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Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos - predictions, team news, head to head

Sports Mole previews Sunday's NFL showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

The top rushing attack in the NFL will take on perhaps the most underrated team in the league at the moment as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Empower Field at Mile High to battle the Denver Broncos.

Last Sunday, a last-second field goal gave Baltimore its second consecutive narrow victory of the season, while Denver are one of only four teams in the league who are still unbeaten after they had no trouble taking care of the New York Jets 26-0.

Match preview

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) gets mobbed after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 26, 2021© Reuters

After three games, the 2021 campaign has been smooth sailing for Vic Fangio and his team, who won all three of their contests last month, a rarity for them in recent years after they had dropped eight consecutive September encounters heading into this season.

Even though the former three-time Super Bowl champions are off to their best start since 2016, it should be noted that their first three opponents - the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets - are not the strongest squads out there, with only nine wins combined between the three of them in 2020.

When the Broncos have the ball, they enjoy playing some old-fashioned smash-mouth football which has been effective up to this point, averaging 127.3 yards per contest on the ground.

A year ago, they lacked discipline on the defensive side of the ball as they were the second-most penalized team in the league, and so far, after three games this year, that is an area that still needs improvement with 21 infractions already, which has cost them over 200 yards.

As a former defensive assistant with the Ravens over a decade ago where he coached among others the great Ray Lewis, it should come as no surprise to know that Fangio and the Broncos are one of the top defensive units in the league right now, allowing only 8.7 points per game through the first three weeks of the year.

While they won their first regular-season home game of 2021 last Sunday, coming away victorious on their home field has not happened as often as they would have liked, losing six of their last nine games played in the Mile-High City.

On the offensive side of the ball, Fangio has to be pleased with the decision-making of his new quarterback, who has yet to throw an interception this season, a sharp contrast from what we saw from the five different QBs who lined up behind center for Denver in 2020, tossing 23 picks between them.

Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (25) celebrates his rushing touchdown with tight end Andrew Beck (83) and offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) in the second quarter against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High on  September 26, 2021© Reuters

If you are looking for drama and nail-biting action in the NFL, then you might want to watch the Ravens play more often as they have produced three incredibly tight encounters so far in their 2021 campaign.

After losing in overtime in their opening week of the season, their running game went toe-to-toe with the passing attack of Patrick Mahomes and the two-time AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs, with Baltimore scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter and winning 36-35.

As if that was not enough, they followed that up with a last-second win over the Detroit Lions, scoring only three points in the final quarter, but it was all that they would need to win 19-17 and improve their record to 2-1.

John Harbaugh has seen his players endure three of the most physically and emotionally draining wins that we have witnessed from any team to start the year, so you have to wonder if they can maintain that kind of momentum in what promises to be a fairly competitive AFC North.

Baltimore are 5-1 in their last five road matchups thanks to a formidable rushing attack who are averaging 185.3 yards per game.

When you play the Ravens, you know that you are usually in for a battle as they do not concede a lot of points, allowing 20 or fewer on 31 occasions since 2018.

However, after three games this year that number has gone up as they are allowing an average of 28.3 points and 393.7 yards per game against some pretty potent offensive sides.

Denver Broncos form:
  • W
  • W
  • W

Baltimore Ravens form:
  • L
  • W
  • W

Team News

Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High on September 26, 2021© Reuters

Broncos pivot Teddy Bridgewater seems to be what this team have been looking for early on, making smart decisions with the ball, completing 76.8% of his passes for 827 yards, four touchdowns and perhaps most importantly, zero interceptions.

Running back Melvin Gordon leads the team with 193 yards on the ground and a pair of TDs, Justin Strnad has 12 tackles, Von Miller already has four sacks, and free safety Justin Simmons had his 17th career pick for Denver last weekend.

Their guard Graham Glasgow has not recovered from his knee problem, Dalton Risner missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle sprain, Melvin Gordon saw limited reps with a rib injury and defensive end Shelby Harris is hoping to recover from his wrist injury.

Move over Adam Vinatieri, there is a new clutch performer, and his name is Justin Tucker as the Ravens kicker is now 16 for 16 on field-goal attempts in the final minute of regulation, including a 66-yarder to beat the Lions - the longest kick in NFL history.

QB Lamar Jackson continues to be a force with his legs, rushing for 58 yards on seven carries this past weekend, becoming the first quarterback since 1950 to rack up over 250 yards on the ground in his team's first three regular-season affairs.

Safety DeShon Elliott has a quad injury, Pernell McPhee is suffering from a shoulder issue, Alejandro Villanueva and Tavon Young are nursing knee injuries and Derek Wolfe is suffering from back spasms.

Head To Head

These teams have only met 14 times since Baltimore rejoined the league in 1996, with the Ravens holding an 8-6 edge, including a 27-14 win at home in their last matchup against the Broncos in 2018.

Perhaps the most memorable game between these clubs came in the 2012 AFC Divisional playoff round, when Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard TD pass with less than a minute to play to force overtime, where Tucker connected on a 47-yard field goal in the second OT session for the win, with the Ravens going on to capture their second Super Bowl.

In recent memory, one side have been able to pull away in these encounters with only two of the last eight meetings between these AFC teams resulting in single-digit victories.

SM words green background

We say: Denver Broncos 10-21 Baltimore Ravens

The mobility of Lamar Jackson will always keep the Ravens in a ballgame, and going up against one of the best defensive units in football, expect to see a lot of run plays as Baltimore will want to keep that defense on the field for a long time and wear them down.

This is the first true test for Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos, but the Denver QB is not capable of producing the same kind of magic that Jackson can when there is pressure, so expect to see the Broncos offense turn the ball over a couple of times.

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Justin Tucker in action for Baltimore Ravens on December 1, 2019
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