Ravens - Broncos: Gameday inside slant

Week 14 in the NFL sees the Baltimore Ravens (4-8) on the road in Denver to meet AFC West Division leading Broncos (9-3). We take a quick look at what to look for on each side of the football and what each team needs to do to win.

When the Ravens have the football

Expect offensive coordinator Jim Fassel trying to direct passes more often to receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap in anticipation of Denver defensive coordinator Larry Coyer adjusting to rookie wideout Mark Clayton's emergence last week. The Ravens have to try to throw Denver off-guard by being willing to throw the ball on early downs, especially because the Broncos are so stout against the run with swift linebackers Al Wilson, Ian Gold and D.J. Williams. Keep an eye on whether disgruntled running back Jamal Lewis' complaints result in more of fewer carries. The rotation between Lewis and Chester Taylor is a reality that will definitely continue.

Key matchup

OT Jonathan Ogden vs. RE Trevor Pryce

Ogden was limited to two series last week with a tight hamstring, and will be looking to reassert himself against a sizable, accomplished pass rusher.

How the Ravens can win

1. Throw the football. The Broncos' major defensive strength lies in their ability to neutralize the run. The Ravens have to be less predictable and throw on first down to keep Denver honest.
2. Be careful around Champ Bailey. With Kyle Boller having thrown seven interceptions in five games, he needs to ascertain whether the gifted cornerback is baiting him into a mistake. Bailey is second in the AFC with seven interceptions.
3. Contain quarterback Jake Plummer. Plummer is most dangerous when throwing on the run and is an elusive scrambler.

When the Broncos have the football

If the Ravens are successful at slowing down a versatile, physical running game, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak won't hesitate to entrust the game to quarterback Jake Plummer's suddenly capable hands. Plummer's development into an accurate, reliable passer with 61.5 percent accuracy, 15 touchdowns and a 91.2 passer rating has been a major reason why this offense has admirable balance. Denver is averaging 25.8 points a game on 18 touchdown runs and 15 touchdown passes.

Key matchup

TE Todd Heap vs. S John Lynch

Heap is one of the most athletic tight ends, and Lynch is one of the NFL's most devastating hitters. He considers the middle of the field to be a no-crossing zone.

How the Broncos can win
1. Run the football. With the No. 2 rushing attack in the NFL, an average of 5.0 per carry and 18 touchdown runs, the Broncos are invigorated by the presence of a Baltimore defense that has allowed three 100-yard rushers in the past month.
2. Throw deep to Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie. It's likely the Ravens will stack the line of scrimmage with eight defenders. That could leave the outside vulnerable, particularly if cornerback Chris McAlister can't go because of a nagging hamstring problem.
3. Bring the heat. The Ravens are susceptible to intricate blitz packages and as many as three to four starters could miss this game with injuries.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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