NFL Divisional Playoff Preview | AFC | Indianapolis Colts versus Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday, January 17. . .
Indy Football Report Editor John Oehser breaks down the Divisional Playoff game between the Colts (14-2) and the Baltimore Ravens (10-7) .. . .
THE VIBE . . .
The vibe around the Colts this week is obvious, and for the first time in a long time, it’s not about regular-season record, or controversy or criticism or about whether or not there’s such thing as momentum or rust. The funny thing is, the vibe isn’t about pressure either, because if you spent any time around the Colts this week, it was apparent that the only people talking about pressure around the Colts was those around the Colts. The players and coaches approached the days leading to an AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium talking about confidence and about having practiced as well as they can remember — not only last week during three starter-versus-starter practices, but this week as the preparation funnelled from fundamental mode to training camp mode. All-Pro TE Dallas Clark and four-time Pro Bowl WR Reggie Wayne each talked about the quality of practice — that is, when Wayne wasn’t amusing reporters with the story of how Ravens S and collegiate Ed Reed neglected his snake, Law, enough that Law died — and more than that, Wayne said the practices last week were fun. Caldwell late in the week seemed particularly pleased with how the Colts had prepared, and seemed as confident entering the game as he had been all week. He tempered his enthusiasm by saying obviously how the Colts did in practice wasn’t the point — that performing in a playoff atmosphere — but there was little question late in the week that this was a confident team. They’re healthy for the first time in a long time, and Colts MLB Gary Brackett and CB Kelvin Hayden each talked late in the week of the good feeling that feeling good has brought to the Colts’ locker room this week. Yes, S Bob Sanders, WR Anthony Gonzalez, CB Marlin Jackson and LB Tyjuan Hagler are out for the season, but the Colts played at a high level throughout the season with those players out and others nicked up and limping. Now, the nicks and limps are gone, and Hayden said the theme throughout the past week has been that Colts players very much don’t want the season to end this week. No way, Hayden said, do the Colts want to be cleaning out lockers and carrying boxes from their training facility Sunday. With the vibe around the team this week, it’s hard to imagine they will.
THE BIG CONCERN . . .
The big concern for the Colts this week is actually two big concerns — RBs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. Rice, in his second season, has emerged as one of the league’s top running backs with 1,339 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 254 carries. That’s an average of 5.3 yards a carry, and he also caught 78 passes for 702 yards and, meaning Rice is integral to the passing and running game. McGahee rushed for 544 yards and 12 touchdowns on 109 carries. With Ravens QB Joe Flacco limited with a bruised hip, Rice and McGahee dominant in a 33-14 victory over the Patriots last week, combining for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The Ravens got far enough ahead of the Patriots they didn’t need to throw much, and getting ahead early will be critical for the Colts to avoid letting Rice become a major factor.
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