It sounds strange to say, given the three-decades-long run of the Baltimore Colts years ago, but on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts will visit Charm City to take on the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Wild Card matchup.
No. 4 seed Baltimore enters having dropped four of its last five games, while Indy comes in on a two-game winning streak as well as having won five of its last six overall. Clearly the No. 5-seeded Colts are the hotter team at the moment, but can they knock off a veteran team with Super Bowl aspirations of its own on the road?
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for Sunday's AFC Wild Card tilt.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
When: Sunday, January 6 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: WFNI 1070 AM (Indianapolis), WBAL 1090 AM (Baltimore)
Live Streaming: NFL Audio Pass (audio only live stream)
Betting Line: Ravens (-6.5), according to Covers.com.
What's At Stake?
It's simple: the winner of Sunday afternoon's matchup advances to the AFC Divisional Round to play at No. 1-seeded Denver or No. 2-seeded New England depending on the result of Saturday's AFC Wild Card between Cincinnati and Houston.
The loser goes home and begins the long offseason.
Colts Injury Report (according to USA Today)
DE Cory Redding (Quadricep), questionable for Sunday
DT Antonio Johnson (Ankle), questionable for Sunday
LB Kavell Conner (Hamstring), questionable for Sunday
RB Delone Carter (Ankle), questionable for Sunday
C Samson Satele (Ankle), questionable for Sunday
S Tom Zbikowski (Knee), questionable for Sunday
LB A.J. Edds (Knee), out for season
LB Scott Lutrus (Knee), out for season
RB Robert Hughes (Knee), placed on IR
RB Donald Brown (Ankle), placed on IR
LB Justin Hickman (Hamstring), placed on IR
DT Fili Moala (Knee), placed on IR
DT Drake Nevis (Hand), placed on IR
CB Jerraud Powers (Toe), placed on IR
G Seth Olsen (Knee), placed on IR
NT Josh Chapman (Knee), placed on IR
DT Brandon McKinney (Knee), placed on IR
WR Griff Whalen (Foot), placed on IR
WR Austin Collie (Knee), placed on IR
Ravens Injury Report (according to USA Today)
LB Terrell Suggs (Bicep), probable for Sunday
WR Anquan Boldin (Shoulder), probable for Sunday
WR Tandon Doss (Ankle), questionable for Sunday
G Marshal Yanda (Knee), questionable for Sunday
DE Haloti Ngata (Knee), questionable for Sunday
LB Albert McClellan (Hamstring), questionable for Sunday
LB Ray Lewis (Tricep), questionable for Sunday
S Bernard Pollard (Chest), questionable for Sunday
LB Jameel McClain (Neck), out for season
CB Asa Jackson (Suspension), out indefinitey
WR LaQuan Williams (Ankle), placed on IR
DB Anthony Levine (Shoulder), placed on IR
S Christian Thompson (Knee), placed on IR
RB Bobby Rainey (Knee), placed on IR
CB Lardarius Webb (Knee), placed on IR
DB Emanuel Cook (Leg), placed on IR
DE Ryan McBean (Ankle), placed on IR
What They're Saying
Sunday's playoff game has tons of intriguing storylines and features a handful of connections between the two franchises.
Beyond the fact that the Colts once called Baltimore home, from 1953 to 1983, there are also some coaching connections. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2011, while current Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was head coach for Indy from 2009-11.
This from The Indianapolis Star's Phillip B. Wilson:
Before his promotion as Ravens defensive coordinator in 2011, Pagano was the secondary coach for three years. He's still close to many of his former players.
Meanwhile, current Ravens coach John Harbaugh had the following response when asked what it would take for future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis to return to the field for Sunday's playoff game (via The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson):
It will take me activating him on Sunday, that's what it will take. It will take me not putting his name not on a piece of paper for the de-actives, and you will found out an hour-and-a-half before the game whether or not that takes place.
Lewis has not played since injuring his triceps in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Colts Player to Watch
NFL fans are going to want to keep an eye on Andrew Luck on Sunday. The Colts rookie will make his first career playoff start on the road against a perennial contender in the Ravens.
Last year's No. 1 overall pick has thrown for over 4,300 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, and has proven to be a pivotal leader in the huddle and on the sideline for Indianapolis. But although Baltimore's defense has been shaky since losing key players like Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb to injury, the Ravens have remained solid against the pass, which should make for a fascinating matchup this weekend.
If the Colts' defense can step up, Luck won't need to try and outscore the Ravens on Sunday, but either way, the most important player on the field for the road team will need to be at his best directing the offense and avoiding mistakes.
Ravens Player to Watch
If there's a player in Sunday's game poised for a big day, it's Baltimore's Ray Rice. The shifty, do-it-all back will be pitted against the Colts' porous rush defense, which finished the regular season ranked 29th in the league, surrendering nearly 138 yards on the ground per week.
Rice, the Ravens' leading rusher this season with 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, is also one of the team's best receivers, having caught 61 passes for 478 yards in 2012.
Fans should expect Rice to see plenty of touches on Sunday. In the Ravens' last meaningful game against the New York Giants, Rice carried the ball 24 times and caught six passes, finishing with 158 yards and a score. He may not touch the ball 30 times against Indy, but the more often he does the more trouble the Colts will be in.
Having just made a case for Ray Rice as Baltimore's biggest threat on Sunday, let's stick with the Ravens back for the game's key matchup, which will pit Rice against Indy's front seven. We've mentioned how dynamic Rice is as a ball carrier, and how the Colts have struggled to contain opposing runners this season. Therefore the game will hinge on the winner of this matchup.
If Rice carries the ball 20 or more times and winds up with 100-plus yards rushing, Baltimore should escape at home. After all, the Ravens are 3-1 this season when Rice surpasses 100 rushing yards in a game.
On the other hand, if Rice is underutilized or somehow struggles to gain yards consistently, then the Colts will likely be in it until the end, giving them a real shot to pull off the upset. In the Ravens' 10 wins this season, Rice averaged 18.5 carries. In the six losses, he averaged just 12 carries.
The Ravens have given us very little reason to believe they are capable of making another deep playoff run this January, but they are playing at home this weekend against a team that was just 2-14 in 2011. There's no doubt about it: the talent, experience and home-field edge all lay with Baltimore.
A final point against the Colts on Sunday: Indy has won just four road games all season, not one of them coming against a team with more than six wins.
Ravens 27, Colts 21
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