Peyton Manning has lead the Broncos into the playoffs where Denver faces… ( Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images )
Peyton Manning has been a perfect 10 for the Denver Broncos.
Question is, can he make it 10 in a row against Baltimore? Manning has beaten the Ravens nine consecutive times, the first eight of those when quarterbacking Indianapolis and the ninth in December, when he directed Denver to a 34-17 win at Baltimore.
The Broncos, looking for their first divisional-round victory since 2005, are riding an 11-game winning streak, have the league's No. 2 defense and a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Manning, the league's only four-time most valuable player, has poured the foundation for a fifth. A year after sitting out the entire Colts season with a neck injury that required four surgeries, he led the NFL in completion percentage (68.6),and finished second in passer rating (105.8), third in passing touchdowns (37) and sixth in passing yards (4,659).
"It's been quite a year for me," he conceded. "I remember one year ago I was in a hospital bed watching opening day, so there's a little reminder there of how far I've come."
All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis has already played his last game in Baltimore, and now he'll face Manning for the final time, another milestone.
"It's always those close games [you remember]," Lewis said. "It's those classic memories that you reminisce about when the game is over. The warrior side of me remembers all those times being a heck of a battle."
Not since 2001 have the Ravens beaten a team that had Manning at quarterback.
"It's a whole new game now," Lewis said. "The only thing that matters right now is if we win this week."
Manning has thrown for 29 touchdowns in his postseason career, which ranks seventh all time. Were he to throw four touchdown passes against Baltimore, Manning would surpass Dan Marino (32), Kurt Warner (31) and Terry Bradshaw (30) for the fourth-most postseason touchdown passes in NFL history.
New England quarterback Tom Brady (38) ranks third on the all-time list, trailing Joe Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44).
Quarterbacks with the most career postseason touchdown passes in NFL history (*active this weekend):
PLAYER CAREER TD JOE MONTANTA 1979-1994 45 BRETT FAVRE 1991-2010 44 TOM BRADY* 2000-present 38 DAN MARINO 1983-1999 32 KURT WARNER 1998-2009 31 TERRY BRADSHAW 1970-1983 30 PEYTON MANNING* 1998-present 29
Two-time league MVP Warner of NFL Network on the Ravens' chances: "The key for me is [Ravens quarterback] Joe Flacco. Can he find ways to get it to Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice in the passing game, then maybe hit a big play to Torrey Smith? Flacco has to find that intermediate passing game, and he has to be consistent with it. Otherwise, I think the Ravens fall behind and may not be able to get back into it."
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
BAL DEN POINTS SCORED 24.9 (10) 30.1 (2) POINTS ALLOWED 21.5 (12) 18.1 (4) PASS OFFENSE 233.7 (15) 283.4 (5) RUSH OFFENSE 118.8 (11) 114.5 (16) PASS DEFENSE 228.1 (17) 199.6 (3) RUSH DEFENSE 122.8 (20) 91.1 (3) SACKS 37 (15) 52 (1) PENALTIES 7.6 (31) 6.3 (13) TURNOVERS +9 (9) -1 (19)
Give Manning an extra week to prepare — plus that Denver defense — and the Broncos are not going to lose this game at home. The last time these teams played, the Broncos held Boldin without a catch for the first time since 2005.
BRONCOS 31, RAVENS 23