Limited Ravens head to Indianapolis for crucial AFC matchup originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Ravens have had a trying week from a football perspective.
They’re coming off a loss to the Steelers, who remain unbeaten and are now two games ahead of the Ravens in the AFC North. They lost cornerback Marlon Humphrey for Sunday’s game, as the All-Pro cornerback tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Seven players were identified as close contacts of Humphrey’s, meaning they had to sit out of practice all week and were only added to the active roster Saturday. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon returned Thursday.
But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re headed to Indianapolis for what could turn out to be a massive matchup in the AFC playoff picture.
The Ravens (5-2) are second in their division and the Colts (5-2) are tied with the Titans for the AFC South lead. If the Ravens fall to the Colts, they would then have lost three games to teams that could end up taking playoff positioning from them down the stretch.
“That’s how it is in this league,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You play great people, great players, coaches [and] teams. Every team has their strengths. Every team has their weaknesses within that; nobody is invincible by any stretch. So, you get ready to go. We respect every opponent. We certainly respect the Colts.”
Baltimore’s stretch of five rough games started last week against Pittsburgh and won’t end until Thanksgiving for the second matchup against the Steelers.
The Ravens’ five-game stretch to end the season is significantly easier than the one they’re in right now, but that can’t be, and isn’t, the mantra.
“Obviously, their defense is highly rated statistically, and you can see why on tape,” Harbaugh said. “They’re well-coached. I think they do a great job – their coaching staff. Like you said, they don’t really have any weaknesses personnel-wise out there. They have a nice scheme. So, you take it as you find it, and you go out there and you compete.”
Indianapolis and Baltimore have a deeply-rooted rivalry dating back to when the Colts left Baltimore, but just one player (Sam Koch) on the Ravens was even alive when the Colts belonged to Baltimore. Koch was not yet two-years-old when the team left the city.
Instead, Sunday’s matchup to those on the field is a game between two AFC hopefuls.
Without practice time for some key contributors, the Ravens’ defense has been in a tough spot all week preparing for one of the conference's best teams. Some, though, don't view it as that big of an issue.
“I don’t think it’s a challenge, honestly,” safety Chuck Clark said. “From the outside looking in, it might seem as if it’s a challenge, but here in this sport – any sport – it’s the next man up type of thing. So, it’s honestly an opportunity for younger guys and other guys who are just not starters right now to be able to even get out there.”
The Colts have seasoned veteran Philip Rivers at quarterback, but with TY Hilton doubtful, it might come down to the ground game.
If that’s the case, it could play right into the Ravens’ hands.