Ravens Vs. Colts

Nfl Review

M&t Bank Stadium, 8:30 P.m., Ch. 13, Espn

September 11, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY


Ravens run offense vs. Colts run defense: This is where the Ravens want to establish their grind-it-out tempo. Expect a heavy dose of Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor as the Ravens try to exploit an undersized Colts defensive front. The plan is to split carries between their backs because there are questions about Lewis' endurance after a limited preseason. Last season, Indianapolis gave up 4.6 yards a carry, which was tied for second worst in the NFL. But it could all be moot if the Colts jump out to a big lead and force the Ravens to pass to catch up.

EDGE: Ravens

Ravens pass offense vs. Colts pass defense: The Colts' strength on defense is their pass rush. The Ravens' biggest weakness this preseason was pass protection When Kyle Boller is pressured, the third-year quarterback rushes his mechanics and makes poor reads. The reputation of the Indianapolis defense is that it surrenders big plays, but it comes up with them, too. The 36 turnovers forced by the Colts' defense last season (14 of which came in the fourth quarter) was tied for third best in the NFL. Recently signed defensive tackle Corey Simon, who can bring pressure up the middle, is expected to start and be in for 20 to 30 plays. The Ravens have a size advantage with receiver Clarence Moore (6 feet 6) and tight end Todd Heap (6-5), and receiver Derrick Mason is familiar with the Colts' cover-2 defense. But the Ravens have to show they can get them the ball.

EDGE: Colts

Colts run offense vs. Ravens run defense: All the focus on the Colts' passing attack doesn't mean the Ravens have forgotten about Edgerrin James. Indianapolis will look to spring James to the outside, where the Ravens' new four-man front has to come through. If interior linemen Maake Kemoeatu and Kelly Gregg can keep blockers off Ray Lewis, he'll be able to chase down James. Last year, James gained only 69 yards against the Ravens on 22 carries. The Ravens are coming off a season in which they held running backs to 3.6 yards a carry, which was second best in the NFL.

EDGE: Ravens

Colts pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: The Colts are so dangerous because defenses can't focus on one target. Peyton Manning gets everyone involved, from receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley to tight end Dallas Clark. Even James out of the backfield is a threat. This represents the biggest test for the Ravens' big-name secondary, which has had limited time together because cornerback Samari Rolle and nickel back Dale Carter missed time this preseason. Whenever there is a lapse in coverage, Manning seems to magnify it with a big play. The matchup to watch is cornerback Chris McAlister against Harrison, who has caught 17 passes for 223 yards in his past two meetings with the Ravens.

EDGE: Colts

Special teams: Gaining an advantage in field position is essential to jump-starting the Ravens' offense. The Colts gave up a league-worst 13.6 yards per punt return last season. That means Ravens returner B.J. Sams, who had an up-and-down preseason, could be a difference-maker. On the other side, the Ravens had trouble in kickoff coverage last season. Matt Stover will handle kickoffs at least for the season opener after the Ravens failed to find a specialist this preseason. Stover (82. 7percent) and the Colts' Mike Vanderjagt (87 percent) are two of the three most accurate field-goal kickers in NFL history.

EDGE: Even

Intangibles: Home-field advantage could be meaningless if Boller struggles early and the crowd gets on him again. Playing on the road doesn't faze the Colts, who have opened the past five seasons away from home and have won four times. The Ravens have been slow starters, losing their past three season openers - all of which were on the road. Ravens coach Brian Billick is 0-3 against Colts coach Tony Dungy; both of them served on the Minnesota Vikings' staff as coordinators.

EDGE: Colts

Prediction: The Ravens' defense will hold its own, and the running game will keep the game close. But Boller and the passing game need to step up at some critical moments - especially in the red zone - for the Ravens to upset the ultra-efficient Colts. The Ravens' new-look offense just isn't there yet.

Colts, 24-16

- Jamison Hensley



2004 records: Colts 12-4; Ravens 9-7.

Line: Colts by 3.

Vs. spread (2004): Colts 9-6-1; Ravens 9-7.

Series: Colts lead 3-2.

Last meeting: Colts won, 20-10, on Dec. 19, 2004, in Indianapolis.

Colts injuries

Out: DT Vincent Burns (knee); LB Gilbert Gardner (ankle); DE Jonathan Welsh (knee). Doubtful: DT Montae Reagor (groin); RB Dominic Rhodes (foot). Questionable: LB Rocky Calmus (hamstring); TE Dallas Clark (concussion); CB Marlin Jackson (shoulder). Probable: OT Ryan Diem (foot); TE Bryan Fletcher (abdomen); DE Dwight Freeney (toe); S Joseph Jefferson (knee); S Bob Sanders (hamstring/calf); S Gerome Sapp (shoulder); WR Brandon Stokley (shoulder); CB Donald Strickland (hamstring); DE Josh Thomas (knee).

Ravens injuries

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