Vengeance is easier if Von Miller is rushing the passer. Denver 31, Baltimore 27

Related: Joe Flacco Confirms It: Winning the Super Bowl is “F—ing Awesome” [Video]
Related: Joe Flacco Will Be Without Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin, Who Combined for 7 of Ravens’ 11 Receiving Touchdowns in the Super Bowl Run

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