ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –From Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green to Andre Johnson of the Texans to Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, cornerback Champ Bailey has seen elite wideouts week in and week out in 2012.
He knows that Sunday's trip to Baltimore will bring about another tall order in wide receiver Anquan Boldin of the Ravens. With eight receptions for 159 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games, Boldin enters week 15 as hot as any receiver in the NFL. At 6-foot-1, 223 pounds, Boldin's imposing physique makes him a tough matchup for opposing corners.
"Physical, tough," Bailey said of Boldin. "He's actually like a running back out there, but with receiver skills. It's crazy, because he creates some matchup problems. He'll do everything to get open."
Further straining defenses who take on Baltimore is the fact that Boldin is not the only talented pass-catcher for quarterback Joe Flacco to target. The Ravens also boast one of the NFL's premier deep threats in wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is third in the NFL with 17.5 yards per catch after 13 games.
"(Boldin) is not the only one we've got to worry about," Bailey said. "He's definitely their go-to guy for the most part. But Torrey Smith is a guy you can't sleep on. Jacoby Jones is another guy you can't sleep on. So we've got our hands full across the board."
REED STILL REVERED AT SAFETY
With or without linebacker Ray Lewis, Baltimore will boast at least one defender who has been considered among the game's best at his position for the past decade.
Safety Ed Reed has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times in his career, including each of the past six seasons. Reed leads the NFL with 61 interceptions since 2002 and in his 12th season, he still commands the respect of every offensive player he faces. As far as quarterback Peyton Manning is concerned, Reed is second to no one.
"Ed Reed is, in my opinion, the best safety in the NFL," Manning said. "Has been this past decade. You really kind of can go on and on. Tremendous ball skills, tremendous range, tremendous athlete based on what he does with the ball once he gets it in his hands. (He's) one of the smarter defensive players I've ever played against."
Another member of the Broncos offense who is fully aware of the problems that No. 20 creates for opposing offenses is wide receiver Eric Decker.
"Ed Reed in the backfield is an instinctive player; he's all over the place," Decker said. "They play great every week. We have a big challenge ahead of us, especially at their home turf. It's going to be a fun one. This is going to be a battle. As preparation, we have been focusing on getting physical and playing our best game, executing to the best."
Though statistically Reed's defense in Baltimore this season has not been what it once was, the Ravens remain in the top 10 in the NFL in points allowed, thanks in large part to NFL-best play in the all-important red zone. And regardless of what the numbers may say, facing Reed and the Ravens' D means the Broncos will need to be at their best for a victory.
"They've got a good coaching staff," Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. "They've done a great job there. Traditionally, for a number of years, they've had one of the top defenses in the league and they've got some great personnel so we've got our hands full so we'll give it our best shot."
THOMAS EXCITED TO TAKE ON RAVENS
For many offensive players, travelling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens ranks among the toughest challenges in the NFL.
Baltimore boasts a reputation as one of the toughest places to play, where the home fans and the Ravens' physical brand of defense often cause visitors to struggle mightily at M&T Bank Stadium. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has firsthand experience taking on the Ravens on the road, as he and the Broncos fell to Baltimore 31-17 during his rookie season.
"Last time I played them it was tough," Thomas said. "It's going to be a tough one but it's another game. We're preparing for them. They've got a lot of great players and a lot of big hitters."
But instead of viewing Sunday's game as daunting, Thomas is embracing the challenge.
"It's a test for us to see where we're at because they're known as a good team, it's tough to beat them there – we haven't beat them the last five times we've played, I think," Thomas said. "I know since I've been playing, we haven't beat them. We look forward to it just to see where we're at and to see how good we are."