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Colts to open playoffs against red-hot Ravens

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They had to win their last regular season game just to make the post season party, and it seemed that their road to playoff perdition would more than likely end in New England in the first round.

Somebody forgot to explain this to the Baltimore Ravens, as they thumped the Patriots on the road and now have their sights set on the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Sure, the Colts traveled to Baltimore earlier this year and returned with a victory after holding the Ravens to just field goals the entire day, but the game was a hard fought affair and took a late interception by Gary Brackett to seal the deal.

The Ravens squad coming to town this weekend is a physical one and they like to gamble on defense, which is something that I am certain has not escaped the eye of the Colts coaching staff.

This team is also certainly different than the one Indianapolis faced earlier in the season. The Ravens look to be regaining the swagger they had during their playoff run last year as a Wild Card entry that saw them win two games on the road before losing at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship to the eventual World Champion Steelers. It was a hard fought contest that was much closer than the final score of 23-14 indicated.

Baltimore used a bruising running attack against New England to rack up an impressive 234 yards of net rushing and their defense held the Patriots to just 196 yards of total offense.

They also intercepted New England quarterback Tom Brady three times and sacked him three times as well. All of this against a team they hadn’t defeated in their previous six attempts, on the road, and in the cold.

Colts fans, this team is for real and they present an enormous challenge this weekend. Look for an extremely physical contest, one that will be low scoring and close.

My prediction? Shocker: Baltimore 23 Indianapolis 20

Notes: Why should playoff tickets be more expensive than regular season tickets? Because the NFL says so.

Season ticket holders receive league mandated notices from the teams that denote the increases and are given a time line to have their seats paid for. Why should these loyal customers pay a penny more than what they fork over for the regular season games? Colts regular season tickets are astronomical enough, ranging from $44.00 to $ 275.00, but for the division playoffs, they will go for $60.00 to $325.00. Should the Colts advance to the AFC Championship game, they will run $70.00 to $450.00.

Do not forget to bring your binoculars and an oxygen tank for those upper-tier seats, as you certainly will need them.

Baltimore’s defense allowed opponents just 3.4 yards a carry this year (NFL best) and they sacked the quarterback 32 times.

With the running game decimating the Patriots, Raven quarterback Joe Flacco rarely needed to throw the ball.

He did however throw for 256 yards when the Ravens met the Colts in the regular season, including nine completions for 142 yards to Derrick Mason. While the Ravens present problems to the Colts with their running game, look for the strong armed Flacco to take some shots down the field against a Colts secondary that I feel, to say the least, is very suspect.

Could the playoffs be the last time Adam Vinatieri is a member of the Colts roster? The veteran kicker who has been injured most of the season, apparently is not healthy enough to kick in the playoffs and will continue to be replaced by Matt Stover, who turns 42 later this month. With his contract calling for payments this year of roughly $2.2 million and a salary cap hit of 2.7 million, the Colts should, and probably will release Vinatieri in the off season. Stover is being paid $845,000 this year to kick for the Colts who need to look to the upcoming NFL draft for a long term replacement.

The Baltimore game begins at 8:15 p.m Saturday, Jan. 16, and can be seen live locally on WISH-TV.

Danny Bridges, who once kicked a 12 yard field goal as a youngster and would gladly kick for the NFL rookie minimum salary of $310,000, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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