The Indianapolis Colts entered 2012 turning the page on a disaster of a 2011 season, and the Peyton Manning era. Armed with a new Head Coach (former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano), and a new Franchise QB (Andrew Luck); there were a lot of feel good vibes about the direction of the franchise.
However, expectations for 2012 were still extremely modest as the season started. ESPN had the Colts ranked 32nd in their Week 1 Power Rankings. It is extremely impressive how that organization dealt with the adversity of Pagano’s battle with Leukemia, and rallied around each other. Even in a league remarkable for it’s parity, and the ability for quick turnarounds; it is a pretty extraordinary story for Indianapolis to finish the year with 11 wins, and a trip to the Playoffs.
1) Last week with Pagano’s return, looked to be extremely emotional. It might be hard to reach that level of intensity again; but it’s the Playoffs. Their should be plenty of remaining motivation in their locker-room.
2) The Colts were ranked 26th overall in Total Defense (21st against the Pass, and 29th against the Run). If the Ravens are able to control the line of scrimmage, and Rice gets going early; it is going to be a long day for Indianapolis.
3) The starting LT for Indianapolis is 2011 1st rounder Anthony Castonzo. The LT is former Raven – Joe Reitz. Samson Satele was a 2nd round pick of the Dolphins in 2007. He was signed this year to replace long-time Center Jeff Saturday. The RG Mike McGlynn, and RT – Winston Justice – were other new additions this year, Justice coming in a trade with the Eagles. Luck was sacked 41 times (9th most in the league), and the Colts were 22nd in the league in rushing.
4) Indianapolis was 13th overall in Time of Possession. As mentioned the Colts were 22nd in rushing, 7th in Passing, and 10th overall in Total Offense.
5) Reggie Wayne had a great year at age 34. Wayne had 106 catches, 1,355 yards, and 5 TD’s. He averaged 12.8 yards per catch, and 3.5 yards after the catch. Opposite of him, Donnie Avery (2008 2nd round pick with the Rams) had 60 grabs, for 781 yards. Like Wayne, he is more of a possession receiver, averaging 13 yards per catch. Rookie WR T.Y. Hilton (3rd round, Florida International) is their ‘home-run’ hitter, averaging an eye-popping 17.2 ypc on 50 catches. He was targeted 90 times during the season, so the Ravens can expect to see him targeted down the field several times Sunday. Another Rookie – Coby Fleener – was Luck’s college teammate at Stanford, and is the Colts starting TE. Fleener had 26 catches, despite missing 4 games, and has caught 1 pass in each of the previous 5 games.
6) 2009 1st rounder Donald Brown was placed on IR in early December, leaving the Colts backfield even thinner. Rookie Vick Ballard (5th round, Mississippi State) had 211 carries this year, for 814 yards (3.9 ypc). He also had 17 catches. In early December, Ballard had back-to-back quality games (37 combined carries, 199 yards) against Tennessee and at Houston. Over the last two weeks, his production dropped (47 carries, 147 yards). What’s interesting to me, is that even though his yards per carry were not strong in the last two games at Kansas City, and vs. Houston; the Colts clearly committed to continue to give him carries. That shows that Indianapolis is looking for balance in their offense. It also set’s up play-action for Luck.
7) The Colts utilize a 3-4 defense. Former Raven Corey Redding was held out of the season finale vs. Houston with a quad injury. As we know, Redding is more of a run-stopper than a pass-rusher. The DE had just 2 sacks in 14 games played. Starting NT Antonio Johnson is dealing with an ankle injury, and hopes to play vs. the Ravens. The other End/Tackle is Ricardo Mathews. The former 7th round pick had 0 sacks this year.
8) The pass rush from the Colts still comes from Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Both were moved to OLB this year. Mathis had 8 sacks, and was named to his 5th Pro Bowl – his first at OLB. Freeney had 5 sacks, 1 in each of the past 3 games. He apparently dealt with a number of injuries earlier in the year, but he is now healthy and producing. That could be an issue for the Ravens. Rookie ILB Jerrell Freeman had 145 tackles (90 solo), 2 sacks, and a pick.
9) The Dolphins traded their 2009 1st round pick Vontae Davis to the Colts before the season for a 2nd round pick. The CB had 3 picks in 10 games on the season, with each of the picks coming the last 2 weeks. Opposite of Davis is Cassius Vaughn, a 3rd year player also obtained before the year via trade. Former Raven Tom Zbikowski starts at Strong Safety and is dealing with a knee injury. He hopes to play Sunday. Antonie Bethea is a 2x Pro Bowl player starting at FS.
10) Luck finished his Rookie year, throwing for 4,374 yards. He had 23 TD’s, against 18 picks. Luck was 11th overall in ESPN’s Total QBR at 65. ESPN says a ’65′ is typically the low end of a Pro Bowl caliber year. In the last 3 weeks, Luck had 5 TD’s against 0 picks.
Bonus: The Colts finished 7th overall in 3rd down conversion %.
The Pick: I’m expecting a 10-14 point Ravens win. Indianapolis gets to play with the benefit of no expectations, but the Ravens are rested, at-home, and have an abundance of Playoff experience.