When trying to make my prediction for this game, I thought I had everything in place earlier in the week. Here's a very good young football team with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL playing hard for coach Chuck Pagano who missed much of the season after battling leukemia. That would surely mean that the Indianapolis Colts could have enough to beat the inconsistent Baltimore Ravens in a playoff road contest, shouldn't it?
But then came the Ray Lewis announcement, and although some people won't agree, I think that changes everything.
In the end, the sub-plots and emotional dramas that lead into any game have to kind of melt away when the whistle blows. Still, they'll have some kind of affect on how a team plays, and I think the focus on trying to send Lewis out with another Super Bowl title could be just what the Ravens need.
This year's Ravens' team had been maddeningly inconsistent. Sometimes, they've been very good. Sometimes, they've been very bad. Trying to figure them out will just give you some gray hair.
Yes, they've had a ton of injuries, more than most teams would ever deal with in a season. That really caused some of the inconsistencies. Still, this team just hasn't gotten it all together in every way at the right times.
The Lewis announcement could make that happen. The players were talking in the clubhouse on Wednesday about how they wanted to get to New Orleans for him, and the emotion in their faces was easy to read and see. That's why I see the Ravens taking this one.
PREDICTION: Ravens 28, Colts 20-- The Ravens will keep Ray Rice busy as their ground attack, and Joe Flacco's good passing, chews up the Indy defense. Emotion will drive in the Ravens in this one as it's likely Lewis' final game in Baltimore. That's a powerful motivator.