NFL Playoffs 2012: Keys to the Colts Victory over the Ravens
The match is made and the odds are set but, hey it's any given Sunday.
The Ravens are currently 6.5-point favorites against the Indianapolis Colts , as Indy is on the road at playing in the M&T Bank Stadium with a rookie quartering against a defense led by linebacker Ray Lewis, returning from an injury that has sidelined him since October 14.
In spite of all these aforementioned factors working against the Colts, they have a good chance a pulling off an upset Sunday.
The following are their keys to victory:
1. The Colts Must Score First
The Colts don’t have home field advantage here and this year's squad is only 4-4 on the road. To counter this, they must to score first. Once they’re the first to put some numbers on the board, they will have some much-needed confidence. They will also be able to build off this momentum and avoid another late-game deficit that entail another long Andrew Luck comeback with minutes left to overcome
When examining the Colt’s past games this season, it becomes clear that if they score first, they can keep scoring and get the win.
2. The Return of Ray Lewis Excitement Must Be Managed with #ChuckStrong
The return of Ray Lewis is huge. He is their main motivator, captain and finally will return to the field. The Ravens will be running high on Ray fumes with his pump-up messages running through their heads.
However, the Colts have their own emotional motivation story. The Colts have Chuckstrong. The return of their head coach, Chuck Pagano, to the sidelines after battling cancer is a massive inspiration. They will continue to play "Chuckstrong."
Additionally, it’s hard to say if Lewis will be 100 percent. He has already announced his retirement at the end of the season. How much difference can he make if he's pushing his return to be in the playoffs?
3. Stop the Run Game
The Colts have the third-worst defense against the run in the league. They give up an average 138 yards a game on the ground. If they can hold Ravens back Ray Rice to that, it would have to be considered a successful effort.
But he will be a big difference maker in this game. He is more-than-capable as a receiver out of the backfield and requires attention on both run and pass plays, so he can potentially devastating as a diversion on play action.
His ability to make big plays will be limited by the likes of Pat Angerer and the other run defense crew. It has to be remembered that although Charles and Hillis racked up over 80-plus yards each, they held Arian Foster and Tate to 103 yards, well below their average yardage.
It can be done.
4. Luck Cannot Throw Interceptions
The Colts need Luck to play big. He must be phenomenal and interception-free. Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard will capitalize off the smallest of rookie mistakes.
However, Luck has been a better quarterback in his last few games and has not thrown a pick in any of the last three games. He’s relied on an improved run game (settled in with rookie Vick Ballard as the starter) more, and he’s been more careful in his decision making when throwing the ball.
5. Their Nerves Cannot Rule Them
The Colts are a young team, especially at their skill position, with rookies starting at quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, linebacker and return man. Few of their other starters have more than a couple years of significant playing time, let alone playoff experience.
There is a chance that nerves could get the better of Luck and Co. However, the Colts are riding the hot hand. Indy has won five of their last six games, most recently a big win against AFC South Champion Texans. The Colts are on fire offensively and defensively.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have lost four of their last five. Their roster is partly comprised of players on the downside of their careers in contrast with the raw, more youthful Colts squad.
Additionally, the Colts have played excellent against playoff teams this season.
The existence of the hot hand cannot be underestimated. It can make an underdog team smash the favorite team any day.