Sunday – 1/6/13
Sunday at 1:00pm will kick off the Ravens 5th straight playoff appearance as they play host to the Indianapolis Colts. Emotions will be running high Sunday as Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano makes his return to M&T Bank Stadium where he orchestrated the Ravens defense for the previous four seasons and helped lead Baltimore to two AFC Championship games. Pagano will be trying to reach his third straight AFC Title game but this year his first opponent is against the team he helped lead there the last two seasons.
The Colts lead the all-time series against the Ravens boasting an 8-2 advantage. Of course all of those wins were with Peyton Manning at the helm, but this week, Rookie of the Year candidate QB Andrew Luck will be under center for the Colts.
The Ravens received its biggest piece of news earlier this week when Ray Lewis announced his retirement at the seasons end. Ray Lewis is a first ballot Hall of Famer and will be looking to get back to the pinnacle of football one last time before he hangs it up. In year’s past, Ravens and Colts match-ups were some of the most anticipated games of the season due to the exceptional play of Manning versus Ray Lewis. This Sunday we will get to see Ray Lewis quarterback his defense against the outstanding rook Andrew Luck. It should be every bit as exciting as the Ravens-Colts match-ups we have watched over the last 11 years.
Baltimore has been on a bit of a slide to end out the season sporting a 1-4 record in their last five games. The Colts on the other hand have been playing some of their best football of the season lately. Indianapolis is 4-1 in their last five games which includes a 28-16 victory over the Texans to end out the season. The Ravens are going to have to be on their “A” games so let’s take a look at what Baltimore needs to do to continue its quest to reach its third straight AFC title game.
What the Ravens need to do to win the game
The Ravens need to come out hot and firing on all cylinders on Sunday. The biggest key for the Ravens against the Colts is to establish an early lead. Baltimore needs to get up early and lean on Ray Rice the rest of the way. There is no reason Ray Rice shouldn’t touch the ball at least 25 times on Sunday. He is easily the Raven’s best play-maker on offense and they will be facing a Colts team that allows 138 rushing yards a game. If Rice gets going early this one could turn into a blowout. If Flacco has to pass the entire second half and make up for a deficit, this could be Ray Lewis’ last game.
Baltimore also needs to fluster the rook Andrew Luck as often as possible. Luck is a great talent and could easily burn you for 400 yards if you’re not careful, but he can also turn the pigskin over. As good as Luck has been this season, he is still a rookie, a rookie that has thrown 18 interceptions this season. That rookie just happens to be LUCKy enough to be playing two of the best players to ever suit up on the defensive side of the ball in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. This isn’t Reed and Lewis’ first rodeo in the playoffs and I expect them to be throwing looks at Luck that will have him scratching his head. This will be key for the Ravens. They NEED to contain Luck and force him to make bad decisions. If the Ravens D forces Luck into two turnovers, a Ravens victory will come that much easier. Look for Baltimore to be super aggressive with the new jack.
This week’s key match-up is going to be Reggie Wayne versus the Ravens secondary. Wayne is Luck’s favorite target and the numbers show it. Wayne had 106 receptions on 194 targets to go along with 1,355 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those 194 targets are good for 31% of Luck’s passing attempts. If the Ravens can shut down Luck’s favorite and most productive target they will make the rook’s day very tough. If Baltimore lets Wayne have a field day, we could easily see Pagano and the Colts advancing to New England next week. This should be a great match-up folks so be ready. Look for the Ball Hawk Ed Reed to be constantly blanketing Wayne.
Emotions will be running at an all-time high in Baltimore this Sunday with the return of Chuck Pagano and what could be Ray Lewis’ last game on a football field. M&T Bank Stadium will be the loudest it has ever been when Lewis starts dancing out of the tunnel and I think the atmosphere and the emotions are going to be too much for a rook to handle. I see the Ravens winning 27-17 and keeping Ray Lewis’ career alive. Strap in folks, because Sunday at 1:00pm, it’s going to be a wild ride!