Ravens/Broncos Preview + College Football Notes





Forgive us.

We’ve simply lost count of just how many times we’ve witnessed the replay of that long-distance 70-yard touchdown pass from Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco to WR Jacoby Jones that forced overtime in last year’s AFC Divisional Playoff Game, and thus merely changed the entire complexion of the NFL post-season.

Hey, we know Denver DB Rahim Moore has seen the play more than a few times – he mis-timed his jump and didn’t get a hand on the high-arching aerial -- but give the dude credit because he’s always “stood up” for his defensive gaffe in that wild 38-35 double-overtime win by the Ravens.

A win that propelled Baltimore to its first Super Bowl triumph since the 2000 season and one that cemented the legends of more than a few folks including the now-retired LB Ray Lewis (oh, he’ll be strolling the sidelines here but you won’t be seeing ‘em in that old #52 uniform).

When you stop to consider that the Broncos were the AFC favorite to get to last year’s Super Bowl, the long TD play had monumental ramifications, but if it makes Denver feel any better nearly eight months later, then remember that was the ninth No. 1 seed since 2005 to lose in the divisional playoff round (AKA their first playoff game).

Now, the Broncos – only by a strange twist of sports scheduling that sees the Baltimore Orioles hosting the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards on Thursday night – will be hosting the defending Super Bowl champs Thursday... but no more talk of “revenge”...okay?

Folks, a pro football team can never get “revenge” for a bitter post-season loss in a Week One tilt (or any regular-season game, for that matter), so maybe it’s time for the know-nothing media mouths who keep spouting the “R” word should cool it. Okay?

Now, let’s get you our Ravens vs. Broncos preview in this edition of "Jim Sez" ...



Gotta say there were two things we had to get off our proverbial chests here:

We’ve already tackled number one already – this doesn’t qualify as a “revenge game” for the host Broncos!

Number two, who cares that there is a larger-than-life banner of the aforementioned Flacco adorning the outside of the Broncos stadium ... there’s also a larger-than-life banner of Denver QB Peyton Manning, too – and so for there to be actual chatter about why an opposing player has his image outside a stadium it’s real simple:

Flacco won the Super Bowl and this game should by all rights be in the city of Baltimore. ‘Nuff said.

In terms of the game plans here, it’s been well-documented that the defending champ Ravens underwent a major facelift on defense this off-season with the likes of Lewis, S Ed Reed and LB/DE Paul Kruger all gone off this 2013 roster, but Flacco – of course – is back and ditto for RB Ray Rice, who rushed the ball a whopping 30 times for 131 yards last Jan. 12th in Denver (note that was 30 of the Ravens’ 39 rushing attempts).

If the Ravens can get something positive from the tight end spot where Ed Dickson (torn hamstring last month) is expected to play, then Baltimore could score some points off a Broncos defense missing suspended LB Von Miller.

Plus, keep in mind Denver’s veteran CB Champ Bailey (sprained foot) was unable to participate in Monday’s practice and he’s iffy (at best) here.

On the flip side, the Broncos know that last year’s final score in the twin-OT loss was a tad misleading given that special teams star Trindon Holliday returned both a punt and kick return for touchdowns: The bottom line is QB Manning (290 yards passing with 3 TDs and 2 INTs on that chilly 13-degree day in Denver) didn’t hit many “home run” balls, as a 32-yard catch by dependable WR Eric Decker turned out to be Denver’s biggest gainer from scrimmage.

Now, Manning is counting on slot WR Wes Welker (ankle, listed as probable here) to help open up the field more and we say Denver wins/covers only if Manning can haul a couple of long balls in the general direction of WR Demaryius Thomas (only 3 catches for 37 yards in that playoff loss a year ago).

No doubt the presence of ex-Broncos LB/DE Elvis Dumervil – now teamed up with Ravens’ LB Terrell Suggs to give the Ravens a real serious one-two pass-rush punch – will be examined closely here, but expect Dumveril to see lots of double-teams and so don’t be shocked if he drops back into coverage a few times in order to “trick” the heady Manning.

P.S., if it so happens this game comes down to a kick, well, we all know Baltimore PK Justin Tucker has that ice-water-in-the-veins bit going for him after drilling the 47-yard FG that won it just moments into the second overtime.

Spread Notes – The Ravens finished last year on a four-game pointspread run with those post-season covers against Indianapolis, Denver, New England and San Francisco, but did you know overall Baltimore was just 10-9-1 ATS (against the spread) last season … hmmm. One last thing: The Ravens are a collective 36-24-1 versus the vig in all non-divisional games since the start of the John Harbaugh Era back in 2008 (that’s a sweet .600 winning percentage). On the flip side, the heavy-duty favorite Broncos actually covered five consecutive late-season games a year ago until that fateful twin-OT loss to Baltimore. Note that Denver was 10-3 against the odds last year whenever in the chalk role and that included a 6-3 ATS log whenever laying 6-or-more points.

