This coming Sunday, the wildcard matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens will be the most inspired-filled game of the postseason. If I were to have said this at the start of the season, many might have thought that the fact of having the Colts return to their original city for a playoff game would be the reason for such an emotional game. However, that isn’t the case.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in September. In his absence, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians stepped in as interim head coach until Pagano’s return to the sideline for the regular season finale.
Earlier this week, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced that this season would be his last in the NFL. Lewis has been sidelined with a torn triceps for Baltimore’s last 10 games of the regular season. This week’s game will be the first game Lewis will suit up for since his injury.
Both the Colts and the Ravens will be playing not only to advance to the next round of the playoffs, but also to not end the season on a losing note for Pagano and Lewis.
If a coach could win the Comeback Player of the Year Award, then it would easily go to Pagano instead of Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning. Fighting leukemia over a three-month span and returning to coach a team for the possibility for a Super Bowl title deserves to be applauded, no matter what team you root for.
The Colts already have dedicated the season to their head coach, and has played inspired football winning 10 out of 13 games after starting the season 1-2. The triumphant return of Pagano will only make Indianapolis more determined to win for their coach.
As for Lewis, the anticipation of his retirement will only motivate the Ravens throughout the postseason to have the future Hall of Famer go out with one more Super Bowl ring. This will also make the atmosphere at M & T Bank Stadium the loudest that it has ever been.
This first week of the playoffs, many are speculating that the matchup between the two rookie quarterbacks of the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins will be the most intriguing game of the first round. However, the recent return of a once gravely ill coach and the potential last game of one of the greatest players of all time without a doubt makes this the most significant game (aside from the Super Bowl) of the postseason.
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