Ravens Will Beat Colts Saturday, He Predicted Modestly


January 14, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

I was brought up to be modest and self-effacing, a team player who doesn't toot his own horn. And so it's with great reluctance that I point out that only one person on the "NFL Picks" page of The Baltimore Sun had the Ravens beating the New England Patriots last week, and that person was - oh, look, he's actually blushing - me.

None of the vaunted Ravens Insider guys picked the Ravens to advance in the playoffs, and that includes Mr. Football himself, Mike Preston.

In fact, Preston and I had a conversation at The Castle a few days before the Patriots game that went something like this:

Me: "Think the Ravens have a shot against New England?"

Preston: "No."

Me: "Even if they run the ball and ... ?"

Preston: "No."

Me: "OK, but let's say the defense comes up big and ... ?"

Preston: "No."

Peter Schmuck didn't pick the winner, either - he keeps telling everyone he's a baseball guy and now we know why. He probably thought the Ravens were playing the Yankees. And who bets against the Yankees in the postseason?

The Ravens were also not the pick of WJZ's Mark Viviano, who's a prince of a human being and works, like, 72 different media jobs and might have simply been too exhausted to think clearly on the subject.

So it was up to me to carry the ball for the "NFL Picks" page, and I did.

I ran hard with it, too - OK, not as hard as Ray Rice on that 83-yard TD run against the Patriots that made Gillette Stadium as quiet as a chapel. But I ran as hard as a fat guy with a knee and hip replacement can run.

Now I'm prepared to give more expert analysis of Saturday's Ravens-Indianapolis Colts playoff game, and I hope everyone's paying attention, especially Schmuck, who's probably trying to get Andy MacPhail on the phone right now to talk about some third-string catcher the Orioles are signing.

Let's begin with the obvious: That first half the Ravens played against the Patriots was about as good as they've ever played against a quality opponent. And you can't expect them to get off to that kind of start at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Colts.

(Lucas Oil Stadium - doesn't that dance lightly over the tongue? Not that they'll be writing poems about M&T Bank Stadium, either.)

But the Ravens will beat the Colts, it says here, for three main reasons:

No. 1, the Ravens are coming off a huge confidence-building win over the Patriots while the Colts are rusty.

The Colts haven't played a real game in three weeks. They pulled their starters and didn't go hard in their last two regular-season games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills after that shameful decision not to try for an undefeated season. Then they had a bye last week, during which they basically hung around their complex and played pingpong.

Me, I'm a big believer in momentum in the playoffs. I never forgot what the Ravens did in 2000: got hot late in the season and rode that momentum all through the playoffs to the Super Bowl.

No. 2, playoff road games don't intimidate the Ravens.

In fact, they seem to delight in getting booed and jeered in front of a hostile crowd and then smacking the other team in the mouth and watching the whole stadium deflate, as it did in New England. Which is why they're 6-2 on the road in the postseason, best in the NFL.

"We always say we don't care where we play at," Ray Lewis said Wednesday. "Just go let your hair back and go play football."

(Let your hair back? I think No. 52 steamrollered a metaphor in there somewhere.)

No. 3, the Ravens are running the ball well, and the Colts' defense couldn't stop the run in the regular season, ranking 24th in the league.

Sure, Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time, and he throws the ball to stars like Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.

"Their offense is one big monster," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said Wednesday.

But if the Ravens can pound the ball on the ground and eat up the clock and keep Manning and his sticky-fingered pals off the field as long as possible, they can win.

I make the final score Ravens 24, Colts 21.

If I weren't so modest, I'd tell you to take that to the bank, too.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 Sports.

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