INDIANAPOLIS – The storylines heading into this weekend’s AFC Wild Card matchup between the Colts and Ravens are numerous.
Those all will be put to rest on Sunday afternoon when the AFC North champion Ravens welcome the Colts to M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore headed into the month of December 9-2 and appeared like a team destined for a first-round bye.
However, the injuries began to catch up with the Ravens. Baltimore dropped four its final five games, but still had enough of a cushion to secure the AFC North title in Week 16.
Ravens running back Ray Rice had another Pro Bowl season and finished the year with 1,143 rushing yards, despite only having three carries in the season finale, as Baltimore rested numerous key players at Cincinnati.
The balance of the Ravens offense can be attributed partly to quarterback Joe Flacco distributing the ball to seven different receivers who have caught at least 21 passes this season.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin leads the receiving corps with 65 catches for 921 yards. Baltimore has three receivers with at least 61 catches. Tight end Dennis Pitta has 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns, while Rice with 61 catches for 478 yards.
Baltimore’s defense has fought through injuries all season, including to veteran cogs Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs in the linebacker corps.
Suggs, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has returned from injury but has been limited to just two sacks on the season after 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season.
For the 17-year veteran Lewis, his health this week will be a hot topic. Lewis tore his right triceps on October 14, yet returned to practice less than two months later. He announced Wednesday that this will be his final season.
Lewis was activated to the 53-man roster on December 26 but did not play in the season finale against the Bengals.
Special teams will be a key on Sunday with Pro Bowl returner Jacoby Jones accounting for three touchdowns on the season in handling punt and kickoff return duties.
Former Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell took over as the Ravens offensive coordinator two weeks ago. He replaced Cam Cameron.
2012 Record: 10-6, first in the AFC North.
Head Coach: John Harbaugh, fifth season as Ravens head coach (54-26 regular season, 5-4 playoffs).
2012 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 16th (352.5); Rushing, 11th (118.8); Passing, 15th (233.7) Defense – Overall, 17th (350.9); Rushing, 20th (122.8); Passing, 17th (228.1).
2012 Leading Passer: Joe Flacco (317-531 comp., 3,817 yards, 59.7 pct., 22 TDs, 10 INTs, 87.7 rating).
2012 Leading Rusher: Ray Rice (257 carries, 1,143 yards, 9 TDs).
2012 Leading Receiver: Anquan Boldin (65 receptions, 921 yards, TDs).
2012 Leading Sacker: Paul Kruger (9.0).
2012 Turnover Breakdown: 9. (tied for eighth).
2012 NFL Draft Results: The Ravens chose Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with their first pick in the second round and the former national champion has started nine games this season for Baltimore. Later in the round, Baltimore selected offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, and he has started all 16 games opposite Michael Oher at right tackle. The Ravens successful draft continued in third round when running back Bernard Pierce was selected. Pierce has come alive in the second half of the season and has 108 carries for 532 yards.
2011 Review: A season sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a 6-1 close to the regular season gave the Ravens the AFC North Championship and momentum heading into the postseason. Baltimore defeated the Houston Texans, 20-13, in the AFC Divisional Round, which set up a trip to New England for the AFC Championship. Baltimore took a 20-16 lead into the fourth quarter, but New England struck quickly with a Tom Brady touchdown run to make the score 23-20. The Ravens would have three more cracks at it the rest of the way, but a turnover-on-downs was followed by an interception and then a missed 32-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff with 11 seconds left ended the season.
Last time in Playoffs: 2012. Lost in the AFC Championship to the New England Patriots, 23-20.
Last time in Super Bowl: 2000 regular season. Won Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants, 34-7.
Super Bowl Championships: One. Won Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants, 34-7
2012 Pro Bowl Selections: Jacoby Jones, KR. Vonta Leach, FB, Haloti Ngata, DL, Ed Reed, FS, Ray Rice, RB, Marshal Yanda, OG.