As if fated in an NFL season full of compelling plot twists, the Indianapolis Colts return to the city they once called home to face the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Colts moved from Baltimore in 1984 in a relocation that will never be forgiven by diehard Baltimore Colts fans. The Colts have now played more games in Indianapolis than in Baltimore, 487 to 440.
Here are some early story lines for the 1 p.m. kickoff:
PAGANO FACING OLD TEAM:
Before Colts first-year head coach Chuck Pagano became such a galvanizing influence with his inspiring battle against leukemia and his close-knit team responded with a surprising 11-5 regular season, he was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator.
He has mentioned his bittersweet finale with the Ravens, who came within a late dropped touchdown pass of knocking off New England in the AFC title game last January. Had the Ravens won to advance to the Super Bowl, the Colts probably would have looked elsewhere for a head coach because they would have had to wait another two weeks to talk with Pagano about the job.
WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT:
The fifth-seeded Colts entered the postseason with a 28-16 win over Houston on Sunday that dropped the Texans to the third playoff seed. The Ravens (10-6) already had the AFC North division title wrapped up and rested key starters in a 23-17 loss at Cincinnati, which had secured the AFC’s sixth playoff seed.
The Ravens sputtered with four losses in five games to fall to the fourth playoff spot. The Colts won five of their last six for a nine-win improvement from 2011, the second-best turnaround in NFL history.
Despite the teams trending in opposite directions, the Ravens are 6 1/2-point favorites.
CALDWELL CALLS PLAYS:
Two games into their late-season slide, the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with former Colts coach Jim Caldwell on Dec. 10.
Caldwell was among the Colts’ offseason dismissals after a 2-14 season a year ago. Counting the playoffs, he was 28-24 as Colts coach, including a Super Bowl XLIV loss to New Orleans on Feb. 7, 2010.
ARE THE RAVENS HEALTHY?
Perennial Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ray Lewis missed 10 games because of a torn right triceps, and his availability for this game is one of many uncertainties. Last week, Lewis was activated off the injured reserve list as a player designated to return, but he did not play at Cincinnati.
The Ravens also rested outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has started two games since tearing his left biceps. Suggs, who suffered a torn right Achilles tendon in the offseason, started eight games and had two sacks. He had a career-high 14 sacks in 2011.
Source; Indianapolis Star