|National Football League|
Flacco: Ravens not taking Colts lightly
The Baltimore Ravens control their own fate for the AFC playoffs and won't take the struggling Indianapolis Colts for granted when they meet Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.
That's probably a wise strategy because the Ravens are just 3-8 against the team that used to call Baltimore its home. Still, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is confident his team is an enviable position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.
"I have been in (situations) where we have to win, and that is it," Flacco said. "I have been in situations where we have had people lose, and we did not react well to it. I have had games where we have won, where all we have to do is win, and I have had games where we lost, where all we had to do is win. Been through it all, and it is definitely easiest knowing that we control it from here on out.
"I think we are a very motivated team, I think we have a lot of pep in our step, and we feel like we are coming on and playing good football, so that is definitely a plus."
The Ravens (8-6) are playing their best football at the most critical time of the season. Since their bye in Week 10, the Ravens have scored 23 points or more in each game, and have won four of five matchups.
Baltimore holds the playoff tiebreaker over the Buffalo Bills because of a better record among common opponents. The Ravens also have an easier schedule, closing out the season with another home game against the Cincinnati Bengals (5-9). The Bills play at New England (11-3) and Miami (6-8).
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said his team will not take any of its opponents lightly. The Ravens are 15-7 in December and have allowed just 16.4 points per game at home over that span under Harbaugh.
"We're looking forward to the next two games," Harbaugh said. "We're looking forward to our crowd. We're hoping we play our best football in the last two games of the season. We're going to need to play our best football to accomplish what we want to accomplish."
The Colts (3-11), meanwhile, have been decimated with injuries and played the entire season without quarterback Andrew Luck. As a result, Jacoby Brissett has taken the majority of snaps and thrown for 2,769 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also been sacked a league-high 49 times.
He will have to deal with a Baltimore defense that leads the league with a plus-17 turnover ratio. The Ravens also have 38 sacks, led by linebacker Terrell Suggs, who leads the team with 11.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who served as the Ravens defensive coordinator under Harbaugh, likes the way Brissett is progressing. The challenge will be handling Baltimore's constant pressure.
"Jacoby has done a great job since he has been here. You can see him getting better every single week. He was thrust into some very difficult circumstances, obviously, and thrust into the starting lineup real early with little time on task.
"He is a smart guy. He has talent, he is big, he is strong, and he is tough. He is learning every week. He is able to grasp more and more every week and is more comfortable, obviously, today, than a month ago with his surroundings and his personnel. He is making great decisions, he is taking care of the football, and he is managing things for us well. He is growing; he is a young player. He has huge upside."
The Colts have the league's 31st-ranked offense and are 30th in total defense. They didn't have a player named to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1997.
One of the bright spots has been running back Frank Gore, who last week surpassed LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth place on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Gore is 14th in the NFL with 793 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
"I'm still having fun, every time I get the opportunity to compete against other guys, it's doing something that I love," Gore said.
Despite the Colts' overall struggles, the Ravens are not underestimating them, especially with a playoff appearance possible at stake.
"You've got to win two games to get into the playoffs, and they're two home games," Suggs said. "So, that's pretty huge. It definitely feels good not to have to get on a plane this week."
Updated December 20, 2017