BALTIMORE — There's no telling how effective Ray Lewis will be Sunday against the Colts after missing 12 weeks with a torn right triceps. But he already has provided an emotional lift for the Ravens.
With his announcement Wednesday he will retire after this playoff run, Lewis gave the slumping Ravens a boost heading into their wild-card game. "Just having him back on the field is an inspiration," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
There are plenty of engaging story lines for this game, which pits Baltimore's current team against the one that left the city in a caravan of moving vans during a March 1984 snowstorm.
There's the return of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who served as the Ravens' defensive coordinator last year and is back on the sideline after being treated for leukemia this season. Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was the Colts' coach for three seasons, culminating his up-and-down run with last year's 2-14 debacle. There's also the Ravens' playoff experience — this is their fifth straight trip under coach John Harbaugh — against a Colts team that has 28 players making their postseason debut.
But nothing is more noteworthy than the pending retirement of Lewis, 37, who has been Baltimore's starting middle linebacker for 17 years, or as long as the Ravens have been the Ravens.
broncos: Peyton Manning tied another NFL record when he won his sixth offensive player of the month award. He joined Kurt Warner (2001) as the only players with 10 TDs, 1,300 yards, a 70 percent completion percentage and five wins in December as the Broncos captured the AFC's top seed. He did it while wearing a glove on his throwing hand, testing it in home games to prepare for cold weather in January. Manning never wore a glove while playing indoors in Indianapolis. "I guess you could say it's been okay the past two weeks," he said.
colts: Less than 12 months after taking less money to play for a rebuilding team and then leading it back to the playoffs as he had promised, Pro Bowl WR Reggie Wayne says he has seen how the season will end. "If my dreams are correct, I won't be playing in this (Pro Bowl) game. I have a bigger game to play in, and my dreams normally come true," Wayne said, chuckling.
Bengals: QB Andy Dalton was sacked four times and threw three interceptions in last year's 31-10 wild card loss to Houston, Cincinnati's wild card opponent again Saturday. DE J.J. Watt returned one of those interceptions 29 yards for a score that gave the Texans a lead they never relinquished. Coach Marvin Lewis got creative when asked how he planned to stop Watt this time: "I wrote a letter to the commissioner to petition for 13 (players on the field). I figure if we put a guy on each side of him and a guy in front of him, we've got a good opportunity."