By Tyler Springs
Injuries (includes only those players who are unlikely to play)
LB Terrell Suggs (Out)
TE Todd Heap (Questionable)
S Antoine Bethea (Questionable)
Significance: Heap is not a big deal, at least not compared to others at his position who will be key performers in this game (i.e. Dallas Clark). He's had less than five catches in each of his last three games and has been held under 50 yards receiving in all of them, so don't expect him to have much of an impact. He hasn't scored since week 2, but saying that he's due to have a TD is optimistic.
Bethea's having a banner season thus far (64 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles), so it would make things a lot easier on the Ravens' receivers if he were on the sideline. With backup Aaron Francisco officially listed as "out" on the NFL.com injury report, losing Bethea could be a real blow to the Colts' D if he were to aggravate his foot injury.
Suggs is the real concern on this list. His stats aren't great this year, but he's a focal point of the Ravens' pass rush, and without him, Jarret Johnson and Trevor Pryce will have to work harder to free themselves in pressure situations. The Colts have the best passing offense in the league, and damage control should be Baltimore's primary concern against the headcase that is Peyton Manning. If they can keep the Colts under 30 points, they will have done their job.
It worries me somewhat that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison doesn't think the defense needs to do anything special to combat the Colts' prolific air attack. In games against pass-heavy teams so far this season (Chargers, Vikings, Patriots), the Ravens are 1-2. Manning hasn't lost to the Ravens since 2001, including a 2006 playoff battle with the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. However you slice it, this situation doesn't look favorable to John Harbaugh at the moment. It's about time that Ed Reed and Fabian Washington rose to the occasion: if they don't contribute when the Ravens really need them, they'll have difficulty helping the team much at all for the next six weeks.
Prediction: Colts 34, Ravens 23. Billy Cundiff hits 3 field goals in his debut, and the Ravens manage to save face offensively in a game that was otherwise a forgone conclusion at kickoff. The Bengals play Oakland and the Steelers face the Chiefs, so if there's gonna be a change in the standings this week, it will be the Ravens falling farther behind. Let's hope they make a decent game of it and nobody gets hurt.