CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 04: Wide receiver Torrey Smith #82 of the Baltimore Ravens runs by defensive back Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
This will be the biggest match up of the game for both teams. The pass rush is the most dangerous part of the Colts defense and they will need to pressure Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco into some mistakes if they want to stay in this game. For the Ravens it is simple, block these two men! Indianapolis has been bitten by the injury bug but these two premier pass rushers are still as healthy as ever. With the majority of the Colts linebackers being either back ups or undersized Baltimore will be able to send help against Mathis and Freeney, this will be the difference for Baltimore from games past.
Having two deep threats like Smith and Evans on the field is something the Ravens have never had before. Hell, it's been a while since they had one. With Smith and Evans lined up wide Indy will have to respect Baltimores' deep play ability and drop their safeties back. This should open up the middle of the field for Anquan Boldin and Ed Dickson to run intermediate routes. If the Colts play their safeties up Flacco will have to test them deep to keep them honest. For the Colts it's almost a lose lose situation, unless they guess right on every play.
Advantage: Smith and Evans
This should not even be fair. Reed is having a bit of a down year but he is still one of the most dangerous ball-hawking safeties in the NFL. Indianapolis does not have much of a run game and Baltimore is number two in the NFL against the run. If the Colts need to move the ball it will have to be with the arm of Orlovsky. He showed last week against the Patriots that he can make plays in the passing game and the Colts have the receivers to do so. It will be up to the crafty veteran Reed to make them pay for trying to air it out in our house.
4.) Ravens pass rush vs. Colts offensive line.
Over the years the Colts have had one of the better offensive lines in the game. Or, Peyton Manning made it look that way by getting the ball out quickly and countering other teams blitzing schemes. This year the Colts line is anchored by rookie Anthony Castanzo. Castonzo, a high draft pick, has played well for the Colts but he is a rookie and still makes rookie mistakes. With the running game sure to be all but put to bed by Baltimores' ferocious defense the Colts' offensive line will have to hold in order for Orlovsky to make plays in the passing game. The Ravens lead the NFL in sacks and have been making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks all season. Baltimore should be able to establish pressure only using four or five rushers for the most part. This will limit the time the Colts' receivers have to get down the field and get open, causing sacks and hopefully turnovers.
Rice and Leach seem to have worked out some kinks over the past few games. Rice, being the "skat back" that he is, loves to cut back and cause misdirection during his runs. With a full back like Leach however, sometimes it is best to just follow your blockers down the field and let the holes develop. Ray Rice seems to be sticking with Leach a lot more now and it has shown in his productivity. Indianapolis is suffering from some serious injuries at linebacker and they are down to their third string in some cases. This will be a tough match up for them as the Ravens really seem to be hitting their stride running the ball lately.
Advantage: Rice and Leach