When the Ravens have the football: Expect a steady diet of Jamal Lewis runs,
especially since Indianapolis ranks 29th in total defense, 20th against the run.
Plus, Lewis is approaching full strength after easing back into the lineup with
eight rushes for 32 yards last week. And backup Chester Taylor has posted
consecutive 100-yard games.
Besides moving the football and wearing down the Colts' smallish front seven, the idea is to keep reigning NFL Co-MVP quarterback Peyton Manning off the field through ball-control and superior time of possession. Indianapolis has an excellent pass rush headlined by ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis' combined 23 ½ sacks.
Their linebackers aren't even close to formidable, though. Middle linebacker Rob Morris is extremely slow, and converted safety Cato June is undersized at 227 pounds.
Other than safety Idrees Bashir (6-2, 198), their secondary is undersized. Cornerbacks Jason David and Nick Harper are 5-8 and 5-10, respectively. This could be a potential mismatch, especially for 6-foot-5 tight end Todd Heap and 6-foot-6 wideout Clarence Moore. The Colts are the most opportunistic defense in the NFL, with 33 takeaways, so quarterback Kyle Boller needs to be extra cautious about forcing passes. Safety Mike Doss is an enforcer in the middle of the field.
Key matchup: RB Jamal Lewis vs. MLB Rob Morris
If Lewis' ankle responds well on the artificial turf, he could have a field day hitting the perimeter with the pedestrian Morris chasing him.
How the Ravens can win: 1. Keep record-chasing quarterback Peyton Manning waiting on the sidelines with long, sustained drives emphasizing power-blocking schemes and hard-nosed running from Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor.
2. Blitz Manning at select times to keep him off-guard and cut down on his ability to audible and find downfield targets, and flood zones with extra defensive backs and mix personnel adeptly. Use press coverage extensively.
3. Avoid costly special-teams miscues and get back to making plays in the return game. Rookie B.J. Sams must contribute more and fumble less.
When the Colts have the football: Anticipate quarterback Peyton Manning constantly audibling and pretending to change plays at the line of scrimmage in the Colts' no-huddle offense. He's three touchdowns shy of breaking Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record (48) and has thrown only nine interceptions. Much of his pointing and barking signals is legitimate, a lot of it is subterfuge.
The Ravens are likely to employ aggressive press coverage and a series of blitzes. Of the Colts' 427 passing plays, Manning has faced 115 blitzes, 27 percent of the time. Those blitzes have led to two fumbles and four sacks. When he avoids being sacked, he has completed 70 percent of his throws for a 140 quarterback rating.
The Green Bay Packers were victimized by Manning when their blitzes weren't effective and the Colts produced 393 passing yards and five touchdowns in Week 3. The Ravens also have to be extremely cognizant of NFL rushing leader Edgerrin James.
Key matchup: QB Peyton Manning vs. S Ed Reed
A classic chess match between two prolific, studious athletes who combine talent with a supreme work ethic. Who will win this duel?
How the Colts can win: 1. Exploit defensive backs Gary Baxter and Deion Sanders short and deep in single-coverage, avoiding Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister for the most part except with Marvin Harrison's patented double-moves.
2. Take the football away as they've done to virtually every opponent, leading the NFL with 33 takeaways. It's little surprise why the Colts lead the league with 454 points, they have averaged three extra series per game to work with.
3. Bottle up Jamal Lewis, and force Kyle Boller to win the game. Odds are, he can't come close to matching Peyton Manning's output and accuracy. It's a no-brainer strategy for Tony Dungy, an extremely intelligent coach, to employ.
As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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