The Indianapolis Colts host the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. I spoke with Brett Foote, editor of Ebony Bird, to get some behind the scenes informations heading into the game.
1. How have the Ravens managed to stay so focused with so much controversy surrounding the team all season?
The team has really stayed focus and amazingly is on a three game win streak despite all the controversy. I attribute their focus to John Harbaugh, mostly. He has managed to keep the players focused on what they can control even though the team has been faced with endless scrutiny. When things like this happen and teams continue to perform, it’s a testament to the leaders on the team, namely the coaching staff.
2. What has the addition of Steve Smith to the roster done for the Ravens outside of the obvious? How important is he for the offense to be successful?
Outside of Smith’s surprisingly effective play the first four games, it’s obvious that he has brought an edge to the Ravens that they haven’t had since Anquan Boldin left. Smith has a mercurial personality which caused him to fall out of favor in Carolina. But it seems like he has meshed with the Ravens perfectly fine so far. Right now Smitty is running all the high percentage routes in Gary Kubiak‘s offense, which shows how much faith they have in him. Meanwhile, “number one receiver” Torrey Smith continues to run outs and simply draw defenders, and pass interference flags.
Owen Daniels and Torrey Smith had marginally better games last Sunday than in previous weeks. We imagined that a number of players would pick up the slack in Pitta’s absence, and if last week holds true we are going to continue to see targets spread around. Outside of Steve Smith, who is dominating targets, Joe Flacco spread the ball around very evenly against the Panthers. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk has picked up some snaps as well, and Kubiak ran more three wide receiver sets last Sunday with Marlon Brown rotating in, instead of using the typical two tight end sets. Daniels is too old and fragile to be a direct replacement for Pitta, and the Ravens know that.
4. Who is someone that Colts fans might not know but will after Sunday’s game? Who needs to step up to come away with a win?
Kyle Juszczyk is an up and coming player who is incredibly athletic for a fullback. Prior to the regular season, the Ravens were talking him up as a big time playmaker this season. Gary Kubiak has a history of utilizing hybrid H-back types in the passing game, which is a mold “Juice Check” fits very well. The only thing holding back his snaps right now is his deficiency in pass blocking. He has been picking up more snaps in each game and is going to break out eventually.
With normal starter Lardarius Webb still battling conditioning and back issues, cornerback Asa Jackson has to step up this week. Jackson had three straight poor performances in coverage before he stepped up against the Panthers. The Ravens desperately need either him or Chykie Brown to step up until Webb is healthy enough to play.
5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s game? Who wins and why?
I am having a tough time with this one. Both teams have a lot of momentum. The Colts have an offense that can score on anyone, yet the Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL so far. Vegas is giving the Colts a slight edge since they are the home team, and that may prove to be the difference. It really boils down to how effectively the Ravens can continue to run the ball and sustain drives, along with preventing the big play. I haven’t made my official prediction yet, but I am leaning towards giving the Colts a small margin of victory.
Bonus Question: Why can’t Baltimore fans let go of their hatred of the Colts? Two Super Bowls and they’re still upset.
I guess some hard feelings never go away! Besides, rivalries staked in that kind of history are what makes the NFL so great.