When the Ravens have the football
Expect the Ravens to remain true to their primary game plan and most successful gambit: rushing the football. Especially since Indianapolis ranked 24th against the run last season and did little to upgrade its run defense as new defensive tackle Corey Simon is more of a pass rusher than a run-stopper. The Ravens will attempt to control the clock and duplicate what happened last year when Jamal Lewis rushed for 130 yards on 20 carries and was upset he didn't receive even more work. This time, the former Pro Bowl runner will have to split duties with top-flight reserve Chester Taylor. It's doubtful offensive coordinator Jim Fassel will entrust the lion's share of the game plan to embattled quarterback Kyle Boller, and it's likely that the Ravens will run some maximum protection schemes to try to buy Boller enough time to throw a little.
OT Jonathan Ogden vs. DE Dwight Freeney
A year ago, Freeney dominated Ogden with two sacks in the Colts' 20-10 win, and Ogden is tired of hearing about it and determined to swat the speedy defensive end around this time.
How the Ravens can win
1. Contain Peyton Manning and the Colts' explosive passing game by putting pressure on him with rush end Terrell Suggs and an unpredictable 46 defense.
2. Pound the Colts' smallish front seven with a barrage of Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor runs behind left tackle Jonathan Ogden to try to negate Dwight Freeney's speed.
3. Create turnovers and, possibly, generate points on defense and special teams to make up for a sluggish passing offense.
When the Colts have the football
Anticipate a lot of sharp timing passes from quarterback Peyton Manning to combat the Ravens' swift pass rush. Manning has one of the quickest releases and thought processes of any quarterback to play the game. He's supremely confident, but also cognizant and respectful of the Ravens' pressure and the productive gambling style of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed. Watch how Manning calls the play at the line, one of the only quarterbacks in the past few decades to do this with regularity and success. The Colts love to bunch their receivers in trips formations and use their secondary targets on pick plays. Running back Edgerrin James is especially dangerous on sweeps and zone plays. Former Ravens receiver Brandon Stokley is a shifty runner after the catch.
WR Marvin Harrison vs. CB Chris McAlister
Two of the top skill players and athletes in the NFL will duel all night in a one-on-one encounter that's definitely worth the price of admission.
How the Colts can win
1. Buy enough time for Peyton Manning to pick out his trio of talented receivers downfield, isolating matchups against elder statesmen cornerbacks Deion Sanders and Dale Carter.
2. Rattle Kyle Boller with rough hits from Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Corey Simon while confusing him with disguised coverage schemes.
3. Find a way to get gifted running back Edgerrin James more involved with all of the extra attention being paid to Manning and Co.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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