NFL Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

Last week the Colts beat expectations (and the spread), but ultimately still lost their 12th straight game. This week, it's another rivalry game with the Ravens. Assuming you still tune in on Sundays, here's what to watch for:

1. Watch for sacks. The Ravens lead the NFL in adjusted sack percentage. Dan Orlovsky has taken 4 sacks in just 62 drop backs, the worst rate of any of the Colts' QBs. It's bad, bad combination. Just a couple of weeks ago, Baltimore took down Alex Smith 9 times in a game. They'll be looking for that kind of number on Sunday. The biggest knock on Orlovsky has always been a complete lack of pocket awareness. If the Colts can keep him upright, then he'll have a chance to complete some passes. The Ravens will be looking to cause multiple sack fumbles on Sunday, however. The result could be a multi-turnover game for Orlovsky that many will blame on the offensive line.

2. Watch the king of average. Joe Flacco burst on to the scene with a respectable rookie year in which the Ravens went 11-5 and he had a rating of 80.3. Now in his fourth season, Flacco has a rating of 78.3. He's just never developed. He has career lows in completion % and YPA. His interception rate is at its lowest point, but so are his touchdowns. Flacco's + ratings have always hovered around league average, but now he's below the 100 mark in most of the major indicators. When trying to imagine what the 2011 Colts would look like with average QB play, imagine Joe Flacco running the team. I'd say they win probably 6 games.

3. Watch the names on the back of the jerseys. You'll have to if you want to know who is playing defense for the Colts. Once again, the Colts are among the most injured teams in football. Honestly, I've lost track of who is playing in the secondary or line at this point. This unit actually played pretty well for a few games early in the year, but since then it's been a tidal wave injuries, and the result is mess. At this point I don't even have much to say about it. This is the fifth straight year that Indy has had one of the most injured defenses in the game. Bob Sanders is gone, but the bandages are still around. I hurt myself just typing about it.

4. Watch for angst. The Baltimore fans are angst ridden about something. I'm not even sure what anymore. Colts fans are fairly content to get the top pick, but really don't want to go 0-16. The Colts wideouts are worried about their futures. The defense is worried about surviving. The Ravens are worried about winning the division. CBS is worried about ratings. John Harbaugh is worried about being the least famous coach in his own family. Jim Caldwell is worried about punting. I'm worried about how to come up with 5 things to say about this game. You are worried I'm never going to end this paragraph.

5. Watch the true deep threat. Torrey Smith has just 32 catches on the year. That's less than 3 a game. The thing is that they go for 20 yards a pop. Smith is an incredible weapon, and won the Colts have to be aware of at all times. He's the perfect example of why catch rate is a contextual stat. His catch rate is only 50%, which isn't awesome, but when you do it on 20+ yards a catch, there's no problem at all.

6. Watch for payback. The Baltimore fans get their long awaited revenge. For the first time in many, many years, the Colts will lose in Baltimore 31-3. The Baltimore throng will be thrilled, at least until the next time Indy comes to down and curb stomps them.


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