ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - The AFC No. 1 seed Denver Broncos (13-3) will host the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens (10-6) on Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Kickoff is set for 2:35 p.m. MST. Below is a preview of the Divisional Round contest, including matchups on each side of the ball, links to coverage leading up the contest and a key to victory for the Broncos.
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Safety Bernard Pollard and linebackers Danelle Ellerbee and Ray Lewis are three players that will most likely start on Saturday that didn't play in the Broncos' win at Baltimore in December.
Pollard and Ellerbee are the team's two leading tacklers. Lewis, a 12-time Pro Bowler, is the emotional and experienced leader of the group.
"They missed a couple pieces of their defense," wideout Eric Decker recalled. "Having those guys back, especially (No.) 52, he's an emotional leader. He's a guy that everyone kind of rallies around. We know it's going to be a challenge and things are going to be different. You can't compare anything to last game."
Before the postseason began, Lewis announced 2012 would be his "last ride." That only adds fuel to the fire of a spirited Baltimore defense, which kept Indianapolis from reaching paydirt last week in Lewis' first game back since injuring his triceps in Week 6.
In his return, he led the Ravens with 13 tackles and played in all 90 defensive snaps.
"Being a leader of my defense, me coming back and doing what I did, that's where I should be," Lewis said in a conference call with Denver media. "And that's where I'm supposed to be. This week is always going to get better."
Denver's offense is well-rested, with 13 days between games. The Ravens are traveling across the country to play in Denver's high altitude on less than a week's rest after the defense was on the field for 90 plays in their last game.
But the Broncos aren't counting on any of that being a factor. With or without Lewis, Denver's offensive unit believes Baltimore's defense is one of the most physical in the league.
They know they must match the aggressiveness of Baltimore from the first down to the last.
"They play this game right, physical," Decker said. "It's such an emotional team and they feed off each other. It's how you play the game. We just have to meet their intensity."
WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL
The Denver defense isn't dwelling on its stellar performance against the Ravens in Week 15, when it held running back Ray Rice to 38 rushing yards and shut out the team's leading receiver, Anquan Boldin. That win is in the past.
"We had a plan, went up there and we played pretty well," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "Now that's behind us, as are a lot of other games. Each week we start fresh and talk to our guys about the things that they're good at, the things we need be able to limit, slow down, some of their capabilities."
Del Rio knows Saturday will be a completely new ball game, but if his unit can slow down the same parts of the Ravens offense it did four weeks ago, the Broncos will be okay.
Rice is a catalyst of the Ravens offensive attack. With more than 1,600 all-purpose yards, the fifth-year back is a dual-threat. The Broncos figured out a recipe to stop him last time. It's still a priority in the Divisional Round.
"One thing we can't do is take our eyes off Ray Rice," cornerback said. "He is one of the best in the game. You have to know where he is, coming out of the backfield, running the ball-it doesn't matter. He is No. 1 because if he gets started, it's a long day for us."
It will likely be a group effort by the Broncos secondary to keep Boldin quiet for a second straight time. The receiver exploded in last week's Wild Card Round with five grabs for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Cornerback Chris Harris is one of the players that will match up with Boldin on the outside. He comes into the game with high confidence after helping to shut down Boldin in Week 15 and also picking off Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco before halftime for a 98-yard interception return touchdown.
"It's about winning one-on-one battles," Harris said. "I definitely have a lot of confidence, based off how we played last time. I'm just trying to go out there and duplicate the same thing. I know I'm going to play my game and whatever they have new, whatever they do, we'll be ready for it. We're prepared."
KEY TO THE GAME: Match the Intensity, Control the Emotions
"We've talked about it," veteran linebacker said. "But at the end of the day, it's football. We have to line up and play, and play responsibility defense, do our job. There will be more emotion in that. More intensity. That's what it's all about. That's no pressure at all. You relish in that. That's what you live for."
Television: The game will be televised on KCNC-TV CBS4, with Greg Gumbel (play-by-play) and Dan Dierdorf (color commentary) calling the game.
Local Radio: KOA (850 AM) will feature Dave Logan (play-by-play) and Ed McCaffrey (color commentary) with Andy Lindahl reporting from the sidelines.
Local Spanish Radio: KMXA (1090 AM) / KJMN (92.1 FM): Luis Canela (play-by-play), Rafael Medina and Javier Olivas (color commentary) will call the game.
National Radio: Dial Global Radio Sports: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Mark Malone (color commentary) will call the game with Scott Kaplan reporting from the sidelines.