Ravens Vs. Colts

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Rca Dome, Indianapolis, 8:30 P.m., Ch. 13, Espn

December 19, 2004|By JAMISON HENSLEY


Ravens run offense vs. Colts run defense: The Colts' soft spot is their run defense. They give up 4.6 yards a carry (sixth worst in the NFL) because of a lack of size. Indianapolis tackles Montae Reagor and Josh Williams both weigh 285 pounds, and ends Dwight Freeney and Raheem Brock are below 275. The Ravens could exploit this area better if running back Jamal Lewis were healthier. His right ankle is still sore and limits his cutting ability. If they can keep the game close or take a lead, look for the Ravens to run close to 35 times, with Lewis taking 25 carries and Chester Taylor handling the rest.


Ravens pass offense vs. Colts pass defense: The best way to assess the Ravens' passing chances is to look at the heights of the defenders. Jump balls to tight end Todd Heap and receiver Clarence Moore could be in order again considering free safety Idrees Bashir is the only starter in the Colts' secondary taller than 5 feet 10. Although quarterback Kyle Boller has been on a good run, the second-year starter continues to struggle away from home. In six road games, he has failed to throw for 200 yards four times and has been intercepted seven times. Boller also has had a habit of fumbling (seven this season). The Indianapolis defense thrives on takeaways and has forced five interceptions the past two homes games. If the Ravens fall behind, they could have trouble stopping the AFC's two sack leaders, Freeney (13 sacks) and Robert Mathis (10 1/2 ).


Colts run offense vs. Ravens run defense: Edgerrin James leads the NFL in rushing with 1,395 yards and will try to spring to the outside the way New England's Corey Dillon did against the Ravens on Nov. 28. That means outside linebackers Adalius Thomas and Terrell Suggs must contain him and push him back to the inside. In the Colts' past two losses, James has been held to 87 and 34 yards. Since then, he has gained 100 yards in five of six games. The Ravens have held teams to fewer than 100 rushing yards in three of their past four games. They also rank second in the league in opponents' rushing average (3.5 yards a carry).


Colts pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: Trying to stop Peyton Manning is so difficult because defenses can't key on any target. At receiver, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley all have at least 58 catches and nine touchdowns. James has 45 receptions out of the backfield and tight ends Marcus Pollard and Dallas Clark each have 20 or more. This is the biggest test for the Ravens' big-name secondary of cornerback Chris McAlister, safety Ed Reed and nickel back Deion Sanders. The Ravens have given up just 10 passing touchdowns, including one of more than 20 yards. But besides Reed, this hyped secondary has been disappointing with critical lapses. Pressuring Manning is essential, and Suggs should show off his speed on that turf against right tackle Ryan Diem.


Special teams: Ravens punt returner B.J. Sams could be a difference-maker. The Colts are allowing 14.4 yards a return, the worst in the NFL. But Sams has been inconsistent as a rookie, producing as many fumbles (two) the past five games as returns of more than 18 yards. The kickers are two of the most accurate in NFL history, ranking in the top three all time. The Colts' Mike Vanderjagt has hit 14 of 17 field-goal attempts this season and has converted 87.4 percent for his career. The Ravens' Matt Stover has connected on 17 straight attempts and has made 83 percent in his career.


Intangibles: The Colts would like to show they can put up their gaudy numbers against a tough defense, but the bigger incentive lies with the Ravens. This game is critical to the Ravens' playoff hopes and carries important tiebreaker implications. The Ravens, though, have not proved to be very tough on the road against winning teams, beating just one since 2001. They are also 1-6 in domes as a franchise. Indianapolis is 5-1 on the fast turf of the RCA Dome, winning by an average margin of 20 points.


Prediction: If this game were played last year, Lewis would have eaten up yards and the clock. But the Ravens won't play keep-away as effectively with a banged-up and out-of-sync Lewis. Manning won't break Dan Marino's record for touchdown passes in a season tonight, but he'll do enough to damage the Ravens' playoff chances.

COLTS, 27-20

-- Jamison Hensley



Records: Ravens 8-5, Colts 10-3.

Line: Colts by 8

Vs. spread: Ravens 9-4, Colts 8-4-1.

Series: Tied 2-2.

Last meeting: Colts won, 22-20, on Oct. 13, 2002, at Indianapolis.

NFL rankings

Ravens offense: 31st (rush 12th, pass 32nd)

Ravens defense: 6th (rush 8th, pass 7th)

Colts offense: 1st (rush 11th, pass 1st)

Colts defense: 29th (rush 20th, pass 28th)

Ravens injuries

Out: LB Bart Scott (knee).

Questionable: RB Jamal Lewis (ankle).

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