Colts at Ravens
Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
RB Jamal Lewis: There's no telling what you're going to get from Lewis after he spent most of the offseason in lockup and most of the preseason on the sidelines. He could be fresh, full of fire and eager to prove his legal and injury troubles are in the past. He could be rusty, out of game shape and grumpy about his contract situation. But know this – Jamal will carry the ball a bunch on Sunday, and he's set up for a nice day against a Colts defense that ranked among the worst in the league a year ago. Look for 80 yards and a touchdown from the Ravens' top option on offense.
RB Chester Taylor: Don't sleep on Taylor, whose productive preseason combined with Lewis's lack of action could add up to more Week 1 opportunities for the change-of-pace back. Count on 10-12 touches, making him a decent third RB option in deeper leagues.
TE Todd Heap: Fans haven't seen much of Heap this preseason as he recovers from offseason shoulder and ankle surgeries. He got a late start at training camp and played only briefly in the Ravens final preseason game, making one catch. Heap's a gamer who will play through pain, but he's also not yet 100 percent. Among tight ends, he's a middle of the pack option at best right now. That will change as Heaps health improves in the weeks to come. But for now, it's best to keep your expectations low.
WR Derrick Mason: The Ravens' big free-agent acquisition led all NFL receivers with 96 catches a year ago, but his numbers are destined to take a nosedive in 2005. Baltimore traditionally struggles in the passing game, and Mason finds himself paired with one of the league's most unreliable quarterbacks. Look for Mason to approach 70 catches and finish up with 6 TDs – a monster season for a team that hasn't had a WR catch 40 passes since 2002. Mason gets a favorable matchup against a the Colts suspect secondary in Week 1, but he's still a risky play with Kyle Boller under center.
Ravens defense: The NFL schedule-makers couldn't resist, pitting the league's most explosive offense against its most feared defense in a nationally televised season opener. Quarterback Peyton Manning resumes his assault on the record books after throwing an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes a year ago.
But anyone expecting to watch Manning light up the scoreboard Sunday night will be disappointed – the Ravens were the only team to legitimately hold Manning to fewer than two passing TDs last season (Denver did it in Week 17, when Manning attempted only two passes). He might find a few holes against the Ravens new-look defense, which will sometimes leave itself vulnerable to the big pass play, but bank on a mediocre stat line by Manning's standards – 250 yards and a couple of TDs.
It's a tough matchup for running back Edgerrin James (71.5 all-purpose yards per game in two career games vs. Ravens), but he has no business on the bench. Start him. Same goes for WR Marvin Harrison (25 catches for 367 yards, 2 TDs in four career games vs. Ravens) and featured TE Dallas Clark, who are both good bets to get into the end zone. Reggie Wayne is also a must-play, though he had only three catches for 11 yards against Baltimore a year ago. Ex-Raven Brandon Stokley is coming back from a dislocated shoulder and isn't recommended this week.
Colts: OUT: DE Vincent Burns (knee); LB Gilbert Gardner (ankle); DE Jonathan Welsh (knee). DOUBTFUL: DT Montae Reagor (groin); RB Dominic Rhodes (foot). QUESTIONABLE: TE Dallas Clark (concussion); CB Marlin Jackson (shoulder). PROBABLE: T Ryan Diem (foot); TE Bryan Fletcher (abdomen); S Joseph Jefferson (knee); S Bob Sanders (hamstring/calf); S Gerome Sapp (shoulder); WR Brandon Stokley (shoulder); CB Donald Strickland (hamstring); DE Josh Thomas (knee).
Ravens: QUESTIONABLE: WR Devard Darling (quadricep); T Adam Terry (ankle).