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Manning: Baltimore 'Certainly' Warrants Attention

Posted Dec 12, 2012

The Broncos have placed equal emphasis on games throughout their winning streak. But the Ravens -- in Baltimore -- have grabbed the team's attention.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Sunday's matchup in Baltimore pits two streaking teams at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Broncos are looking for their ninth consecutive win. The Ravens, meanwhile, have lost two straight, but both losses have come on the final play of each game.

With the two teams separated by just one game in the standings, Sunday's contest brings with it serious playoff ramifications.

"This will be a playoff-type game," Head Coach John Fox said. “You’re talking about a team that’s been in the playoffs four straight years, was a field goal away from going into overtime in the championship game. I think (Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh’s done a tremendous job. They’ve got excellent staff, excellent football team, they know how to win and part of that is being tough at home. They’ve only lost one game there this year."

While the Broncos are headed to the postseason for the second consecutive season as AFC West champions, the Ravens are looking for an NFL-record fifth straight trip to the playoffs.

Baltimore hasn't clinched its division yet, but at 9-4, a win or losses by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals will sew up the AFC North crown.

Currently, Baltimore sits at the No. 4 seed with the 10-3 Broncos just ahead at the No. 3 spot in the AFC standings. On a conference call Wednesday, Harbaugh said he won't use that as a "carrot" for his team to perform -- his group already understands the challenge that lies ahead of it on Sunday.

"It's a big game -- we don't really need an incentive," Harbaugh said. "The fact that us and Denver are both kind of in the mix for seeding and for division championships and those kind of things, that makes it really interesting to me. This is a game that everybody should be excited about."

Throughout their eight-game winning streak, the Broncos have made sure to put equal importance on every game. Even with a talented Baltimore squad up next, quarterback Peyton Manning said this week is only important because "it's the next game."

"I think we’ve done a good job placing importance on every team we have played -- we have focused kind of on the moment," Manning said. "Certainly Baltimore is a very easy team to grab your attention, especially when you’re playing there. That’s who we’re focused on. We’ve done a good job of that all season and hopefully that will continue this week. I thought today was a good start and hopefully we can keep that going throughout the week.”

Foremost on Manning's mind during this week's preparation is taking care of the football -- and putting it in the end zone when chances arise.

The Ravens are tied for the NFL's second best record at home since 2010, and have won 23 of their last 25 games at M&T Bank Stadium.

Part of the reason for that success is Baltimore's penchant for winning the turnover battle. The Ravens are tied for fifth in the league with a turnover ratio of plus-12. In addition, though the defense ranks 24th in the league this season -- allowing 375.9 yards per game -- it has rarely allowed touchdowns once teams reach the 20-yard line.

In fact, Baltimore boasts the No. 1 unit in the league in red-zone defense.

"Being the top defense in the red zone tells you a lot about their team -- they tighten up when it really counts, and they’re creating a lot of turnovers," Manning said. "That's our challenge this week, is trying to win against that."