At 2-2, the Baltimore Ravens are a huge surprise, especially after starting out poorly on both sides of the football. The player who has been the catalyst for their resurgence has been Ray Lewis, without a doubt the NFL's best defensive player. He is doubtful Sunday. If Lewis is out, no one else on the Ravens' defense can take over a game like he can. Once the NFL's best defense, the Ravens are still solid. Despite losing talent in the offseason, they still have Peter Boulware and shutdown corner Chris McAlister to go with Lewis, as well as rookie Ed Reed. The defense seems to have adjusted well to the 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Mike Nolan.
|Jaworski on the Ravens|
Offensively, Brian Billick took a very, very, very conservative approach with quarterback Chris Redman early, but it is beginning to bear fruit. While far from being a consistent NFL quarterback, Redman is at least on the right track. His rapport with tight end Todd Heap has given him a comfort level. The quarterback's best friend is a running game, and Jamal Lewis is starting to get his giddyup back after running tentatively at the start of the season. Lewis is at his best as a north-south runner, getting his pad level down.
Five keys for the Ravens:
2. Stay committed to the run: The Colts' defense has not shown the ability to stop the run; they are ranked 29th, giving up 145 rushing yards a game. They may slant, stunt and blow some running plays up, but the Ravens must be sure Jamal Lewis has at least 25 carries when the game is over. The Ravens have won the two games in which Lewis has carried the ball 25 times or more.
3. Disciplined defense: The Colts are the best play-action team in football. It's critical that the Ravens' linebackers and defensive backs don't peek into the Colts' backfield and get sucked up on Peyton Manning's play-action fake. The Ravens must play with tremendous discipline or Manning will hurt them with big plays.
4. Be patient: Tony Dungy's defense plays a double-zone, keep-everything-in-front-of-you style. The Colts' defense won't allow the Ravens many big plays downfield. So Redman must be patient, dump the ball off and take the three- or four-yard gains. He must stay out of the known passing situatins and be happy with short gains.
5. Win the turnover battle: The Ravens aren't the kind of team that will drive 80 yards in 12 plays on a consistent basis. They have to create turnovers to shorten the field so they can score points.
1. Protect Redman: It's imperative for the Ravens' offensive line to protect their inexperienced quarterback. Redman is at his best when he has a comfort level in the pocket. Most young quarterbacks don't handle pressure well. The Ravens need to limit his number of throws and let him have the feeling he can drop back in the pocket and read downfield.
At 3-1, the Indianapolis Colts are in good position heading into Week 6. Confident, yet cautiously optimistic, the Colts have flown below the radar amongst the Raiders, Eagles and Bucs. I'm sure the lack of attention doesn't bother them. This team goes along, steadily improving from week to week. I'm not surprised. Before the start of the season, I said that Indy would be around in late January.
|Salisbury on the Colts|
With a potent offense already in place, coach Tony Dungy came in to vamp up that defense. The Colts feel good. And although they don't think they're playing near their best football, they're still winning. Typical of Dungy, the Colts' defense is ranked second in the AFC in points allowed per game. They keep things out front and play safe, smart football. The Colts don't allow you to make many big plays on them. That was a weakness last season and they've started to shore that up.
Five keys for the Colts:
2. Stop the run: Jamal Lewis is getting back to his rookie form, so it starts with stopping him and forcing the Ravens to throw. With a young quarterback in Chris Redman, the Ravens aren't explosive on the perimeter. They can't take over a game by utilizing their wide receivers. Stop the run, make them one-dimensional and beat them with Cover 2 defense. Redman is steadily improving, but the Ravens still rely on their defense.
3. Attack vertically: The Ravens' defense will get you by running sideline to sideline, so you've got to attack vertically, not horizontally. If you try to play east-west football and lollygag around, you'll have problems. Mix it up -- attack them vertically with the pass and trap them on the run. Go straight at them and make Baltimore defend the big play. With a loaded offense featuring Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and James, Indy should be able to make big plays down the field.
4. Score TDs, not FGs: It isn't wise to get in a field-goal game with the Ravens. The closer you let them hang around, the more they'll believe they can beat you. The Ravens won't win a shootout or a high-scoring game. They want to stop you in the red zone and force field goals to keep the score low. The Colts can't settle for getting to midfield. They'll need three or four touchdowns. It's important to come away with points -- but those points need to be six or seven, not three.
5. No turnovers in your zone: When you play an inferior team -- and I believe the Colts are the superior team -- you can't allow turnovers in your own zone. If you allow the Ravens the short field, you're playing right into the hands of a young quarerback and an offense that's not overly explosive. If you give them 40 yards to go instead of 75, you could make them explosive. I don't think the Ravens can sustain 75- to 80-yard drives four or five times in this game.
1. Deploy James: The Colts need to deploy Edgerrin James in various formations. With Ray Lewis' doubtful playing status, put James in the slotand get him in motion to see what kind of defensive coverage the Ravens use. When you run a running back out, if a linebacker or someone doesn't run with him, then you know it's a zone defense. It almost confirms the coverage and the type of defense an opponent is playing. I would also use James in different formations to make the Ravens defend. Letting James run right at this defense would play into Baltimore's hands and allow Lewis (or whoever's playing) to make tackles.