Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said today that his team has a decided advantage in their divisional playoff game at Denver because Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be playing with intense nerves.
"I don't mean to sound boastful, but facts are facts," said Flacco. "Peyton Manning is going to look across the sidelines and see Joe Flacco standing there and realize he's probably going to have to play the best game of his life, and even that might not be enough to win. I imagine it will be very intimidating for him."
Flacco, the 12th highest rated passer in the league this year, who completed less than 60-percent of his passes for the second year in a row, said before the season that he sees himself as the best quarterback in the league. That belief has only been strengthened.
"Who has accomplished what I have in this league?" said Flacco. "Sure, sure. The critics are always going to mention guys who have gotten to Super Bowls or won Super Bowl or put up big stats, or guys who have gotten to a Super Bowl and won Super Bowls and put up big stats, but those are all lazy, conventional ways to measure quarterbacks. People who know football, who know greatness, like me and my parents and coach Harbaugh, recognize how good I really am."
Manning said that playing Flacco will indeed present some unique challenges.
"When you play a quarterback of the caliber of Joe Flacco," said Manning, "there's a definite tendency to get overconfident and not be as intense, because you know you don't have to play your best or even near your best to win. That's how it was in the Super Bowl when I played against Rex Grossman. I didn't have my best game, but it didn't matter. We still won handily. Plus, playing a guy like him throws off your rhythm. Right when a drive ends you often have to go immediately back onto the field because of a fumble or interception. You can't relax."
Manning says he has called around the league asking for tips on how to deal with Flacco.
"Charlie Batch had some great insight," said Manning. "He basically just said to go out there, not get injured or die of old age, and everything will take care of itself."
While Manning seemed to undersell Flacco's inherent greatness, the Ravens quarterback says he knows he has the support of his team.
"They didn't use to even acknowledge me, probably because they were wowed by being near someone this famous," said Flacco. "But all week Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have been staring right at me. Ray Rice said they were glaring at me and mumbling threats, but I get the sense they're just trying to watch and learn how a truly great player goes about his business."