The Ravens are set to take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium (8:15 p.m. ET).
*BR.com offers a look at Baltimore's next opponent. *
2009 Rankings* *
Total Offense – 9th (363.1 ypg) Total Defense – 18th (339.2)
Rush Offense – 32nd (80.9) Rush Defense – 24th (126.5)
Pass Offense – 2nd (282.2) Pass Defense – 14th (212.7)
Points Per Game – 7th (26.0) Points Per Game – 8th (19.2)
Sizing Them Up
The Colts have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and that is largely because of 10-time Pro Bowler Peyton Manning. The all-world quarterback had one of his best years in 2009, completing 393 of 571 passes for 4,500 yards, 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, while only taking 10 sacks.
It's been the same offense for 12 consecutive years, considering he's had the same coordinator in Tom Moore and same offensive line coach in Howard Mudd. All in all, the Colts get it done through the air.
Manning distributes the football to multiple targets, but his most-prolific weapons are wideout Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. Both Wayne and Clark boast 100 receptions, 10 touchdowns and over 1,000 receiving yards.
Manning has also been a key factor in the development of young receivers Pierre Garcon, a deep threat averaging 16.3 yards per catch, and Austin Collie, who is dangerous in the slot.
The Colts don't have much of a rushing attack, but that's not such a bad thing when Manning is slinging the ball all over the field.
What's Up?* *
John Oesher of Colts.com writes about some of the Colts' rookies and their first playoff experience.
"Powers said, there was a certain something. An energy. A focus. A knowledge that while all games are meaningful, the one this weekend is really meaningful."
Bob Kravitz from the Indianapolis Star wonders where the Colts would be without University of North Carolina alumnus Jeff Saturday at center.
"Since 1999, Saturday has felt only one man's supple hands under his ample backside -- at least that's the prevailing rumor -- and it's Peyton Manning. It would have seemed like some kind of a cosmic betrayal if Manning tomorrow was taking snaps from, say, Jamey Richard."
The Star's Colts writers give their predictions on the outcome of Saturday's contest. Not much love for the Ravens.
Offensive – This offense starts and stops with Manning, who is performing at an elite level in his 12th season. It's uncanny how he has complete command of the system, as evidenced by his surgeon-like execution. There is no time when one doesn't think the Colts can score because of Manning's heroics.
Defensive – Freeney takes this honor for yet another superb campaign that featured him terrorizing quarterbacks. Freeney boasts 13.5 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures. With a quick first step and his trademark spin move, not many offense tackles can block Freeney, making him a game-changer.
CB Jerraud Powers
Since ascending to the starting lineup because of injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart, Powers has emerged as a playmaker. A third-round pick out of Auburn, Powers tallied 71 tackles and nine pass deflections this season.
Ravens OTs Jared Gaither and Michael Oher vs. Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert MathisThe Ravens must help out the two young tackles with a tight end or perhaps a chipping running back, but at the end of the day, it's going to take a Herculean effort from Gaither and Oher to block a tandem that has combined for 23 sacks this season.
Ravens CB Chris Carr vs. Colts TE Dallas ClarkThe Colts line Clark up wide as a receiver often, which presents huge matchup problems. Carr has been a standout in the slot, and he'll likely move inside in three-receiver situations, with Frank Walker going outside. That means Carr is going to have to be physical with Clark at the line of scrimmage and make a play on the ball when it's thrown his way.
Caldwell on the Ravens' rushing offense: "I'll tell you what: They put on such a devastating performance, in regard to just [a] dominating performance [against the Patriots]. They give you lots of problems. Obviously, their offensive line is blocking extremely well. They're a physical bunch, and they did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. And then you couple that with the fact that you have a great back – a great set of backs – that do a great job of not only being patient waiting for things to open for them, but once they find a crack, they have the long speed where they can take it to the house. So yeah, they certainly do concern us."
Manning on if the Ravens look more formidable than their Week 11 matchup: "Well, I thought they were pretty formidable the first time we played them. Every time I've played them, I think they've been a tough opponent. They have excellent players, certainly a lot of guys that have been there for a number of years. Certainly, they have some new faces, but even their new faces, those guys are experienced because of where they are at this point in the season. They've played a lot of games, and they've been in a lot of different situations. And kind of like our team does, they're going to lean on their veteran leaders like [Ed] Reed, and Suggs and [Ray] Lewis. Certainly Suggs didn't play in the first game [against us]; he is a key player, I think, and certainly having him back is definitely a plus for them."
I think that every NFL fan and every NFL team got a glimpse into what the Ravens need to do in last weekend's 33-14 win over the New England Patriots. It was a rushing extravaganza, with the Ravens racking up 234 yards on the ground and simply punishing the Pats into submission with their huge jumbo package or unbalanced line.
The same could – and should – apply to the Colts game. Indianapolis has a smaller defense that is based on quickness and swarming to the ball. To combat that, the Ravens must make sure they get a helmet on a helmet and lock up their assignment while blocking, giving Ray Rice and Co. a chance to break one tackle and burst free.
When Manning has the ball, pressure is critical. In New England, Terrell Suggs had a sack/strip early in the game on quarterback Tom Brady, followed by a huge sack by Ray Lewis. That caused Brady to think about the rush a little more and threw him off-kilter.
If the Ravens can get to Manning early, it would go a long way into slowing down an offense that is solely based on the pass. Certainly, the Ravens have played well recently in the secondary, but a large part of that is due to increased pressure up front.
The keys to a Baltimore win are simple, but the Ravens must simply apply them.