Ray-Ray vs. Pey-Pey is your narrative talking point for the first of three regular season rematches on Divisional Playoff weekend. Can the Broncos replicate their recent drubbing of Baltimore and send Ray Lewis into a retirement filled with braying and dancing on ESPN? Denver won decisively in the first meeting this year between these teams, though some people have said the game would have been closer had Joe Flacco not thrown a terrible pick-six just before halftime. I’m not sure how that’s an argument that this is a closer contest than we think. “That guy who often throws dumb passes threw a dumb pass, but he might not do that the next time!”
It also a positive sign for Denver that the first meeting was in Baltimore and today’s rematch is not. Though the Ravens do have five starters playing today that didn’t take part in the Week 15 loss. On balance, most people would agree that the Broncos are the better of these teams, but the Ravens are certainly capable of stealing a win with a few breaks.
Three times with the Colts, Peyton got a first-round bye and lost his first playoff game. He also went one-and-done in the Wild Card round four times, but I feel the losing with the bye stat is a little more pertinent to today’s proceedings. We all know Peyton has a knack for the swift playoff exit. Should it happen again, I expect and encourage belly laughs all around. But there will be the downside of having the Ray Lewis farewell tour continue for yet another week. And that week may very well be in anticipation of an AFC Championship rematch with New England. There will be talk of destiny. It will be painful. Not only that, but the Tebow faithful can point at the result and say, “LOOK, THE BRONCOS DIDN’T EVEN WIN A PLAYOFF GAME WITH PEYTON! TEBOW GOT THEM A PLAYOFF DOUBLE YEWWWWWWWW!”
Ray Rice is having some recent postseason struggles of his own. The Ravens best weapon is a routinely reliable ball carrier in the regular season, but fumbling has caught up with him in recent years in the playoffs. Rice has three lost fumbles in his last four playoff games, including two last week. Baltimore might have been able to survive those mistakes against an outmatched Colts team at home last week, but they’d be really hard-pressed to do it on the road against a superior team.
Dan Dierdorf is one of the CBS announcers for this game, so the mute button is your friend. Anyone who does decide to endure Dierdorf’s inanities, please be sure to let people know if someone mentions the new “Black & Decker” nickname for the Broncos starting receivers. It would be nice to know if that is getting play for a national audience.