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Saturday's Best Bet
Baltimore (+10) vs. Denver (-10); Total set at 46.5

It's surprising to have the first game on the board really jump out at you but that's my feeling with this Denver/Baltimore game. A few days ago when I originally looked at this game I talked about how the first meeting between these two really flipped on that Denver pick-6 at the end of the half and how Baltimore's chances were pretty much shot after that. They were able to put up 17 points in the end (most of them in garbage time), but they still managed to allow 34 (17 per half). Manning already spent a week preparing for this Ravens defense and now has had two more weeks to review things and figure out the best way to attack Baltimore. Giving that much prep time to a Hall-of-Famer like Manning is deadly, especially when he is 9-0 SU in his last nine starts vs. this Ravens team.

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But laying the 10 points is not something I'm interested in doing in this contest, especially with the emotion of Ray Lewis' career as an X-factor. Baltimore knows that their defense isn't what it once was and even though they had all of their studs in the lineup for the first time last week; a few of them like Lewis and Suggs are still quite banged up. The Broncos may not get to 34 again, but putting up 24 should be a certainty.

That means the Ravens offense will have to pull their weight and find ways to be successful against this Broncos defense. That first meeting was OC Jim Caldwell's first game in the position and he called too conservative a game. That was why the Ravens couldn't do anything in the first half and once it was out of hand, he opened up the playbook and had more success. Well, the playoffs are the last time you want to be conservative, especially on the road as huge underdogs. Caldwell coached Manning for years and will have a plan for how to beat him. He will not leave any stone unturned and will put the ball in Flacco's hands and ask him to take some shots. Baltimore has a very good receiving core all the way around and given that they are likely to be down at some point, taking shots and being successful at them may be Baltimore's only chance. The Ravens are 5-2 O/U in their last seven on the road against a winning home team and have to figure they will have to put up at least 24 to have a shot at winning.

Meanwhile, Denver is 5-1 O/U in their last six playoff games (all without Manning), 8-0-1 O/U after allowing less than 15 last game and 4-0-1 O/U after winning by more than 14. It will be cold and when you combine that with two defenses that can take the ball away, turnovers and short fields are always a possibility too. I have a very tough time seeing this game not sail over the posted total, despite Baltimore's road scoring woes this year.

Take the over.

  
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