Ravens Are Again the Underdog

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The Ravens certainly have a lot to overcome if one takes a quick glance at their history against the Indianapolis Colts.

Baltimore has not beaten quarterback Peyton Manning in the last seven attempts. The Ravens even lost to Indianapolis earlier this season.

A hostile environment at Lucas Oil Stadium doesn't help matters. And of course, there are the lingering sounds of Mayflower moving vans rumbling out of Baltimore 27 years ago that still has Ravens fans in a tizzy.

All in all, Saturday's matchup with the Colts could be considered one of the biggest Ravens games this decade.

Certainly, Super Bowl XXXV stands along at the top. But, the Ravens have had the Manning monkey around their necks for quite a while. Baltimore last beat the horseshoes in 1999, Manning's rookie year. Since then, he has delivered a surgical exposure on every occasion.

"To say that it's just another game, that's the mindset you have to take, but deep down inside we know that this is not just another game," said running back Ray Rice. "It's a game that you win, you keep going. Obviously, when you start your season goals off, a Super Bowl is always [first]. It's definitely not a lofty goal for this team. We scratched the surface last year, and

we've been through our adversity this year. We're right back where we want to be."

Still, the Ravens don't feel like Saturday night's matchup is too big for them. Baltimore has been here before.

In fact, the Ravens have been expecting this exact battle.

The Ravens' playoff road began in New England, where they defeated Tom Brady and the team of the 2000s. With three Super Bowl wins from 2001-04, the Patriots represented a level that the Ravens aspire to achieve.

They resoundingly dispatched their rival, 33-14.

Now, it's an opponent that could be considered the team of the year. Indianapolis jumped out to a 14-0 record this season before resting many of their starters and losing their last two contests.

First, it was Brady, the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and now the Most Valuable Player, Manning, is ready to strafe the Ravens' defense.

"Once we got in the playoffs we kind of knew the road that we were going to take," said linebacker Ray Lewis. "And what other road is there to take when you go from probably two of the best quarterbacks of the last decade and things like that?

So, the challenge is going to remain the challenge, really. Those guys are always playing at a high level. Peyton always has his team playing at a high level. So, it's going to be a big challenge for us this week."

The Ravens understand that the odds are against them, but that's not such a bad thing.

One year ago, the Ravens were in a similar situation, as their sixth seed relegated them to the road for each postseason game. The Ravens beat the AFC East champion Miami Dolphins at their place, then defeated the No. 1 seeded Tennessee Titans in Nashville before falling to the Steelers in the AFC Championship.

"We've played the No. 1 seed on the road before," quarterback Joe Flacco explained. "We understand what it takes to go in there and [win]. It's going to take a good amount on our part, and we understand that. We thrive in that situation. It's going to take going on the road in Indy, a pretty loud place [and] a place where the fans are going to be into it.

"Those guys are going to be ready to play. They're going to come out of the blocks fast. That's what kind of team they are, and we're going to go in there and we're going to have to control that and use it to our advantage. So, I think we have learned how to do that from a certain point."

Historically, Baltimore has done a great job of not letting outside influences affect the team when it counts. Since 2000, the Ravens own six road wins during the playoffs, tops in the NFL during that span. And, three of them have come under head coach John Harbaugh, who is 3-1 over two years helming the Ravens. Baltimore is 8-8 away from M&T Bank Stadium under Harbaugh during the regular season.

"The thing that it says is we always say we don't care where we play at, realistically," said Lewis. "And I think that's kind of the motto of our team. Over the years, no matter where we go play at, playing on the road, playing at home – of course playing at home is always an advantage because of our crowd – but playing away as well is kind of an advantage because we always look at it as there's no pressure on us.

"The bottom line is, no matter where we go play at, no matter who we're playing, going to play in somebody else's home, there is no pressure. Just go let your hair [down] and play football."

At the end of the day, the Ravens are not letting any of the media chatter get to them. There is a lot of history that would suggest otherwise, but the Ravens aim to start a story of their own.

"We understand the history," Harbaugh said. "I'm old enough to know the history. Most of the players aren't. You'd have to explain it to them, for sure, and I don't think they're that interested because we're focused on other things. The concern is the game that is going to be played on Saturday."

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