The runaway Colts can dump the slumping Ravens out of the playoffs if they stop Ray Rice, says Luca Bercelli
It's official, miracles do happen in American Football.
Two NFL teams: two sensational storylines.
On the Indianapolis side of the field you have a team welcoming back a dearly loved head coach to the sideline after a 12-game absence due to a lengthy battle with Leukemia.
On the Baltimore side the inspirational leader of the team for the last 17 years, Ray Lewis, returns to the field for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct 14, and announcing that this will be his final season.
It's certainly going to be emotional, but will it be Chuck Pagano's 'Chuckstrong' tide of emotion or Lewis' career postscript that sweeps into the next round? Tricky one.
Last week a tearful Pagano, along with most of the spectators at the match, proudly looked on as his Colts booked their place in the playoffs with a resounding 28-16 win over one-time Super Bowl favourites, the Houston Texans.
That effort puts them right in the mix for this one and Chuck could get a further boost this weekend as it's his former club, the Baltimore Ravens, who provide the opposition. As the former defensive coach of the Ravens, Pagano is uniquely placed to anticipate a lot of what Baltimore will throw at his rookie quarterback and his inside knowledge will surely be a great help to Colts' QB Andrew Luck, who received decent protection from his offensive line last week against the strong Texans' defence.
Let's face it, on paper the Ravens are a better team with a more experienced quarterback, a much better running game and a more dynamic defence; especially with Ray Lewis back.
Remember, this is basically the same group that were a whisker away from a Super Bowl appearance a year ago, up against an outfit team that were an embarassment last year, finishing with a 2-14 record and prompting most commentators to predict zero success in this campaign.
Having said all that momentum is definitely not with the slumping Ravens, who have lost four of their last five. They've got everything to lose against the upstart Colts who are looking for their sixth win in their last seven.
If Indy can raise the level of their run defence and keep the explosive Ray Rice relatively quiet, I'm banking on the footballing brain and arm-strength of Luck to outgun and out-think what will possibly be an over-committed Baltimore defence.
That's the plan anyway.
Deep threat T.Y Hilton has had a very solid rookie year for the Colts and looked dangerous against Houston, so I make him a sporting bet to get the first TD at around the 14.013/1 mark.
Back the Indianapolis Colts to win on the handicap (+6.5 pts) @ 2.021/1
Back T.Y. Hilton to be the first touchdown scorer @ 14.013/1