Key Match-Ups, Ravens Vs. Colts: Ravens Secondary

Rob Carr

Match-ups that may decide the outcome of the round one playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.

Everyone knows what Reggie Wayne is capable of when he has a quarterback that can get him the ball. Coming into the NFL as a student of the great Marvin Harrison and one of the smartest quarterbacks ever to strap on pads, Peyton Manning, has helped Wayne grow into one of the most consistent , premier wide-outs in the game. Hilton on the other hand is a rookie but he and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck have grown quick chemistry together and T.Y. can be a dangerous threat as their number two receiver if the Ravens aren't able to counter with a corner capable of keeping him in check. With All Pro Lardarius Webb out for the season that Corner will be Corey Graham who has surprised most Ravens fans with his excellent play on defense.

Of course the Ravens pass rush will help in this area. Cary Williams has slowly grown into a solid NFL corner that gets his hand in on the ball as long as he is in position to do so. If the Ravens pass rush is able to hurry Andrew Luck then Williams actually may be able to keep Wayne in check most of the time. If the pass rush fails to deliver, Wayne will eat Williams alive with double moves and so on. Wayne is the type of receiver that never gives up on a play and if Luck is scrambling out of the pocket you can count on Reggie to follow him and continue to put moves on Williams to get an open look.

Hilton will do much of the same. Just like Wayne, he has come into the league with a savvy veteran to learn from, he knows how to find openings in the defense if the play is somehow able to be extended. The Ravens must give Luck credit with his maneuverability in the pocket. He is young but plays above his age and is just fast enough to give his receivers those extra seconds to get open down field. The pass rush must not over-pursue and miss, giving Luck an extra chance to find one of his steadily fighting receivers. Corey Graham is a savvy veteran himself who could out-fox the young Hilton and bait he and Luck into a turnover if the situation allows.

The Colts don't have any physically dominating receivers. They strive on speed and accurately run routes. Baltimore's corners must use their size and physicality on the line to keep these receivers from getting free releases and creating lapses in coverage down-field. I don't think the Colts will be able to run the ball so play action shouldn't cause the Ravens too many problems but it is always there and the defense must account for it weather the running game is potent or not. If given the time, even a rookie quarterback will find holes down-field, especially one as talented and smart as Andrew Luck.

The X-factor in this area is Ed Reed. Everyone know that Reed turns everything up a notch in the post season and even though Andrew Luck may be the second coming of Joe Montana, he has never played against a safety like Reed. I'm sure Chuck Pagano is Schooling him daily on Reeds antics and baiting techniques but you can never simulate the play of a future Hall Of Fame player who may be the best to ever play his position. Reed could be anywhere at anytime and if one of the Colts receivers do manage to grab a hold of a pass down-field they will also have Bernard Pollard to deal with so they better be holding onto that ball tightly as he will knock it loose faster than they can turn to run it down-field.

With all this being said the Colts will most likely look for the Ravens weak link in the secondary which could come down to either Jimmy Smith or Chykie Brown, whoever the Ravens have the most confidence in come game day. It will be up to reed, Pollard and James Ihedigbo to counter that by playing behind the nickle corner on obvious passing downs. One will have to work in this double team and the other should spy the quarterback and slide towards whichever way he has shown to favor.

The passing game will be the Colts best weapon on offense against the Ravens but even in this area I give the Ravens the edge if everyone is actually healthy and playing at their best. On paper the Ravens are a better team all the way across the board. If the Colts are able to win it will be because Andrew Luck out-plays Joe Flacco. That is a very daunting task at M&T Bank Stadium but crazier things have happened. If Joe wants that big boy contract now is the time to show he is worth it.

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