At one point when the Baltimore Ravens had to play against the Indianapolis Colts, the fans of Charm City were excited to have the opportunity to pound the team that left their proud city. However, the Colts had quarterback Peyton Manning and he has tormented the Ravens for the past few years.
Over time, the thrill of going up against Manning was not very thrilling as he posted an 8-2 record against the Ravens. So, when Manning was expected to left the Colts to sign with another team, there was probably a sigh of relief knowing that the Ravens would not have to face number 18 no time soon. Until, the 2012 NFL schedule surfaced and the Broncos were on the Ravens’ calendar – then Manning signed with Denver.
The Ravens’ playoffs situation does not look good right now after losing two consecutive games, with three contests left against playoff caliber teams. Apparently, Manning’s timing of playing against the Ravens is critical, especially since he could easily be labeled as – the Raven Killer.
“The Baltimore folks asked me about that as well,” said Manning when asked about his history against the Ravens. “Those were different teams, different players. I can’t speak to the past. I really can’t speak to what’s happened here, the history of Denver in Baltimore. All I know is we’re going on the road playing an excellent team. They’re extremely tough to play at home. They’ve had some injuries like all teams do, but I know they have that ‘next man up’ mentality.
“Defensively, they create a lot of turnovers, and they’re extremely tough to score touchdowns against once you get in the red zone,” he continued. “They hold a lot of teams to field goals, if not turnovers. That’s our challenge this week, is trying to win against that.”
In the face of the big bad Ravens (9-4), a team that intimidated many players and opponents in previous years, Manning simply picked Baltimore’s defense apart with no fear – against units that had younger leaders in linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and the better core of defenders who supported them.
Sunday when the Broncos (10-3) ventures to Baltimore, a franchise that is 0-5 against the Ravens, Manning will face a Ravens’ squad who will not have the services of their spiritual leader in Lewis, who will not be activated to play after having surgery on his right triceps which placed him on the injured reserve-designated to return list in October, and a banged up Reed who playing with a bum shoulder.
Nevertheless, Manning praises and respects the leadership of Lewis and Reed.
“I think Ray, like I said, his intensity and his passion, it’s real,” said Manning. “I’ve always kind of kidded, Ray is just as intense and passionate in the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason game as he is in the first quarter of a playoff game. It’s real. That’s pretty special and that’s pretty unique. Some guys can turn it on in the big games. He always has it on. Every time I’ve played against him, which has been a bunch, I have great respect for the way he prepares for the game mentally.
“But his intensity and passion and spirit over there, it’s real and it’s contagious for his teammates, which is a great quality,” he continued. “It’s very difficult. He’s a tremendous player whose intensity, whose passion has not changed one bit since 1998, the first year I played against him, which is pretty impressive for a guy in his 17th year.
“Ed Reed is, in my opinion, the best safety in the NFL,” he added. “Has been this past decade. You really kind of can go on and on. Tremendous ball skills, tremendous range, tremendous athlete based on what he does with the ball once he gets it in his hands. [He’s] one of the smarter defensive players I’ve ever played against.”
Other than not having all their leaders healthy and ready to play, the Ravens will be vulnerable to Manning’s passing attack because he has more talented weapons and Baltimore’s defense lacks consistent discipline, especially in the secondary. Without a healthy linebacker in Terrell Suggs, the Ravens had issues with putting consistent pressure on quarterbacks all season.
Number 18 also has a defense that can compete against the Ravens’ offense.
It is safe to say that Manning will have a 9-2 record against the Ravens by Sunday evening.
Barry Barnes is the founder of LockerReport.com and you can follow him @2BSports