_For the last three weeks, the Indianpolis Colts games can be compared to the show 24. The Colts, playing the role of Jack Bauer, seem like they have close call after close call and you wonder if this is the week where their undefeated record takes a hit. However when the dust settles, the Colts, like Jack Bauer, find a way to win and come out on top. It definitely doesn't get any easier this week when the Colts (9-0) travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens (5-4). The Ravens have won two out of their last three games and are always dangerous to put up a lot of points on their opponents. This game has the makings of a hangover game for the Colts. Coming off of a dramatic, come from behind win (perhaps with a little help from Bill Belichick) against the Patriots last week, the Colts need to definitely put all their focus and energy into beating the Ravens. So without further adieu, let's TAKE A LOOK AT THE MATCHUPS!!!!!
Baltimore Offense (13th in total offense, 11th in points per game, 15th in passing yards per game, 14th in rushing yards per game)
Indianapolis Defense (13th in total defense, 1st in points allowed per game, 16th in passing yards allowed per game, tied for 14th in rushing yards allowed per game)
What was once a top ten defense for the Colts, has now slid down to the middle of the pack. Through many injuries, the Colts are looking for players to step up and fill the voids that Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson, and Tyjuan Hagler have left behind. The defense did not look stellar at all last week against the New England Patriots, giving up 477 total yards and 34 points to the New England offense. Tom Brady was able to throw against the Indianapolis secondary at will, creating big play after big play through the air. However, the Colts defense was able to get stops when it needed to, hanging on by a thread and stopping the New England offense enough in the fourth quarter to allow their offense to make the comeback of a lifetime. The epitome of this was when the defense caused Patriots running back Lawrence Maroney to fumble in the end zone in the third quarter to keep the Patriots within striking distance. The lone standout on the Colts defense last week was defensive end Robert Mathis, who recorded two sacks, one came in the second half when the defense held the Patriots to only 10 points. The Colts defense now has to go against a Raven offense who poses a lot of the same problems that the Patriots offense did. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't having as good of a season as he did last year, (only 12TD and 7INT's so far) however, he's very capable of having a 300 yard, 4 or 5 touchdown game every time he steps on the field. With the Colts secondary being as banged up as it is, expect the Ravens to throw the ball a lot on Sunday. Expect him to target running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Derrick Mason. Ray Rice has been the standout on offense for the Ravens so far this year in my opinion. Rushing the ball, Rice has 662 yards on 128 carries (5.2 average) and has scored 6TD's. Catching the ball out of the backfield, Rice is the 1st on the team in receptions (49) and second on the team in receiving yards (451). Derrick Mason has had a nice year considering the guy wanted to retire in preseason, so far this season he has caught 36 balls, for 530 yards and 4 TD's. The Ravens receiving core doesn't stop with Mason and Rice, they have 6 receivers who have caught at least 20 balls this year. Expect the key matchup to be middle linebacker Gary Brackett vs. Ray Rice. Rice likes to catch the ball out of the ball field often, through screens and swing passes, and expect Brackett to be spying on him all game to make sure Rice doesn't have a huge game for the Ravens.
Indianapolis Offense (3rd in total offense, 4th in points per game, 1st in passing yards per game, 29th in rushing yards per game)
Baltimore Defense (7th in total defense, 5th in points allowed per game, 13th in passing yards allowed per game, 5th in rushing yards allowed per game)
This year, the Ravens have lost a lot of their luster in regards to their defense. The big, bad Ravens of years past are no more. Teams are not totally afraid of this defense anymore. Teams like the Chargers and Bengals have shown that the Ravens defense is suceptible to both the run and the pass, which was definitely not the case a couple of years ago. Ray Lewis, Terell Suggs and Ed Reed are having good statistical years but it seems as though they have all lost a step. The Ravens might have lost a step, but don't think for a minute they still won't punch you in the mouth when they have the chance. For example, look at the hit Ray Lewis put on Chad Ochocinco the first time the Ravens played the Bengals. The Ravens defense can still stop teams if they allow them too. You still need to be prepared for this defense, because they are going to come at you hard and often. For all the injuries that the Colts have had on both sides of the ball, the one good thing is they still have Peyton Manning, and for the last 5 weeks or so, that's all that matters. He's on pace to have better numbers across the board than his MVP season of a year ago, and he should continue to put up big numbers against the Ravens secondary this week. Peyton has always had good numbers against the Ravens and I see no reason why he won't continue to do so. With the Ravens secondary being shaky and the linebackers being a step slower, I expect Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark to have big games this week. Reggie Wayne is coming off of a huge game last week against the Patriots, he caught 10 passes, for 126 yards and 2TD's; the last one coming with 16seconds left to give the Colts the outright lead and a comeback win for the ages against their most hated rival. Dallas Clark's last three games have been quiet statistically, but I expect him to be able to get open on the Ravens linebackers and put up big numbers in this game. Things would be easier for the Colts on offense if they get some sort of running game. They've dropped to 29th league in rushing, only in front of Chicago, Arizona and San Diego, and they're behind some terrible teams such as Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. Pretty embarrasing if you ask me. The Colts need to try and get some balance into their offense and control the clock some. With the defense banged up and giving up a lot of points, their best defense might be more of a ball controlling offense, allowing them to control the clock and keeping the opposing defense off of the field.
Indianapolis (-1) 24
I went against the Colts for the first time last week, and that came back to bite me in the butt. All signs point to Baltimore winning this game; potential hangover for the Colts coming off a big win, Colts going on the road to a pretty hostile crowd, team who can throw for a bunch yards at a time (Ravens), against a banged up secondary (Colts). However, I'm not going against the Colts anymore. They just find ways to win, period. I actually think that the Colts will be able to run the ball this week against the Baltimore defense. This will open up the play action passing game for the Colts, which really hasn't been there the entire season. It won't be as high scoring as everybody thinks, Colts run the ball effectively, Peyton has an efficient day, and the Colts defense does just enough to walk out of Baltimore with a W. Colts go 10-0.
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Written by Andrew Gifford