It’s playoff time in Baltimore! The Ravens will host the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC wild-card game on Sunday. The Ravens clinched the AFC North and are the No. 4 seed; the Colts are the No. 5 seed.
This will be an emotional game for both teams and is full of interesting story lines. The biggest story for the Ravens is that 17-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis announced he will retire after this season. He tore his triceps in week six, underwent surgery and was placed on the special injured reserve designated to return.
After Lewis returned to the active roster he said he would not play until the playoffs. Head coach John Harbaugh said that Lewis will be in the lineup on Sunday and he is at “full speed”. It is likely to be his last game in Baltimore (there is an outside chance the Ravens could host another home game, but that scenario is unlikely to happen). It will be an emotional game for Lewis, his teammates and the fans at M&T Bank Stadium.
Another intriguing story line is that Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano was the previous defensive coordinator for the Ravens. Pagano left for Indy after last season. Sadly he was diagnosed with Leukemia in the fall, underwent treatment and missed most of the season. The Colts played well under interim head coach Bruce Arians; much improved from their 2-14 record last season.
The Ravens who played under Pagano are still close to him, it will be an emotional return for him and his former players.
Finally Ravens’ quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell, was the previous head coach of the Colts; he left after last season.
Both sides have inside knowledge of each other’s teams. The game will be a chess match and the winner will be the team who plays better with little to no mistakes.
The Ravens offense needs to utilize running back Ray Rice. The more carries he has, the more likely the Ravens are to win the game. Quarterback Joe Flacco has historically performed well under playoff pressure, hopefully he will continue the trend in this game.
The defense will be super charged since it is Lewis’ last home game, while they need to harness that energy, they also need to focus and keep their emotions in check. Many defensive players were banged up all season, most rested last week and are ready return to the field.
They need to contain Colts’ quarterback Andrew luck and not let him get out of the pocket. He is pretty mobile and if he gets out of the pocket, the Ravens’ defense need to stop him.
No Ravens are ruled out for the game, though as part of their comprehensive injury report, 19 players are listed as probable including fullback Vonta Leach and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Three players are listed as questionable: wide receiver Tandon Doss, safety Bernard Pollard and left guard Jah Reid.
While the Ravens are favored to win the game, the Colts are sure to put up a good fight. I am happy that I will be at the game, as soon as I heard about Ray Lewis’ retirement I hopped online and snatched a ticket, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
It will be a fired up atmosphere, but in the end, the winner will be the team who plays better. I hope it is the Ravens, it would be nice to send Ray Lewis off with a win at home.