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Ravens @ Colts: Prediction & 'Open Thread'

Keep it here on The Beatdown all evening long to post your thoughts and go crazy as our Baltimore Ravens face the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoffs tonight at 8:15 pm. It should be a great game and we'd all like to see another streak end for the Ravens just they they made one end last week in New England. We had a ton of comments last week during the game and hope to have another great night here on The Beatdown as we will put up a 2nd half post at the end of the 1st half because of so many comments as the game progresses.

Here's what I expect (and pray) to happen tonight:

The Baltimore Ravens know that the key to victory is on how their offense performs tonight against the smaller but fast Colts' defense. Everybody already knows about the chess match that we'll see when the Colts' offense is on the field against the Ravens' defense. However, what the Ravens' offense does to keep the ground game successful to limit the exposure of Joe Flacco will determine it's outcome more than any other intangible.

Flacco might just have to throw it more than 10 times like he did last week, completing just four for 34 yards, although Ravens fans would be just as happy if the team ran for over 200 yards once again and Flacco's contribution is minimal. At the same time, most Ravens fans know Joe is capable of a lot better than he has shown lately and if the Colts sleep or cheat up to stack the box agains the Ravens, they could pay big time for a couple of reasons.

First of all, if they do stack the box to stop the run game, they could very well see what happens when Ray Rice and Willis McGahee get through the line to the second level of the defense and there is no one there. They could also throw a long one to a wide receiver who is on one-to-one coverage and free to stretch the field. Either way, that success will be won or lost in the trenches, where the Ravens huge offensive line is better at run blocking than it is at pass protection. Fans of both the Patriots and Colts have now said that if we think we can run on them and limit the passes we will lose and so far they have been proven wrong by the Ravens physical style of play.

The Ravens defense will have to limit the big plays they give up to the Colts pass attack and if we want to do that, it will rely on the play of the Ravens secondary and especially their nickel and dime backs on the Colts solid third and fourth receivers. Limiting the success that TE Dallas Clark has enjoyed against us in the past is a major challenge as well. Getting into a shootout with Peyton Manning and the Colts will not only force us to abandon the run game, but lead to turnovers that we just can't afford to make and expect to win. In addition, if this game is close in the waning moments, it will undoubtedly favor the home team, but if the Ravens have at least a one score lead as the clock ticks down, then that favors our opportunistic secondary and time consuming running attack.

Limit the turnovers, force Manning into third and long plays by shutting down their running game and stop the big plays and the Ravens will have the chance to utilize their strength in the run game and compete until the end. Do this and the momentum the Ravens have on their side can overcome the so-called rest the Colts' players have enjoyed the past month or so. Expect Baltimore to bring the physical pain and hit the Cotls hard to see if they remember what it is like to play against this Ravens team. Punch them in the mouth early and often and dare them to respond. Run the ball up their guts, down their throats and then run it some more as they wear down and the clock winds down to another Ravens curse-ending victory and then sit back to enjoy seeing whether we go to warm and sunny San Diego or cold and dreary New York for the AFC Championship Game next week!

Ravens:  28-20