January 6, 2013 in Sports

Young Colts ready for playoff ride

Michael Marot Associated Press

Colts (11-5)

at Ravens (10-6)

Today: 10 a.m.


Line: Ravens by 7; O/U: 46 1/2

Briefly: Baltimore and its struggling defense will be happy to have Ray Lewis back after his Week 6 injury. The Ravens (6-9-1 against the spread this season) lost four of their last five (the lone win came vs. the Giants) to close the regular season. The Colts’ magical run that was buoyed by “Chuckstrong” saw Indy go 9-2 overall and ATS in its last 11 regular-season games. I’ll stick with my original pick of Indy (11-5 ATS in ’12) getting the points.

The pick: Colts

John Boell, Newsday

INDIANAPOLIS – The playoffs can’t start soon enough for Donnie Avery.

Five years after being the first receiver taken in the 2008 NFL draft, he will finally make his postseason debut at Baltimore.

It’s about time.

“It’s great, it’s like starting the season all over again,” the Colts receiver said Friday with a smile. “It’s got my juices flowing again.”

The veterans who have been there before will explain this is the way the playoffs are – exciting and nerve-racking all the same time.

And this week, at least, Avery isn’t the only one in the Colts’ locker room going through this experience for the first time. Of the 53 players on this year’s roster, 28 have never played in an NFL playoff game.

Perhaps that should be expected from a team that has relied on rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, piled up more combined rushing and receiving yards by rookies than any team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and endured the most thorough housecleaning project of any team in the league after last year’s 2-14 debacle. More than a half-dozen key players from the Colts’ 2009 Super Bowl team, including Peyton Manning, were let go.

But the truth is only nine rookies are on that first-timer list as the surprising Colts (11-5) visit AFC North champion Baltimore (10-6) in today’s wild-card round game.

The other names include linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who had a team-high 203 tackles after arriving from Canada; Cassius Vaughn, who spent the last two seasons in Denver but didn’t get to play in either of the Broncos’ postseason games last year; and cornerback Vontae Davis, the reigning AFC defensive player of the week who spent his first three years in Miami.

“It’s a special moment. I’ve never been to the playoffs being in Miami. My brother, Vernon Davis of San Francisco, he went to this first playoffs last year. He said it’s a great feeling, a great experience,” Vontae Davis said.

“I asked him for any tips and he just said ‘play harder.’ ”

© Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email