The Indianapolis Colts return from their two week hiatus to host a real football team. The Baltimore Ravens come to town to test an Indy team brimming with confidence after two dominating wins.
The Ravens (3-1) lost their home opener but since then have had three solid victories. They have a tendency to struggle on the road in recent season, and this year doesn’t appear to be any different. The Ravens dominated the Panthers last week. The Colts (2-2) are also fresh off a blowout win, but this one was against a division rival.
Coach John Harbaugh brought up the old Colts “piping in crowd noise” non-controversy once again, so the fans at Lucas Oil should take it as a point of pride to be as loud as possible.
This feels like a game that should be played under the lights. There is plenty of star power on each team and a lot of connections between the two. Chuck Pagano was the defensive coordinator for the Ravens and a number of Colts players have come from them as well.
The two teams haven’t faced each other since the 2012 playoffs. The Ravens defeated the Colts for the first time in the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Here’s what fans should watch for on Sunday:
- The Test. The Colts spent two weeks with
Class 6A, Division II, FCS, AFC South opponents. The Ravens are a much, much better team. They will test the defense far more than the Titans or Jaguars could ever hope to. Defensively, the Ravens are adept at shutting down rushing attacks while letting inferior quarterbacks pass for plenty of yards. A win on Sunday, and the Colts should be in the conversation as one of the best in the AFC.
- Elite-ness. Is Joe Flacco elite? Is Andrew Luck an elite quarterback? You will probably hear that word thrown around a lot on Sunday. Its a dumb debate about who is and isn’t in the top whatever at quarterback in the NFL. Flacco had an unbelievable stretch back in 2012 to win a Super Bowl, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then (and in Eli’s case, twice). Luck is still coming into his own, but is clearly the best QB in the NFL right now.
- Steve Smith, Sr. Double cover this man all day long. Don’t second guess it, just lock him down. He is the entirety of the Ravens passing attack. Last week he torched his former team for a pair of ridiculous touchdowns. I doubt he has a repeat performance, but the Colts would be wise to always account for his whereabouts.
- Mr. Wayne. Reggie Wayne, much like Smith, is having a great season considering his age and surgically repaired knee. He always shows up for big games and this is the first time he’ll face the Ravens without his college roommate, safety Ed Reed. Without Reed, the Ravens secondary is, well, bad. Wayne will take it as a point of pride not to be upstaged by the other “old receiver” in his building. Watch Wayne have another big game against the Ravens.
- Protection. The Colts’ coaches are messing with one of the best offensive lines in football. Through four weeks, they rank sixth in pass protection. This week, it looks like A.Q. Shipley won’t be starting, despite the fact that he ranks third among centers per Pro Football Focus. The reasoning might have to do with Shipley not matching up well against the Ravens and having been on their roster in 2013 and through training camp in 2014. It still seems like an odd decision to mess with something that is far from broken especially when continuity is so important along the line.
- Zero. The Ravens have never won in Indianapolis. The Colts are 5-0 at home and hold a 9-4 record over the Ravens all-time, including the playoffs. Two of those losses? One came during the gas leak season in 2011 with Dan Orlovsky at QB and the other was in the playoffs in Luck’s rookie year. The Ravens are in a special club with the Texans with both team’s never winning in Indy (and the Texans get a shot every, single year). The big difference is at least the Ravens have two rings to hang their hats on.
The Colts are due for a win against a quality opponent. With the home field advantage and Luck playing out of his mind, I like the Colts to win a close game.