The Baltimore Ravens will play host to the surprise team in the AFC this season, the Indianapolis Colts, who earned a Wildcard spot just one year after going 2-14. Ravens101 was able to get the inside scoop on the Colts for this upcoming Wildcard weekend matchup, as Chuck Chapman, editor of Colts101 gives us the inside scoop.
Ravens101: The Colts are one of, if not the best story in the NFL this season, how has the city responded to this amazing turnaround?
First of all, Indy has been Colts crazy since Peyton Manning came to town. I've never seen a city get behind a pro team the way Indianapolis supports the Colts. I've only seen that in college before.
Last year was tough with the 2-14 and Peyton being out for the year. The "Blue Fridays" where everyone wore their Colts stuff to work kind of went away and there was the assumption that rebuilding was going to take a few years. The waiting list for season tickets went away and there was actually concerns that there might not be home sellouts.
Then there was the comeback against Green Bay, the overtime win in Tennessee and the ball just started rolling. Andrew Luck jerseys are flying out of stores faster than they can get them in. What's really been amazing is how the team has embraced not just Luck, but Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians and Ryan Grigson. I'm sure Chuck's illness and everything surrounding that sped up that process, but still, it's not that common in pro sports. Ravens101:
Indy's defense has struggled for the most part this season, especially against the run. What sort of adjustments can you see this team making to stop Ray Rice
and Bernard Pierce?
They've been inconsistent against the run. They gave up a big game to Jamaal Charles in Kansas City, but they've really not been that bad overall. They held Adrian Peterson to his lowest total of the season, Chris Johnson didn't get 100 yards in either game, and last week they held Arian Foster 100 yards for the first time in the history of their matchups against him.
Having Cory Redding back will help as well as Kavell Conner. The front seven was pretty beat up in KC and it showed. With the exception of Antonio Johnson, who's questionable, everybody looks to be a full go for Sunday.
The key will be to set the edge and not let Rice get outside. Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman are very good run-stoppers when everything gets funnelled inside. The other key will be to keep the game close or hold the lead and force Joe Flacco to beat them. If the Ravens take a lead into the fourth quarter and can keep feeding Rice and Pierce, that would be troublesome for a defense that's strong, but not very deep.
Ravens101: Some could say that the Colts are the NFL's version of the Baltimore Orioles this season, as they are 9-1 in games decided by seven points or less, how does this team continue to win the close games?
I think it started in week two when Luck took them down the field with under a minute left and no timeouts for the game-winning field goal. Since then, they've had success after success and are simply very confident in scoring when they need to. Luck is amazingly proficient for a rookie in running the no huddle. In fact, I'd argue they should run it more, but Arians has been reluctant to use it that much on the road. Much of that is due to the offensive line being in flux so much this season.
Luck has the same end of game presence as a Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Tom Brady. He just exudes confidence and commands the field. He's got the ability to make plays and extend plays with his legs and has some really good targets in Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Donnie Avery and Coby Fleener.
What's emerged in the last few weeks is the play of RB Vick Ballard. He's become Bruce Arians' "four-minute" back who can pick up the first downs and run the clock much like Arians used Jerome Bettis in Pittsburgh. The Colts ran out the final nine minutes against the Texans last week to seal the win.
Ravens101: What do the Ravens have to do if they want to have a chance to win this game?
Joe Flacco will have to make plays. Ray Rice may get numbers, but only if its in the process of sealing the win. I see the Colts totally selling out to stop Rice and forcing Flacco to win the game.
Flacco will have his chances. The Colts leave their corners in single coverage a lot, so he'll get more than one chance to find Torrey Smith deep. The Colts have allowed a receiver to have over 100 yards almost every week. Pagano's and Greg Manusky's defensive philosophy is to be aggressive in rushing the quarterback and stopping the run, so they'll give up some big plays. They've been very good, however, in the red zone over the second half of the season.
It will be very interesting to see how Jim Caldwell calls this game. If he's smart, he'll give Ray Rice 30 plus touches. Rice is that good and that will limit the Ravens' chances of turning the ball over.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens need to get pressure on Luck with their front seven. The Colts have the receivers and Luck is proficient at beating single coverage.
Ravens101: Final Prediction?
I've been back and forth on this all week. On paper, this should be a Ravens' win, but on paper the Colts should probably have been 4-12 this year. If I've learned one thing about this Colts team this season, it's never to underestimate them.
I'll say special teams make the difference. Pat McAfee keep the Ravens pinned in poor field position, Luck doesn't turn the ball over and Adam Vinatieri boots three field goals in a 23-17 Colts upset.
Ravens101 would like to thank Chuck for taking the time to give us this insider report, but unfortunately he is wrong in his final prediction as I have Baltimore
winning 27-17, and Luck throws two picks.
Tags: Andrew Luck
, Baltimore Ravens
, Indianapolis Colts
, Joe Flacco
, Ray Rice