They say that he who hesitates is lost, and now I know why. I almost wrote an article last week comparing the Ravens to the 2005 Steelers, but because I was hoping they would lose, I figured I'd save myself the trouble. Now that they've upset the Patriots, I spent last night assembling arguments, only to wake up to find that John Oehser has already beaten me to the analogy. I'll try to add something to the point he already made.
The obvious comparisons jump out at everyone, but when you look at the numbers, they are down right creepy:
2005 Steelers: Points For: 389, Points Against: 258, Expected wins: 11.6, DVOA: 27.9% (4th overall, 8th O, 3rd D)
2009 Ravens: Points For: 391, Points Against: 261, Expected wins: 11.6, DVOA 32.5% (1st overall, 8th O, 3rd D)
You have to admit...that's weird.
There are some important differences:
1. While the 2005 Steelers and 2009 Ravens have nearly identical pass defenses, the Steelers were a better run stopping team
2. The Steelers had Roethlisberger at QB, the Ravens have Flacco, and I've already pointed out that Flacco has been horrid in the playoffs (despite three wins). Big Ben was coming off a great 3 TD, 148 rating game against the Bengals the week before. On top of everything, Flacco is hurt.
3. The 2009 Colts starting offense played extensively in each of the last two weeks and moved the ball effectively. This did not happen in 2005 as the Colts had just 4 drives in the final two games, putting up just one field goal.
4. The Steelers had no player as dangerous as Ray Rice and his 2000 yards from scrimmage. 1300 yards rushing, 5 ypc, and 72 catches are a lot to handle. The Steelers beat the Colts by coming out and throwing the ball early, and running it late. They had that luxury. The Ravens' best player is clearly Rice, so they'll have to run the ball early and often if they hope to win.
All in all, this is the worst of the three possible matchups the Colts could have landed. The Ravens are a capable team, and I think they are markedly better than the Jets, who I've considered the worst team in wildcard contention for weeks. The Ravens just went in to New England and bombed the Pats, the Jets beat Curtis Painter and the dead in the water Bengals twice. I'm not buying them for a minute.
By the way, don't listen to people who say, "If Flacco hadn't thrown a 4th quarter pick, the Ravens would have beaten the Colts".
1. If Tom Santi doesn't fumble at the 3, the Ravens would have been down more than two points.
2. Flacco threw a pick in the red zone because he's not very good. That wasn't a fluke. That's who he is. That doesn't get discounted.
3. There was plenty of time left in that game for the Colts to march down and get a field goal. A field goal would not have decided the game.
The Colts are going to have to come out and play a good, mistake free game on Saturday night. If they don't turn the ball over, I can't see the Ravens generating enough offense to win. If the Colts can get out to any kind of an early lead, the game will be over.