Originally written on Cippin on Sports  |  Last updated 11/14/14
The knowledgeable fan is the happy fan.  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you watch this weekend: Ravens vs. Broncos: The third-down battle. The Baltimore defense, which during the regular season held opponents to a 36.6% third-down conversion rate, allowed the Colts a 45% success rate (9 for 20) on Sunday.  Denver, the Ravens’ opponent this Saturday, ranked third in the league in this category during the regular season, succeeding on 45.1% of third-down conversion attempts.  It would behoove the Ravens on Saturday afternoon to find a way to get the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands whenever they have the chance. The other key to keeping the ball away from Manning, of course, is maintaining possession on one’s own, and third-down success will be key for the Ravens offense, as well.  On Sunday, Baltimore converted four of ten third downs against a Colts team ranked 13th in third-down defense during the regular season (allowing opponents to convert 38.1% of the time).  Denver, though, had the league’s best third-down defense in 2012, allowing only a 31% success rate.  While a team always wants to win the time-of-possession game, it would be especially helpful for the Ravens on Sunday, since Manning—the leader of the second most prolific offense in the league—can’t score when he’s on the sideline.   Packers vs. 49ers: The Green Bay running game. The Packers on Saturday ran for 76 yards, 2.5 yards per carry, against a Minnesota defense ranked 7th in rush DVOA (-13.4%).  San Francisco’s defense is second in that category (-19.7%).  Then again, the Packers averaged only 106.4 yards per game during the regular season, so it’s clear that they don’t need to run to win.  If they have a fourth-quarter lead, though, running the ball effectively would help to eat the clock and minimize San Francisco possessions late in the game.  Otherwise, the Pack will be relying on Aaron Rodgers’ ability to gain first downs through the air, which he did sixteen times against Minnesota, in the face of a much stronger 49ers pass defense. Side note: Speaking of third-down efficiency, the Packers went an atypical 3 for 14 (21%) on third down in their victory over the Vikings, who were 27th in the league in that situation (allowing conversions 41.7% of the time).  The San Francisco defense that Green Bay faces this week is second overall in that category (33.5%).   Seahawks vs. Falcons: The Atlanta run defense. Seattle ran the ball for 224 yards against the Redskins on Sunday, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt (including 67 yards on eight runs/scrambles by Russell Wilson) against a Washington defense ranked 22nd in rush defense DVOA during the regular season.  Atlanta’s 20th-ranked rush defense is similarly weak, and the Seattle ground game of Wilson and Marshawn Lynch clearly has the ability to take over a game by scoring points and then eating clock.  Look for the Falcons to stack extra defenders against the run, putting the ball in Wilson’s hands as a passer, and then working to contain him when he tries to leave the pocket.   Houston vs. New England: Giveaways and takeaways. New England features the top offense in the league, ranking first in DVOA (a full 8.7% over second-place Denver) and having scored the most points and gained the most yards during the regular season.  The Pats also avoid turnovers, tied for second-fewest in the league with sixteen.  The Texans defense, meanwhile, is no slouch, ranking third overall in DVOA and fourth against the pass (where New England is strongest).  Still, Houston’s offense should have a difficult time keeping up with Tom Brady, and the Texans’ best shot might be to force the Patriots into a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers—perhaps one on special teams—while themselves avoiding giveaways.  This would turn the tables on a New England team that led the league this year with a per-game turnover margin of +1.6. — Greg Blume writes here and rambles there.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

FA Cup Final: Arsenal earns record 12th title in 4-0 win over Aston Villa

James Harden wants some help in the backcourt

Lightning reach Stanley Cup Final with Game 7 win

Devon Still: Daughter has complications with transplant

Rivers denies report of problems with CP3 and Jordan

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Orlando Magic hope Skiles can right sinking ship

Falcons waive Shembo over animal cruelty charges

Report: Tom Brady’s suspension appeal hearing set for June 23

Peterson is wrong (sorta): NFL players have great power

Scout: A-Rod 'looks like he doesn't give a (expletive)'

Belichick mum on Deflategate in first remarks since discipline

Andrew Bogut throws some shade Dwight Howard's way

Scout: Red Sox have most resources to trade for Phillies' Cole Hamels

The problem with Adrian Peterson's Twitter 'rant'

Cavs shop sold out of Matthew Dellavedova merchandise

Who were those guys? A look back at the 1974-75 Warriors

Washington Redskins' DeSean Jackson up to old antics?

Klay Thompson's injury hurts Warriors' chances at NBA Title

Four former first-round picks playing for their NFL careers

NBA Finals: Cavs-Warriors lacks easy comparison and that's great

10 NFL storylines that headlined the past week

Blackhawks-Ducks Game 7 preview: Key players, prediction

Women’s World Cup power rankings: Which teams have the best shot at hoisting the trophy?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Lightning reach Stanley Cup Final with Game 7 win

Devon Still's daughter has complications with transplant

$70M Reebok deal is bad for UFC fighters

If the Warriors win the title, the parade will be for Oakland

Peterson is wrong (sorta): NFL players have great power

Dwight Howard suspended for first game of 2015-16 season

Four QBs set to take step back in 2015

Spelling Bee co-champ wears LeBron jersey under shirt

Top 10 stories from 2015 NBA Playoffs

Rangers-Lightning Game 7 preview

The can't-miss Prince Fielder

Chip Kelly: Tebow is a quarterback

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.