Colts-Ravens Sunday primer

Quick recap: The Ravens have beaten quarterbacks Brodie Croyle, Philip Rivers, Brady Quinn twice and Kyle Orton. They have lost to Tom Brady, Carson Palmer twice, and Brett Favre. So who do you think should be favored today? The Ravens or Peyton Manning?

They are suffering from the Big Gun syndrome. The Big Guns have blown them away this season. It took a sensational, improvisational stop by Ray Lewis to deny Rivers a victory in this sequence, or they would have no quarterback scalps worth having.


Without a credible pass rush -- even with Terrell Suggs -- the Ravens haven't been able even to slow down the best quarterbacks they've faced this season. That, of course, makes their suspect secondary even more vulnerable.

Now, without Suggs, who wasn't playing well anyway, they have to pressure Manning or have him pick them apart. But Trevor Pryce has it right: the best way to handle Manning is to keep him and the offense on the sideline.


Certainly, the Colts' defense is vulnerable. Their secondary has been wiped out by injury. Their run defense is mediocre at best. So this is do-able, right?

Well, the Ravens better do better than they've done the past month. They haven't scored an offensive touchdown in the first half of the past five games. They've only scored two offensive touchdowns the last two games. They need to score a bundle of touchdowns to be in the game with the Colts.

Another problem area: third down. The Ravens were 1-for-10 on third down in the Nov. 8 loss at Cincinnati, and only 4 for 14 against the absolutely pathetic Browns last week. Joe Flacco has to play better or the Ravens don't stand a chance. They have to win third down against the Colts.

This is a game where Ray Rice should be a major weapon, both in the run and checkdown games. If Rice can make some plays early, Flacco has to find Derrick Mason downfield quickly. He likely won't have Todd Heap, and Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington have disappeared from the offense the last two weeks. Flacco needs more weapons than just Rice and Mason to beat the Colts. The Ravens need everybody playing well to have a chance.

The Colts are unbeaten, not unbeatable. They could have lost their last three games (beating the 49ers, Texans and Patriots by a total of 8 points). They should have lost to the Patriots, except for Bill Belichick's brain cramp. They are on the road this week and next (in Houston). They likely will lose one of them. Is this the one?