Ravens To Face Third Unbeaten Team


By watching practice on Friday, it would be hard to tell that the Ravens are a team with their playoff lives on the line and getting ready to play the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.

The players seemed loose coming off the field, singing loudly and joking with the media and each other.

Head coach John Harbaugh elicited laughter on more than one occasion when addressing the media.

And, there wasn't the rush to shower, grab a quick lunch of pizza and wings, and mad dash from team headquarters that typically closes out a Friday afternoon.

The Ravens are obviously loose.

"I think we have a confident team, and we've played a heck of a schedule," Harbaugh said. "I think we're playing seven out of eight first-place teams. That's just what it is. We'd have liked to have won a couple of more there, and if we had won a couple of those in there that were close games, we'd be excited about what the record is.

"We're playing three really good teams in a row here, and starting with the Colts. You're not going to be uptight about it. We're not going to be intimidated. We're excited to go play. We know we have a very good football team, and we really want to prove it. We're going to do our best to try to prove it on Sunday."

Handing a perfect club their first loss is a tall task, but not one unfamiliar to the Ravens.

Already this season, they have faced two undefeated teams.

In Week 6, the Ravens went to Minnesota, then 5-0, and it took a missed 44-yard field goal by former kicker Steve Hauschka for the Vikings to keep their record pristine.

Two weeks later, it was the 6-0 Denver Broncos coming to M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens dismantled Denver, 30-7, with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball.

Still, the Ravens sit third in the AFC North at 5-4. The winning record is a positive, but with a three-game stretch against the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers – in addition to another Steelers matchup – each week presents a must-win scenario.

"You need to respect what they've done, respect who they have as their leader and just respect the things that they do," running back Ray Rice admitted. "But we're going to take it as they're the only team we have. We know we can't look ahead at the games we have ahead. They're the team in front of us, and we have to go out there and play our best football next week.

"As long as we take it one game at a time and not look ahead to anything else, then I think our team is in a good state of mind. You know, obviously the win against Cleveland helps, it's a divisional win, but you've got to take it as a one-game season from here on out."

The Colts' leader, quarterback Peyton Manning, gives them a chance to win in every game with the explosive offense he orchestrates, and that is no more evident than against the Ravens.

Manning has not lost to Baltimore in six consecutive meetings, including a 2006 Divisional Playoffs contest, and he has totaled at least 249 passing yards and at least one touchdown all seven times he's seen the Ravens.

"It's a great opportunity for us where we are," said linebacker Ray Lewis, Manning's chief chess opponent. "You're seeing probably the best team in football, outside the Saints. They're still undefeated. Peyton Manning is playing out of his mind right now, which is always expected with him. I just think a lot of guys around him are making a lot of plays as well."

The Colts, who boast the NFL's stingiest scoring defense, has also presented problems for opponents with a foundation of speed and quickness up front and a Cover-2 philosophy on the back end.

There could be some opportunities there, however, because injuries have limited the Colts at cornerback, pushing rookie cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey into recent games.

"In a lot of ways, there are ways to protect young corners, and they do an outstanding job of that," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron explained.

"They're not just putting those guys out there in Cover 1, man-to-man coverage, single coverage all day. That's not happening. If that were the case, then you'd say, 'OK, go out and throw it to the two young corners all day.' But they're not doing that. They're smart. You've got to attack this defense from all 11 guys. It's an outstanding defense, obviously one of the better defenses in the league."

Considering the tough circumstances surrounding the Ravens in this battle, the demeanor around the team is focused and determined while remaining laid-back.

Perhaps that is because the Ravens know they can't change the past. And Sunday will go a long way to seeing how far the future of this season will be.

"We've just got to win a football game," said receiver Derrick Mason. "I don't care if it is the Colts or whoever. [Whether it is] an 0-8 team, or a 7-0 team or an 8-0 team, we've just got to win a football game. It just so happened that the Colts are our next opponent."

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