Looking for heartening news going into the Ravens playoff game Saturday against heavily favored Denver? How 'bout this: The AFC’s top seed (Denver, 13-3, this year) has gone 13-9 in the divisional round of NFL playoffs since its current format began in 1990.
It’s a winning mark, obviously, but the top seed’s 59 percent margin over the past two decades-plus hardly makes knocking off a young Denver squad mission impossible. Interestingly, in the NFC, the top seed is just 1-4 since 2007 in the divisional playoffs, according to an enlightening analysis by the Denver Post, of all sources.
Oddsmakers, nonetheless, have installed the Broncos as 9.5-point favorites.
Of course, the Broncos handled the Ravens easily during Week 15 at M&T Bank Stadium, but as many have noted, much has changed in Baltimore since then. First, Ravens have retooled their offensive line, with former Pro Bowler Bryant McKinney moving back into the starting lineup at left tackle, Michael Oher moving to right tackle — a better fit for him — and the return of standout Marshal Yanda at guard.
The defense, too, has gotten better, with Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata finally all on the field together. The Denver Post also noted the Broncos lost more fumbles this year than all but six teams and more than any in the playoffs.
Also, new Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell seems to be settling in with running the play calling.
And then there’s the Ray Lewis retirement announcement, which adds a certain sense of urgency to the Ravens’ effort.