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Steve McNair has completed 68.1 percent of his career passes against Indianapolis, averaging 200.7 yards per contest with six touchdowns and two interceptions. This is the kind of game he traditionally thrives in, and the primary reason why the Ravens traded for him.
Jamal Lewis has a major size and strength advantage over the Colts’ speedy linebackers, and will need to be a big tackle-breaking presence between the tackles to wear down a smallish front seven.
Against the Colts’ conservative Cover 2 scheme, it’s hard to get deep, but that’s not really the Ravens’ forte except for rookie Demetrius Williams. Todd Heap, Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason are as good on the short to intermediate stuff as practically any receiving trio in the league.
Jonathan Ogden faces a severe test today of his pain threshold because of a hyperextended toe, and will find out during pregame drills if he feels capable of counteracting the uncanny speed of Dwight Freeney. He’s likely to gut it out. Tony Pashos has a tough assignment on the other side against defensive end Robert Mathis.
Total (1) Rushing (2) Passing (6)
The Colts have allowed only 15 sacks this year, so Trevor Pryce, Terrell Suggs and Kelly Gregg will need to collapse the pocket to get in Peyton Manning’s face. In particular, Pryce is hard to single-block and will likely draw extra attention.
Ray Lewis remains the emotional leader of the Ravens’ defense even if he is no longer as dominant a player. Adalius Thomas will be a key figure in trying to defend tight end Dallas Clark. Bart Scott predicted a painful day for Joseph Addai, and will try to back those words up today.
Samari Rolle is on the spot against wideout Reggie Wayne with Chris McAlister drawing the difficult assignment of Marvin Harrison. Safety Ed Reed will need to be cognizant of Rolle’s vulnerability and help him over the top. Dawan Landry will be needed more in pass coverage than usual.
Matt Stover was the most accurate kicker in the league this season, converting 28 of 30 field goals. Rookie punter Sam Koch is averaging 43 yards per punt with 30 pinned inside the 20-yard line. Rookie return specialist Cory Ross hasn’t impacted the game since B.J. Sams’ season-ending injury, averaging 2.8 yards per punt return and 21.6 per kickoff return.
Total (3) Rushing (18) Passing (2)
Peyton Manning and the Colts have lost their last four road games, and his playoff record is under heavy scrutiny. Even with 4,397 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, Manning still has questions to answer about his tendency to disappear in big games.
Rookie Joseph Addai has emerged as nice secondary threat in a pass-first offense with 122 rushing yards in Kansas City last week. He combined with veteran Dominic Rhodes for 1,722 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season.
Marvin Harrison is the consummate receiver, running every route with purpose and precision. Reggie Wayne is developing into just as dangerous a downfield threat. Together, they combined for 181 catches, 2,676 yards and 21 touchdown catches. Tight end Dallas Clark is hard to contend with, and is coming off a nine-catch game. Ben Utecht is underrated.
Left tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday headline a cohesive, intelligent unit that prides itself on protecting Manning and clearing pathways for a solid running game. Communication and agility are the hallmarks of five blockers who aren’t overwhelming in terms of size and brute strength.
Total (21) Rushing (32) Passing (2)
Dwight Freeney is a physical marvel, bench pressing 500 pounds and covering 40 yards in 4.4 speed. Anthony "Booger" McFarland’s return has given the run defense a boost. Raheem Brock gives a great effort. Robert Mathis is extremely fast and undersized for end at 245 pounds.
Cato June is the best all-around performer, getting the job done with anticipation, speed and grit. Gary Brackett is always around the football. Former first-round bust Rob Morris was forced to step in when strongside linebacker Gilbert Gardner washed out.
Bob Sanders is called "The Eraser," and the hard-hitting safety has energized the Colts’ run defense. Mike Doss hasn’t lived up to expectations, nor has Marlin Jackson. Nick Harper is a top-notch cover guy, but Jason David can be picked on.
Adam Vinatieri remains one of the NFL’s best clutch kickers and converted 25 of 28 field goal attempts this year. Punter Hunter Smith is a steady performer, averaging 44.4 yards. Return specialist Terrence Wilkins is averaging 9.2 yards per punt return and 24.5 yards on kickoffs.