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Colts vs. Ravens 2013 NFL Playoff Preview

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Colts at Ravens

Colts at Ravens
Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

(11-5) #5 seed Indianapolis Colts at #4 seed Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

The Colts are 4-4 on the road, while the Ravens are 6-2 at home.

The Ravens are 59-30 under John Harbaugh, and that includes 5-4 in the playoffs. This is their fifth season under Harbaugh, and all five times they made the playoffs. In their previous four playoff appearances they have won their first game every time.

The Colts get into the red-zone an average of 3.0 times per game (#18 in NFL). The Ravens get into the red-zone 3.1 times per game (#16). Both teams allow their opponents into the red-zone 3.3 times per game which is the worst of any team in the 2012 NFL playoffs.

The Colts have more rushing first downs, and more passing first downs than the Ravens. In this slideshow article we will look at the passing attack for both teams, and the rushing attack for both teams.

The last time we saw Ray Lewis was three months ago, but he will be back for this playoff rematch.

The Chuckstrong Colts have been a remarkable story this season. Last season this was a fan-base that saw their team go a putrid 2-14, but their 9-2 run to end this regular season was impressive (only the Denver Broncos at 11-0 were better over that span).

Overall the Colts are #21 vs the Pass, and # 29 vs the run.

Overall the Ravens are #17 vs the pass, and #20 vs the run.

The Ravens beat the New York Giants on December 23rd at M&T Bank Stadium (33-14). That was their only win in December (no other playoff team had as few as one December victory).


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Colts Passing Attack

Colts Passing Attack

Andrew Luck had a very good rookie season. He was great at home, and decent on the road which adds up to a good season.

Luck had 11 touchdowns and a whopping 13 interceptions on the road. The Ravens are #17 vs the pass, and at home they have just six interceptions so Luck could have a chance for a big game on Sunday.

A #RML key in this game will be surviving the early punches that Luck throws. He has six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 1st quarter, but in the final three quarters he has 15 touchdowns and a whopping 18 interceptions.

Rookie Coby Fleener has been decent. Rookie Dwayne Allen has been very good. Rookie T.Y. Hilton has been great. These three rookies have a combined dozen touchdowns from fellow rookie Luck (wow...impressive 2012 NFL draft haul for Indy).

The Colts offensive line has allowed 41 sacks this season (9th worst in NFL). The Ravens have 18 sacks at home. The Ravens defense had its share of injuries this season and that hurt their pass-rush (and their secondary).

The Ravens are led by Ed Reed and Cary Williams with four interceptions each, however this Ravens defense has a measly six interceptions at home so this young Colts offense could have a big day through the air.


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Colts Running Game

Colts Running Game
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

The Colts butter their bread through their passing attack. Their run game is pedestrian at best, although it does feature a player with an amazing last name (Vick Ballard...couldn't resist).

Ballard took over the running back duties around mid-season, and he has been pretty good lately. He only has a pair of rushing touchdowns this season, but they both came in December. Ballard leads the team in rushing yards (814) and rushing first downs (50).

Luck leads the team with five rushing touchdowns. The Ravens have allowed a whopping 15 rushing touchdowns (of the dozen playoff teams only the Atlanta Falcons have allowed more).

The Ravens average giving up 122.8 rush yards per game, but teams are rushing for quantity as opposed to quality vs the Ravens defense. Only a few teams had their opponents do more running plays against them than the Ravens which is why the average yards per game they allow is so high. Baltimore allows only 4.0 yards per carry which is in the top-7 for the NFL.

Indy's ground game has been better on the road than at home. At Lucas Oil Stadium the Colts average a measly 3.4 yards per carry, but on the road they are at 4.3 yards per carry.

Only two playoff teams ran the ball less this season than the Colts. They are a team that uses any running game production as a bonus. They win or lose with their passing game.


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Ravens Air Attack

Ravens Air Attack

A few weeks ago the Ravens made a surprising move, timing-wise anyway. With only a few weeks to go in the season Baltimore fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and replaced him with ex-Colts coach Jim Caldwell. It is too early in Caldwell's tenure to know if the change had substantial impact.

Joe Flacco is pedestrian on the road, but at M&T Bank Stadium he has been awesome. He has 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions, and his quarterback rating is 99.0 at home. He will take on a Colts defense that is ranked #19 vs the pass.

This is likely a game where Flacco will have time to find his targets as the Colts have just 32 sacks on the season, and just a measly 13 sacks on the road. Flacco has only been sacked 14 times at home.

Flacco evenly targets his wide receivers, and he uses his tight end and running back for passes too. Anquan Boldin has been targeted 112 times (65 catches) and Torrey Smith is at 110 (49 catches). Dennis Pitta has 61 catches on 93 targets, and Ray Rice has 61 catches on 84 targets.

Smith (8) and Pitta (7) are the touchdown guys, and Smith and Boldin are the big play/1st down guys for Baltimore.

The only interception threats on the Colts are their cornerbacks. Darius Butler (4) and Vontae Davis (3) are the only Colts with multiple interceptions. Only the Minnesota Vikings (10) have fewer interceptions of the playoffs qualifiers than the Colts (12).


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Ravens Rushing Game

Ravens Rushing Game
Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

A factor in Cameron being fired had to be his use of Ray Rice. If it seems like the Ravens win when they feature Rice, that is because they do. In Baltimore's 10 wins Rice averaged 23 touches per game (rushes and receptions). In their six losses he averages just 14 touches in those games.

Rice was significantly better at home than on the road this season. Eight of his 10 touchdowns came at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens had a total of 17 rushing touchdowns, and 11 of those came at home.

In December the Ravens galloped for a whopping 156.6 rush yards per game which was (by far) their most productive month for their ground game.

Rice and the Ravens run game should be able to have a big game on Sunday. The Ravens average 4.3 yards per carry, and they will go against a Colts team that yields a whopping 5.1 yards per carry (only the New Orleans Saints were worse this season). Overall the Colts are ranked #29 vs the run.

Rice has played the Colts three times in his career, and he averages just 65 rushing yards per game vs them (just one career touchdown vs the Colts). Those games vs Indy came when they were a 4-3 defense, but the hiring of Chuck Pagano made that unit a 3-4 base defense. The Colts have actually adjusted pretty well, and that will only get better and better, but for this week I think Rice will have a big game.


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Colts at Ravens...AFC Playoffs

Colts at Ravens...AFC Playoffs
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

I will take the Ravens to win this game, but honestly I would not be surprised to see the Colts continue to be Chuckstrong and pull the upset. The Ravens are scuffling (1-4 in December) but I will ultimately pick them to win this game on the strength of the game that Ray Rice will have. Having Ray Lewis back is going to go in Baltimore's favor as well.

Luck has not been that good on the road, and Flacco has been good at home. Ravens win.

If the AFC wild-card winners are Indy and Houston then the Colts will head to Mile High to take on the Denver Broncos next weekend. If Indy and Cincy win then the Colts are headed to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Patriots next weekend.

If Baltimore wins then they will head to Denver if the Texans also win, or New England if the Bengals also win.

Thank you for reading my work, much appreciated! I am honored to be the 2013 NFL Playoffs Insider for Rant Sports. All playoffs long I will have game preview's and other articles pertaining to the playoffs so I hope you will check out my work further.

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For the Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers preview CLICK HERE

For the Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins preview CLICK HERE