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Baltimore Ravens will keep it close vs. Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos throttled the Baltimore Ravens34-17 less than a month ago. The score was 34-3 at one point and the game was in Baltimore.

With the Ravens heading to Denver for Saturday's AFC Divisional Playoff Game on a short week, conventional wisdom says this game will be very one-sided. We don't see it that way. There are a lot of reasons to believe the Ravens will keep this close.

The offensive line is improved

Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun put it well. The team finally found the right combination on the offensive line during their Wild Card Weekend victory over the Indianapolis Colts. With starter Jah Reid out, tackle Bryant McKinnie moved to left tackle. Michael Oher moved to the right side. Guard Kelechi Osemele moved inside to guard. The team's play dramatically improved. McKinne and Osemele can maul opponents in the running game next to each other. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce could be the best 1-2 running back combination in the NFL.

It's not a perfect offensive line, but it's much improved.

The Ravens have regrouped

The loss to the Broncos was the nadir of the season. But look at what they've done since in the two games they tried to win: The Ravensbeat the New York Giants and Colts by a combined score of 57-23. This counts for something. I'd argue those two wins were both among the best four or five games the Ravens have played all season. It's mostly because of ...

The defense is far more dangerous

Baltimore had a poor defense most of the year. The Ravens look a lot closer to above average lately. Part of it is health. Haloti Ngata looks healthier, Ray Lewis is back, and Arthur Jones is playing well. Paul Kruger is playing the best football of his career and Corey Graham has proven to be a find at cornerback.

Most importantly, defensive coordinator Dean Pees has turned up the heat. The Ravens are far more aggressive than they were earlier in the season. They are attacking. It doesn't mean they'll stop the Broncos, but they have a better chance to make big plays.

The defense wasn't that bad against Broncos

The Ravens trailed 10-0 with time winding down in the first half last game before Joe Flacco threw an interception that was returned touchdown. The Ravens' defense forced seven three and outs during the game, most of them early. That loss was more about the total absence of offense. Speaking of ...

Joe Flacco is hitting big plays again

This is the thinnest of our reasons to believe in the Ravens. I'm reasonably confident the Ravens' defense can be competitive. Five years in, I'm still never sure which Flacco will show up. Flacco had five plays over 25 yards against the Giants. Against the Colts, Flacco averaged 23.5 yards per completion.

Flacco is capable of making any throw. He's capable of playing well, but tends to be very streaky. He's quietly on a bit of a hot streak right now.

Like the rest of this Ravens team, Flacco is playoff tested. He's part of a veteran team with plenty of talent that is capable of hanging with anyone, even the Broncos in Denver on a short week.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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