The Ravens will host the Indianapolis Colts Tomorrow afternoon in a game full of interesting story lines. The most of which for Baltimore fans is that this will in most likelihood Ray Lewis’ last home game in a Ravens uniform. The future Hall of Famer announced that this will be his last ride for he is retiring at the end of the postseason. Not an incredibly shocking notion, but it still came as a surprise. Lewis has been out for a couple months with a torn triceps but is prepared to make his return on Sunday. His role has yet to be announced, but with Jameel McClain ruled out for this season he should see plenty of snaps. There will be more reinforcements for the defense with Bernard Pollard expected back for this game as well. Although the Ravens will have plenty of battered players, they will be likely the healthiest they have been for several weeks.
Baltimore is coming off a loss to Cincy, but that game featured backups for the majority of the game. The demolition of New York is more what the Ravens are playing off of. With Flacco and Rice and the rest of the offensive starts essentially coming off an extra weeks rest they should have plenty of fight in them come game time. Indianapolis took the opposite route and defeated the Texans in their final game of the season. They played to win that game even though nothing was really on the line. It is a long debated strategy, but with how injury plagued Baltimore has been this season I have no fault in Harbaugh’s thinking.
The next huge story line in this game is the return of Chuck Pagano. Not only to Baltimore, but also from cancer. The first year head coach was has only coached in a total of 4 games for the Colts after being diagnosed early in the season. The team has thrived under Bruce Arians with the team battling along with their head coach. It really is a great feel good story, but at the end of the day the Ravens must bring it to an end.
Baltimore’s defense has struggled a bit under new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, but injuries have played a bit part of that. With stars Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, and Lardarius Webb all missing significant time the Ravens have had to put together a defense with scraps. Now with some of those guys healthy, we could see a solid defense in time for the playoff run.
Another big part of this game is the first playoff appearance of rookie Andrew Luck. Unbelievably, three rookie Quarterbacks are starting in this playoffs. Andrew Luck is the only in the AFC who has had quite the season thus far. He finished with a rookie record of 4374 yards through the air. It took him 627 attempts to do it, as he was clearly the Colts only hope to succeed. And succeed they did. However, Luck wasn’t all good. He threw 23 TD’s but added 18 interceptions and fumbled the ball 10 times. He was extremely poised to end a lot of games, but he certainly struggled in more than a few. In his last 5 games he completed 50% or less than his passes in each game. Of course, he did win 4 out of 5, including 1 of 2 against Houston. The other ones were all against teams with very poor records though, so it is hard to give Luck too much credit.
It will be interesting to see what Luck we see on Sunday. He is clearly able to succeed in the NFL, but he is also still young enough to make mistakes. I have no doubt that Andrew Luck will be a great QB for years to come, but I don’t think he has reached that level just yet. He will likely struggle against an amped up Baltimore defense trying to win one more for their long time defensive leader Ray Lewis. Plus, the Colts defense leaves much to be desired. Joe Flacco has proven he can step up in big games and if last year was any indication, he can play above himself in the playoffs.