The romantic pick for the AFC this season, and possibly even the Super Bowl this season must be the Colts, nobody expected them to perform particularly well as they seek to transition from the “Peyton Manning era” to the “Andrew Luck era”. They began the season with 2 losses and a win before their bye week in week 4 and when newly appointed Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Leukaemia at the end of September many people predicted a difficult season would become even more arduous. The Colts however had other ideas and as Pagano began his treatment at the start of October the team, lead by impressive rookie quarterback, caused the upset of the NFL season by inflicting the Packers second away defeat of the season with a Luck touchdown pass with just 35 seconds left on the clock. That victory provided the Colts with the confidence to remain undefeated at home for the rest of the season and lifted them to an 11-5 record, just 1 win away from the AFC South winning Texans. Character and determination, along with the talent of Luck have got the Colts this far, but perusing the figures shows that the Colts have scored on averaged just over 22 points per game, which ranks them 18th in the NFL while on defence they have allowed slightly more than 24 points per game, making them the 21st best defence in the league. Luck’s passing and scrambling has provided the main threat for the Colts offence this season (he has been responsible for 168 of the Colts 357 points this season), fellow rookie T.Y Hilton has been his favourite red zone target and he’s caught 7 touchdown passes, while veteran Reggie Wayne has weighed in 5 scores and racked up 1355 receiving yards. The problem with the Colts offence this season has been that they have not protected Luck well, he has been sacked 41 times in the regular season and a Ravens defence with names like Ngata, Paul Kruger, Terrell Suggs and the fit again Ray Lewis will be focussing on getting in the rookie’s face.
The Ravens offence has not been the most high powered in the NFL this season by a long way and they usually prefer to allow their defence to win the game for them, but quarterback Joe Flacco has only failed to throw a touchdown in 3 games this season, including the final game of the regular season when he only attempted 8 passes before being rested. Running back Ray Rice is their biggest threat on the ground and a sizeable danger in the passing game too despite his diminutive stature; he stands just 5 feet 8 inches tall. He has scored 10 touchdowns this season, but in his last 3 games of the regular season he didn’t score a rushing touchdown and just managed to catch 1 touchdown pass. In those last 3 games tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith have combined for 5 touchdowns so while Rice is responsible for 29% of the Ravens offensive yards they have multiple red zone threats.
A Colts win would be a huge upset as the Ravens have an extremely strong record at home, since John Harbaugh took over as head coach they are 33-7 at M & T Bank Stadium and while the neutral fans will be hoping the Colts spirit can carry them to a possible reunion with Peyton Manning the Ravens pass rush should be too much to allow Luck to stamp his mark on the game.