Records: Baltimore (11-6, 4-4 away), Denver (13-3, 7-1 home)
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 9 1/2, O/U: 46
Briefly: Peyton Manning has been a perfect 10 for the Denver Broncos.
Question is, can he make it 10 in a row against Baltimore? Manning has beaten the Ravens nine consecutive times, the first eight of those when quarterbacking Indianapolis and the ninth in December, when he directed Denver to a 34-17 win at Baltimore.
The Broncos, looking for their first divisional-round victory since 2005, are riding an 11-game winning streak, have the league’s No. 2 defense and a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Manning, the league’s only four-time Most Valuable Player, has poured the foundation for a fifth. A year after sitting out the entire Colts season with a neck injury that required four surgeries, he led the NFL in completion percentage (68.6), and finished second in passer rating (105.8), third in passing touchdowns (37) and sixth in passing yards (4,659).
“It’s been quite a year for me,” he conceded. “I remember one year ago I was in a hospital bed watching opening day, so there’s a little reminder there of how far I’ve come.”
Manning has thrown for 29 touchdowns in his postseason career, which ranks seventh all-time. Were he to throw four touchdown passes against Baltimore, Manning would surpass Dan Marino (32), Kurt Warner (31) and Terry Bradshaw (30).
New England quarterback Tom Brady (38) ranks third on the all-time list, trailing Joe Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44).
Two-time league MVP Warner on the Ravens’ chances: “The key for me is (Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco. Can he find ways to get it to Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice in the passing game, then maybe hit a big play to Torrey Smith? Flacco has to find that intermediate passing game, and he has to be consistent with it. Otherwise, I think the Ravens fall behind and may not be able to get back into it.”
Give Manning an extra week to prepare – plus that Denver defense – the Broncos are not going to lose this game at home. Broncos 31-23.
Sam Farmer, L.A. Times