There have been some wild wildcard weekend upsets in recent years. Who can forget Denver’s improbable victory last year over the Steelers, on a Tim Tebow passing touchdown in overtime no less? Or how about Marshawn Lynch and the 7-9 Seahawks barreling over the heavily favored Saints two years ago?
Certainly there is nothing more compelling than watching two teams go at it with everything on the line. This year will see four teams hitting their stride at the right time but still playing as underdogs—Cincinnati, Minnesota, Indianapolis, and Washington. Of these four, the most surprising are the Vikings and Colts.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they are destined to end their remarkable year on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The Colts, on the other hand, will travel to M&T Bank Stadium to face an aging and beaten-up Ravens team whose inconsistencies cost them three games in a row earlier this year.
This game is full of storylines and drama with Chuck Pagano returning to face a defense he once ran and Ray Lewis this week declaring his retirement at the end of the season. The Ravens have been tough to beat at home and this game certainly won’t be an exception as John Harbaugh wisely rested many of his starters last week in an effort to get as healthy as possible for this game.
Much of the Ravens’ problems however have stemmed from the inconsistent play from Joe Flacco, while the promoting of Jim Caldwell to offensive coordinator three weeks ago as a replacement for the fired Cam Cameron has yielded mixed results so far. This week will be a real test as Caldwell goes up against his former team.
Familiarity will play a role for both teams but this is where the Colts have the edge with not only Pagano, but also Bruce Arians, who faced off against the Ravens twice a year as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator.
Andrew Luck has shown everyone that he was deserving of the number one pick, leading his team to some impressive victories but critics have been quick to point out his 18 interceptions on the year. If the Ravens were healthier in the secondary this might be a concern but after proving that he can take care of the ball these last three weeks, Luck should be able to have his way—even with Ed Reed waiting downfield.
Ray Rice will be the Ravens best weapon against the league’s 29th ranked rushing defense but it will take more than one man to carry this team. As a seven-point underdog, unless Luck’s decision-making is worse than Flacco’s on Sunday, the Colts will pull off the upset of the weekend as they put an end to Baltimore’s rocky season and Ray Lewis’ career.