Football fans in Baltimore likely still harbor hostilities towards the franchise they used to call their own, and the history between the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts will be one of many intriguing story lines in this AFC Wild Card matchup.
There is a prevailing sentiment in the NFL that momentum matters in the postseason, and this game will put that theory to the test.
Indianapolis has won five of its last six games and finished the year with a victory over the Houston Texans. The win was made even more impressive by the circumstances: The Colts could not move out of the fifth seed while the Texans were playing to clinch home-field advantage.
Baltimore, in contrast, has lost four of its last five games and ended its regular season campaign with a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here is everything you need to know about this matchup.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
When: Sunday, January 6, 1 p.m. ET
Listen: WFNI 1070 AM, WLHK 97.1 FM (Indianapolis), WBAL 1090 AM (Baltimore)
Colts Injuries (via ESPN, as of December 30)
DE Cory Redding—Quad—Did not play vs. Texans in Week 17
RB Delonte Carter—Ankle—Did not play vs. Texans in Week 17
S Tom Zbikowski—Knee—Did not play vs. Texans in Week 17
Ravens Injuries (via ESPN, as of December 30)
LB Ray Lewis—Triceps—Did not play vs. Bengals in Week 17
LB Terrell Suggs—Biceps—Did not play vs. Bengals in Week 17
WR Tandon Doss—Ankle—Did not play vs. Bengals in Week 17
DT Haloti Ngata—Knee—Did not play vs. Bengals in Week 17
S Bernard Pollard—Ribs—Did not play vs. Bengals in Week 17
WR Anquan Boldin—Shoulder—Did not play vs. Bengals in Week 17
What’s At Stake
Playoff football has finally arrived, and this game will be a thrilling affair for NFL fans.
Both teams know that there is no tomorrow if they lose, and every ounce of effort each player possesses will be spent. Everything is at stake in this game, and that will make for a fantastic game of football.
Colts Player to Watch: Andrew Luck, Quarterback
Andrew Luck certainly has not played like a rookie this season, but this is still his first year as a professional, and he is set for the greatest challenge of his football career.
Luck’s counterpart has been to the playoffs during every season of his career, and the Colts signal-caller will need to show maturity beyond his years to get a victory in this game.
Ravens Player to Watch: Ray Rice, Running Back
In any of the previous four seasons, the Ravens player to watch would have been on the defensive side of the ball. However, Baltimore ranked 20th in yards allowed heading into the final week of the season, and the defense is not the same force it has been in recent years.
The Ravens will need to put up points in this game, and their best chance at doing that will be putting the ball in Ray Rice’s hands. He is talented and versatile, and Baltimore’s chances to win this contest will be directly related to the number of touches Rice receives.
What They’re Saying
Another intriguing story line in this matchup will be Chuck Pagano’s return to Baltimore, where he was the defensive coordinator last season. The Associated Press’ Barry Wilner reported the following quote from Ravens safety Ed Reed (via Yahoo Sports):
"Chuck's like a dad to me," Reed said of the Colts coach who returned to the sideline Sunday after nearly three months of leukemia treatments. "He means a lot to me. I would have much rather seen them in the AFC championship game than the first game."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley notes that the Ravens may not have momentum, but their past playoff performances suggest that they will be competitive in this game:
The Ravens (10-6) are limping into the playoffs having lost four of their past five games. But coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco have never been one-and-done in the playoffs. The Ravens have won at least one playoff game for the past four seasons, and they've done it in impressive style.
Key Matchup: Quarterback Duel
This is Joe Flacco’s fourth trip to the playoffs, and it is Luck’s first. However, Flacco has not been the prolific passer the Ravens hoped he would be this season, and in this battle Luck is certainly the more talented player.
But experience counts in the playoffs, and whichever quarterback can make plays while avoiding crucial errors will win the game for their team.
Prediction: Ravens 28, Colts 24
While the momentum is with the Colts, there is too much experience on this Baltimore team for it to lose at home to less-talented squad.