On to Baltimore!
The Indianapolis Colts (2-2) move on after two dominating wins over division opponents to host the Baltimore Ravens (3-1) in a game that will certainly provide a good test for both teams. Here's your preview for the game:
What Happened Last Week?
The Colts' 35-year old receiver, Reggie Wayne, caught 7 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown in a blowout win over the Titans. The Ravens' 35-year old receiver, Steve Smith, caught 7 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win over the Panthers. For just the second time in the history of the National Football League, two 35-year old receivers had more than 100-yards receiving in the same week. Last week Wayne, the NFL's current leader in receiving yards, also moved into tenth place all-time in the category. Smith is third among current players and 18th all-time. In terms of receptions, Reggie also is first among current players and seventh all-time, and Smith ranks fifth among current players and 20th all-time. Wayne is third among current players in touchdown receptions and 22nd all-time, and Smith is fourth among active players and 35th all-time. Both of them are continuing their production at their age, which is remarkable.
Anyway, the Ravens won 38-10 over the Panthers in Smith's matchup against his former team. Baltimore racked up 454 yards of total offense and didn't turn the ball over, as Joe Flacco threw for 327 yards and 3 scores. The Ravens gained 127 yards and 2 scores on the ground as well, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The defense succeeded in bottling up the Panthers offense, and it was a dominating performance by the Ravens.
The Colts defeated the Tennessee Titans 41-17, as Andrew Luck threw for 393 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Colts averaged just 2.6 yards per carry but both Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton topped 100-yards receiving and the Colts offense rolled behind their dangerous passing attack. The Colts defense recorded 3 sacks and forced 3 turnovers and won big for their second straight win.
Key of the Game for the Colts
Don't get conservative. The past two weeks they haven't been, but those haven't been against good teams. I hope that when the Colts actually face a good team like they will on Sunday that the Colts won't revert back to the play-it-safe coaching method, but we can't be sure until we see it. The Colts need to dictate the pace of the game and be aggressive. This doesn't mean being stupid and it doesn't mean always siding with the aggressive decision, but they need to continue to maintain an attitude of aggressiveness in their coaching decisions, play-calling, and schemes.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Offense vs. Ravens Defense
Surprise, I know, but we're going to go with the Colts offensive line versus the Ravens pass rush here. Baltimore has only four sacks this year but has been able to get solid pressure. Really, however, the matchup here is because of the questions on the Colts' side. Are they going to bench A.Q. Shipley at center? My guess is that they will and that they'll start undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison there, but we really will just have to wait until Sunday to find out. Additionally, rookie starting left guard Jack Mewhort is out with an ankle injury and Lance Louis will fill in for him. Louis did a fine job last week at right guard, but Mewhort has been having a very good season and his absence will be felt. Plus, right tackle Gosder Cherilus has been playing poorly so far this year, so there are questions there. Through the first four games, the Colts offensive line has played much better. If that could continue Sunday, it would be absolutely huge for Andrew Luck and the offense. But with the change we already know will happen (at left guard) and the change that seems likely (at center), there are questions along the Colts line and it's definitely a matchup to watch against a Ravens defense full of "game wreckers," according to Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Defense vs. Ravens Offense
Steve Smith versus these defensive backs. Easily the biggest strength of the Colts defense so far this season has been their cornerbacks. Steve Smith has been the best offensive player for Baltimore. This weekend, they'll matchup against one another, and the Colts corners will get tested. Vontae Davis has been a full shutdown corner so far this year, Greg Toler has been solid, and Darius Butler has been great as the nickel guy. When asked how they cover a guy like Steve Smith, Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said: "double him." Regardless of what the Colts decide to do to cover Smith, their corners are going to need to step up. So far this season they have, but Sunday will be another big test for them.
Why the Colts Will Win
The Colts have the league's leading passer, and Andrew Luck is in the midst of a terrific start to the 2014 season. The Baltimore Ravens boast the league's 24th ranked passing defense. The Colts boast the league's top ranked passing offense. There's nothing lucky about it, but it's all about Luck (PUNs everywhere!). With Luck as quarterback, the Colts will be in every game and have the ability to beat any team on any given week. With this game being played in Indianapolis in Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Ravens are 0-2 all-time, being outscored 51-6), the Colts hold the home field edge too.
Why the Colts Won't Win
There are questions on the defense - such as how Sergio Brown will play stepping in for LaRon Landry. There are major questions about the pass rush. How will the Colts do covering Steve Smith? And how will the offensive line do - and who's even going to be playing on it?
There are still some fans questioning Andrew Luck's start given the fact that he's played the Jaguars and Titans in back to back weeks. This week's test will be tougher, but I think that Luck and the Colts offense will be up to the task. As I expect to be typical this year when playing good teams, the Colts defense will likely give up some points but I think Luck and the offense will find a way to outscore the Ravens in an exciting matchup in Indianapolis.
Colts 30, Ravens 27
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