Why the Indianapolis Colts Are Ready to Knock off the Baltimore Ravens

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Why the Indianapolis Colts Are Ready to Knock off the Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens have won at least one playoff game a season since John Harbaugh became the team's head coach in 2008—a streak that's about to come to a bitter end.

The Indianapolis Colts are on a roll, and with head coach Chuck Pagano back at the helm, they're set to knock the Ravens out of the tournament on Sunday.

Granted, most of the Colts' victories in 2012 haven't been pretty (think about the team's Week 16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs when they allowed 507 total yards). But there's no doubting this team has the edge over the Ravens in their upcoming Wild Card Game.

 

Two Opposite Directions

The Ravens backed into the playoffs in the worst way, losing four of their last five games.

Even worse, the Ravens haven't played well since their Week 10 drubbing of the lowly Oakland Raiders. They barely won their next two games against the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers and pathetic San Diego Chargers.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Colts have won five of their last six (the team's only loss coming at Reliant Stadium against the Houston Texans) and nine of their last 11 (the other loss coming at Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots). 

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If Joe Flacco were on par with Tom Brady, or if the Ravens defense was able to stop the run like the Texans, I'd say Baltimore would have a shot to win on Sunday. 

But it doesn't.

Momentum is crucial in the NFL, and right now, the Colts have it and the Ravens don't.

Add a revitalized and healthy Chuck Pagano to the mix and we have the recipe for a road win for the underdog Colts. 

 

Ravens Defense Doesn't Scare Anybody Any More

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There used to be a time, not so long ago, that the Ravens featured one of the most fearsome and dynamic defenses in the NFL.

That time is nothing but a faded memory, though, as Baltimore's defense has been highly exploitable in 2012, and I'm expecting the Colts offense to wreak some havoc on Sunday. 

Baltimore ranks in the bottom half in total yards per game (No. 17), rushing yards per game (No. 20), passing yards per game (No. 17) and ranks No. 12 in scoring defense. 

Terrell Suggs hasn't been himself since tearing his Achilles' tendon last year; Ray Lewis looked a bit slower than usual before tearing his triceps; Ed Reed isn't as dominant as he used to be; Haloti Ngata has been battling injury all year long and the team lost Lardarius Webb early on to a torn ACL.

The biggest concern from my perspective is that teams have been able to run the ball at will for much of the season, and Vick Ballard has been running well of late, tallying 346 yards in his last four games

If he can continue pounding away on the ground, Andrew Luck will have no trouble finding Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton for big plays through the air. 

 

Andrew Luck > Joe Flacco

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This was supposed to be the year that Flacco took the big step toward becoming one of the NFL's "elite" quarterbacks.

That didn't happen. 

If anything, Flacco has taken a couple steps back in his past two seasons, as he's failed to complete 60 percent of his passes since 2010. 

Luck, on the other hand, has emerged as a burgeoning "elite" quarterback—especially if you consider that he's been playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL this season (41 sacks)—passing for over 4,300 yards with 23 touchdowns (one more than Flacco). 

Even more impressive than his massive passing totals in 2012 were his late-game heroics. 

As a rookie, Luck brought his team back with four fourth-quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives (h/t Scott Kacsmar of Pro-Football-Reference.com). 

Flacco has been in the league for five years, and during that time he's led just nine fourth-quarter comebacks and 14 game-winning drives. 

Luck has been making fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton into a legitimate threat, and the two of them seem to connect on deep passes every single game. Reggie Wayne has had a monster year, too, and the Colts offense will continue rolling on Sunday against the Ravens.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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