Key Matchup: Wayne vs Rolle

The Colts will have to test the Ravens' secondary deep at times on Saturday and Reggie Wayne's matchup against Samari Rolle may be their best opportunity to do it.

Cornerback Samari Rolle has had his share of ups and downs this season. The veteran corner, whose play has been criticized at times by fans and the media, is eager to have a strong game Saturday, lining up opposite Colts Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The two are familiar foes dating back to Rolle's time with the Tennessee Titans, one of the Colts' rivals in the AFC South. So these two players know each other's tendencies well.

Wayne caught 86 passes for 1,310 yards this season, both career highs, and had nine touchdown catches. He also caught a touchdown in the Colts' first-round playoff victory over Kansas City on Saturday.

Rolle indicated on Wednesday that he and the other Baltimore defensive backs cast Pro Bowl votes for Wayne each of the last two seasons. "Every year he has been in the NFL he has gotten better," Rolle said. "A lot of guys stay the same, don't work at improving. You can tell he has worked to become a complete player."

If the past is any indication, the Colts will test the Ravens' secondary deep. In the Colts/Ravens games in 2004 and 2005, Peyton Manning completed a total of 10 deep passes (20-plus yards downfield), and all three of his touchdown passes came via the long ball.

So now the question is; when Peyton wants to go deep where will he go?

Ravens CB Samari Rolle (Nick Wass/Getty)
This is where the Wayne vs. Rolle match-up gets interesting. Rolle had quite a few problems yielding the deep ball this season, especially in the early part of the year. On the season, he gave up a successful deep pass (completion or penalty) in seven games.

Some of those balls went to top receivers like Steve Smith, Braylon Edwards and Lee Evans, but he also allowed long passes to players such as Malcom Floyd, Drew Carter and Roddy White. The good news for Ravens fans, though, is that Rolle allowed only one successful deep pass play in his last six games, so maybe the veteran corner has overcome his earlier vertical problems. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be surprised to see Manning test Rolle deep early.

Now the catch to all this is whether or not Manning will have enough time to go deep. Handling Baltimore's pass rush and their 60 sacks on the season will not be an easy task for Indianapolis' pass blockers. But if they are able to do it from time to time, Manning should find some opportunities downfield.

No quarterback is better than Manning at selling play-action or using pump fakes and these elite receivers are outstanding at selling double moves. Tactics like that can prove very effective against an aggressive, gambling cornerback duo like the Ravens' cornerbacks.

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