The Indianapolis Colts are preparing to face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. After finishing a surprising season and ending it with a record of 11-5, the Colts will look to ensure that their season lasts at least one week longer.
These two teams have a lot of history. With the Colts formerly being the Baltimore Colts, the city still holds a bit of resentment for the way the organization left town. Every time the Colts head back to Baltimore, the fans make sure to remind them they aren't welcome in town.
Chuck Pagano will also be making his return to his former team. Pagano was the defensive secondary coach for three seasons and was then promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2011 season before becoming the head coach for the Colts.
However, there is one player that will be a major factor in the outcome of the game:
The rookie running back was selected in the fifth round by the Colts out of Mississippi State. He wasn't expected to get much time after being selected so late, but due to some injuries in the running back position, Ballard was able to prove himself.
Now, Ballard has become the workhorse for the Colts heading into the playoffs. After not getting many carries for the first five games, he has now been receiving the majority of the carries for the Colts.
Ballard's numbers haven't been incredible, but he has been looking more promising each week. On 211 carries for the year, he has ran for 814 yards and two scores.
Ballard made his name known around the league on October 28 when the team played the Tennessee Titans. With the game in overtime, Ballard caught a pass from Luck, running it in 16 yards and doing a barrel roll into the end zone to win the game.
Ballard will be a very important part of the Colts offense this week. The Ravens have struggled to stop the run this year. They allowed 122.8 yards on the ground per game, ranking 20th in the league.
With so much attention on Luck for the entire season, the Ravens will be looking to pressure him as much as they can. In order for the Colts to keep their rookie quarterback upright, they will need a good amount of delayed run plays in order to keep the Ravens off balance.
Ballard will be looking to take advantage of the Ravens defense, which is beginning to look old. After more than a decade of domination by the Baltimore defense, the Colts will be able to expose their age in front of the entire nation in the playoffs.
If the Colts can find success with the run, the play action will become a big weapon as well. Luck will be able to find players like Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton open down the field.
The Colts are looking for a statement win. If they can win this game, they could be setting up for an epic match against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, if the Texans are able to defeat the Bengals
The Colts will need to win this game first, however. If they can get Ballard going, there is no reason they shouldn't win.