2012 AFC Wild-Card Picks: Ravens over Colts

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 30:  Tyrod Taylor #2 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Hosting a playoff game is usually reason for rejoicing in the NFL. Yet for a team that's reached January play for the fifth consecutive year, all is not right in the world of the Baltimore Ravens.

John Harbaugh's crew comes limping into the postseason, losing four of its last five contests. Worse, the Ravens weren't exactly strong in showings against a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers in Week 11 (13-10 win) and a pedestrian Chargers squad in Week 12 (16-13 OT victory), with the latter needing star running back Ray Rice converting a miraculous 4th-and-29 desperation play to save Baltimore. The lack of offensive cohesiveness led to the firing of coordinator Cam Cameron, an almost unheard-of move for a team leading its division.

Though Cameron's play-calling was suspect, the real culprit of Baltimore's uninspired play lies under center. Joe Flacco failed to illustrate signs of progression in his fifth season as the Ravens signal-caller, still displaying a propensity of inaccuracy and ill-timed interceptions. Entering free agency this offseason, another disappointing display from the Delaware product could indicate the end of his tenure in Maryland.

While Flacco's residency may be ending, the Andrew Luck Era is off to an auspicious start in Indianapolis. With major expectations as the No. 1 overall pick, as well as the quarterback heir to a certain field general that now calls Denver home, Luck managed to exceed this amplified outlook, leading the Colts to an 11-5 record. Luck is not without fallacy, as he posted a disconcerting 23 turnovers, yet for a neophyte arm, the Horseshoe faithful have to be excited about the early returns from their new franchise face.

Not that Luck has been alone in this endeavor. Perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne proved there's still some gas left in his tank, submitting over 100 receptions for 1,355 yards. Wayne was complemented by the fledgling T.Y. Hilton, who found the end zone six times in the last two months. Add in the emergence of rusher Vick Ballard, who averaged over 77 yards on the ground in December, and Indianapolis is an offense not to be trifled with.


Opposing this assault will be a rejuvenated Ravens defense. Baltimore's resistance is usually perceived as one of the league's best, but this season, the unit was more bark than bite, as injuries to Lardarius Webb, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs translated to a middling performance. Luckily for the Ravens, the return of their venerable leader Lewis this week instantly adds credibility to the depleted crew. Throw in a raucous home-field crowd, and Luck and the Colts offense will have their hands full on Sunday.

So who emerges victorious and keeps their Lombardi Trophy aspirations alive? According to the WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Ravens come out on top 53.2 percent of the time by an average margin of 24-22.


AFC Wild Card: Colts at Ravens
Matchup Win% Avg Score WIS Interactive
Indianapolis Colts 46.8 22 Boxscore
@ Baltimore Ravens 53.2 24 Simulate Game


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