The Colts will be tested once again this weekend when the AFC North powerhouse Baltimore Ravens invade Lucas Oil Stadium and expect to walk out with a win. The Ravens and Colts history goes back a long ways – stories that I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about and that I will not even begin to tell.
This weekend’s matchup is going to be a great test for the Colts team as a whole. The pass rush has been better the last two weeks, but against weaker opponents. They will be facing Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco, who has a quick delivery and difficult to bring down. The Colts offense seems to have found their groove of the last three weeks. With the Philly game they had a chance but couldn’t seal the deal. Andrew Luck leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes. The Colts offense ranks number one in the entire league. A feat we haven’t seen here for a couple of years now. There are a few individual matchups to keep an eye on this weekend. Let’s see if you agree.
Colts Offensive Line vs. Ravens Defensive Line
Let’s face it. Ngata isn’t the force he once was and doesn’t have much of a pass rush. He never really has had one. However, he is very powerful and deceptively quick off the snap. I’m sure he will switch ends throughout the game to give Cherilus a shot as well. Ngata has a nose for the ball and whichever tackle has the job of blocking will have to make sure that these grades they are getting so far this season don’t take a nose dive because they can’t handle him. I have faith in our tackles to be able to take Ngata out of many of the plays. I can’t see them completely neutralizing him but if they are able to then that is a huge victory. I won’t forget about Chris Canty on the other end who is no slouch at getting to the passer. Canty is a seasoned vet who can either bull rush or speed rush to get to the QB and has a lot of creative ways to complete his mission.
Andrew Luck vs. The Ravens Blitz|
Luck has improved at pointing where the blitz is coming from and the line has done well at picking it up. In this case, the Ravens disguise their blitzes extremely well and there is no doubt that a few will slip through the cracks. Luck is very big and strong and can shake many would-be tacklers and extend the plays. However, this Ravens linebacker corp is nothing to shake a stick at. They have talent in all four spots and all four have the ability to rush the passer. Suggs is a monster and we all know that but Upshaw has resurrected his career in Baltimore. He has become well thought of there and continues to grow his game. Luck will need some quick strikes down field to keep the linebackers honest. If he doesn’t it could be a long afternoon.
Vontae Davis/Greg Toler vs. Steve Smith/Torrey Smith
Davis and Toler have been solid all season long. I could care less what advanced stats and PFF numbers say about Toler. He has stepped up his game tremendously and is starting to show why Grigson took the chance to sign him. They both have been about as shutdown as you can be in the NFL as a defensive back anymore. Toler has been burned a few times but even Sherman gets burned a few times. Right T.Y.?? Steve Smith has been a burner this year. He is playing like a guy in his mid 20’s and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Torrey Smith has had a quiet season but still doing very well for himself. With a guy like Steve Smith opposite you, you can bet your targets are going to drop. With Pitta out of the picture, Flacco will depend on his wideouts more than ever now. If Toler and Davis do their jobs like they have been, Flacco will be forced to use the short pass game which could spell certain doom for the Ravens. Steve Smith likes to blow the top off of defenses and Toler nor Davis can allow that to happen.
Colts Pass Rush vs. Ravens Offensive Line
Yes, we all know the pass rush isn’t going to be great this year. Losing Mathis gave us all something to really worry about. This would have been the game that Mathis would have returned from his suspension. Eric Walden has shown that he has decent pass rushing abilities but those will be tested against a very strong and solid offensive line this week. The Ravens offensive line has only given up 3 sacks this season and will be looking to lay an egg in that column after this week. Jerrell Freeman will hopefully return and I think I speak for us all when I say that BJOERN WERNER HAS TO GET AT LEAST ONE!!! Werner was brought in to be a pass rushing outside linebacker and thus far has been a disappointment. He has been so close this season but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Colts defense must muster up a pass rush this week and not be held out in the cold. It’s a fact that if Flacco has pressure all the time, he will make boneheaded throws. Those boneheaded throws get picked off. Simple.
Colts Running Attack vs. Ravens Defense
I know I’m going to catch hell for this but the Colts running game is important this week. However, the offensive line and the backs are going to have to be on the same page. The Ravens have only allowed 330 yards over four games. That’s 3.3 yards per carry. That’s already Trent’s average but when Bradshaw carries the ball he is getting 5.4 yards per carry. The Colts have to run the ball to keep the defense honest. I know what you’re saying, “Well that’s obvious”. Yes, it sure is but if the Colts become one dimensional then that allows the blitz-happy Ravens defense to tee off on Luck. That can’t happen. Richardson is going to have to run hard and run north and south. Bradshaw just needs to keep up with what he already does and the Colts offensive attack will be able to display why it’s #1 in the NFL.
This game is huge for the Colts. This game is going to allow everyone to see that the first two weeks were just bad weeks. They were close in both of their losses but if they can snuff out the Ravens this week they will be seen as contenders again. Not saying they must blow out the Ravens like they did the Titans and the Jags – wouldn’t be upset if it happens – but I am saying they just have to win this game. It’s not a must win situation but going into a short week and traveling to Houston sitting at 2-3 would not be an ideal situation. The Colts need to keep up the pace of coming out fast and Pep has to keep the handcuffs off of Luck and let him do what they drafted him to do. Win.