Football, like most sports is all about how you match up with the opposition.
Here are just a few key battles that will help determine the outcome of Sunday’s Wild Card battle between the Colts and Ravens.
Ravens Tackles Kelechi Osemele and Michael Oher vs. Colts Outside Linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis
Oher has had difficulty with speed rushers for the most of the season as he was moved back to the Left side. Osemele has shown flashes but may be better suited at the Guard position. Freeney and Mathis are both experienced pass rushers that have shown a knack for getting to the quarterback over their careers. Freeney has struggled more adapting to a 3-4 after making a living as hand in the dirt Defensive End. Mathis ended up with a Pro Bowl selection (8 sacks) but may have achieved it more on reputation than output.
Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck vs. Ravens Safety Ed Reed
Luck has had a fine rookie season but has thrown 18 interceptions. Reed is veteran “ball hawk” who still has a nose for the ball and would love to add to his 61 career interceptions. Reed has a tendency to produce in big games and has 8 picks in 10 playoff appearances.
Ravens Cornerback Cary Williams vs. Colts Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne
Wayne had a renaissance this season and regained form as a top target and still has speed to create separation. Williams has recovered well after early season struggles to help stabilize the secondary in the wake of Lardarius Webb’s season ending injury. Wayne is by far Luck’s favorite receiver and Baltimore may need to think about double coverage at times to force Luck to look elsewhere.
Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Colts Cornerback Vontae Davis
Flacco completed 40 passes of 25 yards or more this season which was a franchise record. Davis is on a roll right now after earning AFC Defensive player of the week. He’s recorded three interceptions in the past two games and had a fourth called back due to penalty.
Ravens Fullback Vonta Leach vs. Colts Inside Linebacker Jerrell Freeman
Leach limped off the field in the season finale and has been limited this week in practice. The Pro Bowler is respected around the league as a tough player and fierce blocker. Freeman was the Colts top tackler with 145 Total stops in 2012. The Ravens hope that Leach can be up to his usual performance to clear lanes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
Colts Receiver T.Y. Hilton vs. Ravens Corner backs Chykie Brown/Jimmy Smith
Hilton is the “X” factor for the Colts. He has sprinter’s speed and is the Indianapolis deep threat. His 70-yd touchdown against Houston last week showcased his blinding quicks and how he can get behind defenses. Brown has come on as a coverage man as of late due to injury. He’ll need to be up to the challenge of keeping Indy’s spped threat in check.