The battle for the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs takes place Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens host the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.
The 10-3 Broncos can almost assure themselves of at least one home playoff game by beating Baltimore Sunday, but will need New England and Houston to lose twice in the final three weeks to move any higher.
Denver lost to both clubs earlier this season, but are currently on an eight-game win streak. Last week they dropped the Oakland Raiders 26-13, despite going 2-for-7 in the red zone.
Quarterback Peyton Manning went 26-for-36 for 310 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but Knowshown Moreno led the offense most of the game with his 119 rushing yards on 32 carries.
Much of Denver’s success this season lies with Manning, but the Broncos defense has quietly become a force, ranking seventh against the pass and sixth against the rush.
The 9-4 Ravens can also move up the playoff ranks with a victory, but first have to shake off last week’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.
Running back Ray Rice rushed for 121 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries, and Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns, but the offense whiffed on their sole possession in overtime and Baltimore fell.
Baltimore ownership might’ve blamed the loss on offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who the Ravens later fired. Jim Caldwell was then promoted to take his place.
The Ravens can also lock down the third seed with a victory Sunday, but must also beat the New York Giants and rival Cincinnati Bengals to ensure a home playoff game.
They were expecting a boost from future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who was to return from a torn triceps muscle he suffered earlier this season, but Baltimore did not activate him this week.
The game begins at 1 p.m. EDT and will be shown by CBS, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Denver is favored by 3 points
Over/Under: 48 points
Prediction: The key for a Ravens win will be Flacco, since Denver should focus their defense on Rice. Baltimore’s defense has been depleted to injuries and advanced age, and may struggle against Manning. Look for Denver to pull away in the third quarter for the win.
Predicted Score: Denver 31, Baltimore 20