The Ravens and Colts offenses have been red-hot lately.
Indianapolis (2-2) has the top-ranked offense in the NFL, and the Ravens (3-1) are climbing the charts after a 38-10 victory over the Panthers last week. The teams have scored a combined 144 points the last two weeks.
"This is probably the best offense we've had to face so far," cornerback Jimmy Smith said.
The numbers indicate that Sunday's matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium could be a high-scoring affair, and the Ravens have to figure out a way to stop one of top quarterbacks in the game.
Adding to the challenge is that the Ravens have to get the job done on the road, as Sunday's showdown begins a stretch where Baltimore will play four out ofthe next five games away from M&T Bank Stadium.
"We are 3-1 in the first quarter, and now we start a new phase, a new series, so to speak," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "The second quarter of the season is the second series, and three of these four games are going to be on the road in very tough environments. We have our work cut out for us."
Three Matchups To Watch
CB Jimmy Smith vs. WR Reggie Wayne
The Ravens cornerback has been one of the team's best defenders this season, and he has another challenge ahead of him in defending Colts receiver Reggie Wayne. The 14-year veteran is coming off his best game of the season, where he caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. At times this season, the Ravens have used Smith to shadow the opposing team's top wideout, and that could happen again on Sunday.
DT Haloti Ngata vs. C A.Q. Shipley
When the Ravens cut offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley at the end of the preseason, the Colts quickly picked him up and placed him into the starting lineup. Shipley, who started nine games for the Ravens at left guard last season, has been the Colts starting center all season. He's earned high marks for his performance, but now he'll have to stop one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the game. Ngata has a significant size advantage over Shipley (6-foot-4, 340 pounds compared to 6-1, 307), and Ngata will look to capitalize.
S Matt Elam vs. QB Andrew Luck
The Ravens have moved Elam all over the field early in the season, mostly because of the lingering injury to cornerback Lardarius Webb. Opposing quarterbacks have tried to go after Elam when he's out of position, and he has given up some big plays this year. Luck could certainly follow suit, and the Ravens safety will have to be at his best to keep the Colts' dynamic offense from getting any of those big plays down the field.
Three Keys To The Game
Establish The Running Game
One way to limit Luck is to control the time of possession and keep him off the field. Establishing the running game is paramount in making that happen. With the three-headed rushing attack in the backfield, the Ravens will have plenty of options to throw at the Colts defensive front. The Ravens have averaged 134.5 rushing yards per game through the first four games, and that's a trend that will likely need to continue if they get out of Indianapolis with a win.
Applying pressure in the face of opposing quarterbacks is always part of the plan, and that's especially true when facing a player the caliber of Luck. The Ravens pass rush was effective last week against the Panthers, and the Ravens hope that momentum carries into this week's game. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil leads the Ravens with 2.5 sacks, and the Ravens will count on him to deliver some hits to make Luck uncomfortable.
Take Crowd Out Of Game
Expect a loud Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano used Harbaugh's comments about Indianapolis supposedly piping crowd noise into its stadium as a challenge to the fan base. "Let's see how our 12th man reacts to that insult," Pagano said. The Ravens will have to avoid falling into an early hole to quiet the crowd, and a quick Baltimore touchdown could take the fans out of the game.