OWINGS MILLS - The Broncos are arguably the hottest team in football.
They're maybe the NFL's most complete team as well.
They're the winners of eight straight and are ranked among the league's best in nearly every major offensive and defensive category.
The Ravens, meanwhile, are a team at a crossroads.
They've lost two games in a row. They're dealing with a multitude of injuries to key players. They've proven susceptible defensively and have been erratic enough offensively - especially within their passing game - that they fired their offensive coordinator earlier in the week.
And now, they face those surging Broncos today in Baltimore.
"We know what this game is. They know what this game is about," Ravens safety Ed Reed said. "This game is important for both teams. This is playoff time. ... Both teams know what this is about. Yes, we're at home and we need to take advantage of that - both sides of the ball and special teams. But if we don't, they're going to expose it because they're a good team."
Baltimore is 9-4 and still in firm control of the AFC North, at least for right now, but a loss today would all but eliminate the Ravens from contention for one of the top two seeds in the AFC and a subsequent first-round bye in the playoffs.
Baltimore enters the day as the No. 4 seed in the conference, trailing the Texans (11-2), the Patriots (10-3) and the Broncos (10-3).
But, even aside from the obvious playoff implications, today's game will go a long way in providing answers to any lingering question marks regarding the Ravens.
Joe Flacco and Baltimore's passing game will be matched up against a Denver pass defense ranked seventh-best. Ray Rice and the Ravens' running game will try to find holes against a Broncos run defense that's limited opposing ball carriers to an AFC-low 3.6 yards per carry. And a Baltimore offensive line that's struggled at times in pass protection will attempt to neutralize a Denver pass rush armed with two of the league's best at getting after the quarterback.
And then defensively, the Ravens' much-maligned pass defense will be saddled with the task of slowing down a Peyton Manning-led Denver aerial attack that's led the way for a Broncos offense ranked second in scoring (28.8 points per game).
"They have a great defense, they have a great special teams, and they have a good offense," Reed said of the Broncos. "So, if we don't play our best ball, and they do, we'll be on the same stick that we've been on the last two weeks."
Also, what will be different about Jim Caldwell's offense than the one Baltimore one operated within under Cam Cameron?
Cameron was fired Monday after nearly five years as the Ravens' offensive coordinator. He was replaced by Caldwell, who spent 10 years with the Colts - including the final three as their head coach - prior to joining Baltimore as its quarterbacks coach in January.
He played a primary role in helping to install the Ravens' no-huddle offense leading up to the season and players hinted that Baltimore could shift back to more of the no-huddle attack with Caldwell at the helm.
"Obviously, there's not going to be a system change of any sort, but we are going to add a few wrinkles here and there where need be," Caldwell said. "For the most part, I think the guys are comfortable with what we do. We have to find out what best suits our personnel and utilize that - do the things that we do best. That's key."
But today will be telling for Denver as well.
The Broncos have won the eight straight games, but just one of those wins came against a team that currently has a winning record.
Denver is 2-3 this year against teams that currently possess a non-losing record, although all three of the losses came by a margin of 10 points or less.
The Broncos lost 27-21 to the Falcons in Week 2. They fell 31-25 to the Texans a week later. And they were beaten 31-21 by the Patriots in Week 5.
Two of those three losses - Atlanta and New England - came on the road.
The Ravens are 20-2 at home since 2010, including 5-1 this season.
"We're going to have a tough test there in Baltimore," Broncos coach John Fox told reporters in Denver earlier this week. "You're talking about a team that's been to the playoffs four straight years, that was a field goal away from going into overtime in the championship game.
"I think Coach Harbaugh has done a tremendous job. They've got an excellent staff, an excellent football team and they know how to win, and part of that is being tough at home. ... Like I've mentioned before, this will be a playoff-type game."
NOTES: Flacco has been limited to 188 yards or less in six of Baltimore's last nine games. The Broncos are allowing just 215 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. ... Denver's 39 sacks are tied for second-most in the NFL. Outside linebackers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have combined for 24 of those 39 sacks. Miller's 16 sacks are second-most in the AFC. He has 10 sacks in the last six games. Ravens offensive tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele have each surrendered seven sacks this season, tying them both for the second-most sacks allowed in the AFC. ... Manning has been sacked just 19 times this year, the second-fewest of any quarterback in the AFC. ... Manning has thrown for an average of 302 yards in Denver's last 11 games. He has 27 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions in those seven games. Baltimore is ranked 23rd out of the NFL's 32 teams in pass defense, yielding an average of 247 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. ... The Ravens are averaging 34 points per game at home, the second-best such average in the NFL. ... The Broncos have five former Ravens on their roster - running back Willis McGahee, defensive tackle Justin Bannan, safety Jim Leonhard and wide receivers Brandon Stokley and Matt Willis. Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was Baltimore's linebackers coach from 1999 to 2001. ... The Broncos are 0-5 all-time against the Ravens in Baltimore.