Okay, Ravens’ fans, here’s a game-by-game look back at last year’s epic post-season run. Note all home teams are in CAPS:

AFC Wild Card BALTIMORE - 7 Indianapolis 24-9
AFC Divisional Baltimore + 9 (2ot) DENVER 38-35
AFC Champ Baltimore + 8 NEW ENGLAND 28-13
*SB 47 Baltimore + 5 San Francisco 34-31

* = New Orleans


My veteran Handicappers, Bloggers and I are storming our way towards the start of this 2013 NFL season with Thursday’s Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos game set to kick off this new pro season, plus America’s #1 Handicapper shined on the College Football scene after big weekend wins with Toledo (+ 23) over Florida, Northern Illinois (+ 3) over Iowa, Alabama (- 21) over Virginia Tech and Clemson (+ 2) over Georgia.

The College Football season rolls on this week with Florida Atlantic at East Carolina on Thursday Night (it’s on Fox Sports Network), then on Friday it’s Wake Forest at Boston College on ESPN2 and then – of course – there’s a whole slew of key games on Saturday headlined by Notre Dame at Michigan, Florida at Miami and South Carolina at Georgia.

Plus cash in with loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too as we’ve been banging out lots of “W’s” in recent weeks as we head to the home stretch of this 2013 MLB season.

Now, here’s the lowdown:

Check with us right here online at www.jimhurley.com or call toll-free at 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight NFL, NCAA Football and MLB action, after 12 p.m. ET for the weekday Baseball games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday and Sunday action.


Lots to chat about when it comes to the start of this here-and-now College Football Season, so let’s spin ‘round the land and cover some timely topics...

From the “what, me worry” department comes the Georgia Bulldogs, whose 38-35 loss at 2-point underdog Clemson may not have been any sort of cardinal sin, but dig a little deeper past the 467 offensive yards the Tigers posted on a 6.1 yards-per-play average – the Dawgs lost WR Malcolm Mitchell to a knee injury while he foolishly celebrated a TD run by teammate RB Todd Gurley-- plus there was that matter of the Georgia O-line that surrendered four sacks of QB Aaron Murray.

Note that Clemson’s defensive pass rush wasn’t exactly a strength coming into that Labor Day weekend game, but they sure confused some of the Georgia blockers (especially in a key second quarter when the Dawgs fell silent), and so maybe 13th-year Georgia head coach Mark Richt does have more to worry about than just a defense that’s playing seven new starters this year as his club heads into Saturday’s key SEC East home game against 1-and-oh South Carolina.

Can he get ‘em ready for a speedy SC Gamecocks team in this “between the hedges” affair? We’ll see...

In case you were keeping track of such things, Big 10 teams registered a 10-2 SU (straight-up) mark on the opening week/weekend of play – okay, so they went just 5-7 against the Las Vegas price tags – but one of the two teams that did lose both on the field and to “the number” that should feel good about themselves are the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Hey, the Big 10 Network guys – starring former Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo – had it right-on during the post-game report of Iowa’s tough-to-stomach 30-27 home loss to 3-point underdog Northern Illinois.

The fact of the matter is the ‘Eyes “found” their quarterback in defeat as sophomore Jake Rudock threw for 256 yards and showed major leadership qualities.

Okay, so Rudoch’s interception on a sideline route was picked off by Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward (the Huskies’ best overall player) with 1:17 remaining in the game with the score knotted at 27 apiece, but forgive the kid for his error and keep in mind Iowa’s quarterback play has been bad for a couple of years now – Rudoch should be a major improvement (the occasional interception, notwithstanding) and so keep close tabs on an Iowa team that’s now lost its last seven consecutive games dating back to last year. The Hawkeyes could be turning the corner soon...

Finally, can there be any doubt that the Florida State Seminoles have found their quarterback of the future (and the present!)?

In Monday night’s 41-13 walkover win at 12-point underdog Pittsburgh – yeah, welcome to the ACC, guys! – redshirt freshman Jameis Winston wowed the college football world while completing 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns (three of ‘em to TE Nick O’Leary, who we were reminded a gazillion times happens to be Jack Nicklaus’ grandson) and his first-half numbers of 17-of-18 completions should have been even better ‘cause it sure looked as if a Florida State wide receiver dragged his foot inbounds on a pass play ruled incomplete.

Winston showed great presence in the pocket – he was angry afterwards that Pittsburgh sacked ‘em one time for the night – and already folks in/around Tallahassee are saying he surely will be a better player than the likes of Seminoles’ past QB's Chris Weinke, Charlie Ward, Danny Kanell and Brad Johnson.

And not to create any unnecessary early-season heat, but...

Winston could be the single missing ingredient that puts Florida State very much in play for a shot in the BCS Championship Game this year. Check out the FSU schedule and you’ll see the road game in Clemson on Oct. 19th is the biggest threat till that regular-season-ending game at Florida on Nov. 30th.

Go ahead, ‘Noles fans, do your tomahawk chop already!

NOTE: Lots of NCAA Football News & Notes heading your way in the coming editions of "Jim Sez"!



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