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Week 19: Divisional Playoff Picks, Part I

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Another Offense vs. Defense Matchup
Baltimore vs. Indianapolis

Saturday, Jan. 13
Indianapolis Colts (13-4) at Baltimore Ravens (13-3), 4:30 p.m.
Similar to last week, the offense-only Indianapolis Colts are facing the defense-only Baltimore Ravens. The differences are that the Ravens are even more defensively oriented, they're not traveling to a dome, and their coach isn't quite as bad.

I have little love for Brian Billick, but I think he probably could have beaten Indy with the Chiefs. He almost certainly would have seen the fruitlessness in running Larry Johnson into a wall from the get-go, and he probably would have switched quarterbacks during the game if not before it (Damon Huard passer rating of 98.0, Trent Green of 74.1). But these are the Ravens, the only team in the league with a better defensive scoring ranking than the New England Patriots.

Check out Baltimore's depth chart. They have 11 defensive backs (22 interceptions) and 10 linebackers, but just five defensive linemen. They have the second best running defense in the league and the seventh best passing defense. Their 28 total interceptions is the best in the league. Their 60 sacks is second behind San Diego (61 -- next would be Miami with 47). Both numbers nearly twice Kansas City's.

But is defense alone enough to win the game?

Clearly not. The chances of shutting out Indianapolis are virtually nil. The Colts have scored at least 14 points in every game this season, and they trail only San Deigo for the league's best scoring offense (26.7 points per game, tied with Chicago). So Baltimore will likely have to score more than Kansas City's 8 last week. The Ravens are 12th in the NFL in scoring offense with 22.1 ppg.

They have a much better passing game than a running game, and a much better passing game then they perhaps have ever had since their move east. If Billick is smart enough to use Steve McNair's passing game to set up Jamal Lewis's rushing game, Lewis will have the opportunity to do far more damage than Larry Johnson did last week.

Indianapolis will need a far better game from Peyton Manning than he delivered last week. Despite the Ravens' pickoff prowess, Manning should take comfort that Ty Law isn't lurking in the defensive backfield -- and that Marvin Harrison runs the right route for once (because it's just not possible Manning threw to the wrong spot).

Assuming the offense is at least efficient, the defense needs to turn in another "twice-in-a-season" performance. They're also going to have to show the can win on the road. The Colts were just 4-4 during the regular season, while Baltimore was 7-1 at home (23-21 loss to Carolina).

The Ravens have few injuries, the only key one is tackle Jonathan Ogden, who is listed as "questionable" with a toe injury. That's key, because he's opposite Dwight Freeney. I won't even dignify the Colts injury list with analysis.

Prediction: Ravens, 24-20.

(Click on "Entry Link", "Comment" or "Polls" to make your prediction.)

Poll

Who will win Indianapolis @ Baltimore?

This poll is closed

  • 100%
    Indianapolis Colts
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Baltimore Ravens
    (0 votes)
4 votes total Vote Now