Five to Watch: Colts at Ravens

Greg Talmage points out who you should keep an eye on during the Indianapolis Colts game against the Baltimore Ravens on "Sunday Night Football." See who he picked and why their performance is crucial to an Indianapolis victory.

1. Peyton Manning: Manning always seems to be on an extra state of alert against the Baltimore Ravens. Whether it's running the hurry-up offense or getting off quick plays and snaps so that Baltimore cannot change personnel, Manning always seems to take his head games up a notch.

Besides trying to catch the Ravens napping or with the wrong defensive package on the field, Manning will also be firing out line protection calls and scheme changes if he feels potential blitzes coming from Raven linebackers or defensive backs. There always seems to be a very intense game within the game between Manning and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan when Indianapolis plays the Ravens.

2.Tony Ugoh: As Brad Keller noted in his scouting report on the Ravens defense, "The Ravens, for the most part, deploy a 3-4 front as their primary defense. They have been known to switch back and forth between a 3-4 and a 4-3 front throughout the course of a game or a drive since they have so many interchangeable parts on defense. In the event that they come out in the 4-3, linebacker Terrell Suggs — who played defensive end in college — puts his hand on the ground and right end Haloti Ngata moves to the inside, next to nose tackle Kelly Gregg."

The man to watch closely here is Suggs. Besides coming at the QB from the RE spot in a 4-3 you might also see Suggs blitzing Manning from his base 3-4 ROLB position. Ryan likes to shuffle his defenders around within the box in an attempt to create free rush lanes for blitzing linebackers.

The burden of slowing Suggs will usually fall on LT Tony Ugoh, especially when Suggs is rushing from the RE spot. Through the first 12 games of 2007, the Ravens have just 24 sacks, and Terrell Suggs, with four, is the lone defender with more than two sacks.

Ed Johnson
AP Photo/Darron Cummings

3. Robert Mathis and 4. Ed Johnson: Baltimore loves to run right, and given the size advantage they have over the left side of the Colts defensive line, we should expect more of the same on Sunday night. So look for RB Willis McGahee to run to his right behind massive tackle Marshal Yanda and guard Ben Grubbs. Yanda will want try to drive smaller defensive end Robert Mathis off the line, and Grubbs will block down on defensive tackle Ed Johnson in hopes of opening huge seams for McGahee.

McGahee is coming off an excellent game on Monday night, where he ran for 138 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens piled up 166 yards rushing during a 27-24 loss to New England. Baltimore likes to use their size up front to wear opponents down. They lean on opponents all day with an offensive line that averages 319 pounds and batter defenders with the 232-pound McGahee.

The Colts had handled power running teams effectively until Sunday, when Jacksonville pounded them for 168 yards. "I think we got ourselves in trouble a little bit with our tackling, but I think if we clean things up a little bit, we'll be fine," defensive captain Gary Brackett said of the problems last week.

5. Marlin Jackson: CB Marlin Jackson and Ravens WR Derrick Mason will be following each other around the field all evening. Baltimore coach Brian Billick likes to spread the field and move Mason down from an outside receiver spot into the slot in an attempt to create mismatches. Jackson, though, moves from RCB to slot when the Colts employ the nickel. So on Sunday, Mason and Jackson will be matched up in each situation.

Mason is the Ravens' best receiver and can be very effective in the short and intermediate areas in the passing game. Through 12 games, Mason has made 85 catches for 842 yards and three touchdowns. The next closest receiver is Mark Clayton with just 34 catches.

With the Colts' game plan focused on slowing McGahee and forcing Boller to beat them through the air, Mason should see plenty of one-on-one situations against Jackson, especially when a safety has dropped down in the box.

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