Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck will lead his team into Baltimore to take on the Ravens in M&T Bank Stadium to kick off Sunday's action on Wild Card Weekend. What's scary is that the No. 1 overall pick has guided his team to 11 wins—and still hasn't even come close to putting it all together, so to speak.
The beginnings of that development will occur against a Ravens team that sports a defense not quite up to snuff with the elite units of previous years. Luck will simply go off.
There has been absolutely nothing for this Colts team to lose all season long, and Luck has played like it. Under the mentorship of interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians—who mentored Luck's predecessor, some guy named Peyton Manning—Luck has cut it loose with a relentless, pass-heavy assault.
The difference in recent weeks has been the emergence of Vick Ballard, who has given the offense some much-needed balance with his tough running between the tackles.
It will be an intriguing chess match to be sure. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will try to get some information out of his brother Jim—Luck's college coach (h/t ESPN). Meanwhile, Arians called the shots for the Pittsburgh Steelers for a long time, and is very familiar with Baltimore's defense.
Chuck Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2011. There is familiarity across the board here, but the Colts still have the advantage.
Luck took 41 sacks as a rookie, and only managed to complete 50 percent of his passes once in his final five games. That's partially due to shoddy protection, partially due to Luck's human error, but is mostly due to how frequently he flings the ball deep down the field.
Any win at this point in the Colts' unbelievable season is gravy, but the Ravens are under much more pressure. The stakes have recently been raised with legendary linebacker Ray Lewis announcing his retirement.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco is in the final year of his rookie contract, without a long-term deal inked. This is Lewis' last ride, and the Ravens haven't fallen short because of their defense throughout Lewis' career.
That intensifies the pressure on Flacco even more, and will lead to Luck outplaying him despite the traditional trend of Joe Cool playing much better at home than on the road.
Who will win Sunday's AFC wild card matchup?
Lewis is still questionable to be on the field, and it's very unlikely he'll be near 100 percent. Ed Reed has been playing banged-up all year, and the Ravens' secondary is thin without top CB Lardarius Webb. Bernard Pollard is also questionable for Sunday's game.
The mobility Luck brings will help extend broken plays, and top target Reggie Wayne will have a huge matchup advantage. The speed of Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton will hurt the Ravens down the seam and on underneath routes, as will athletic rookie TE Dwayne Allen.
All of this spells bad news for Baltimore. Despite Luck's ugly stats recently, he hasn't turned the ball over in three starts, which was the big knock on him through the first 13 games.
Arguing that Luck will continue on his recent, inaccurate trend and flop in his postseason debut may be the easy call. The assertion that he's overdue for a turnover may also ring true, too.
However, it's more likely that he is due to piece it all together.
Considering the immense potential of the Colts' emerging star quarterback, the weapons that have grown alongside him throughout the year and the genius play-caller helping him along, that seems to be the more likely outcome.
As has been true with this inspiring run the Colts have been on, a road victory and a breakout performance by their leader in the biggest game of his young career won't be blind luck.