4. Many thought the NFL lockout would hinder rookies’ ability to contribute, but you wouldn’t know it by watching Pernell McPhee and Torrey Smith this season. With most rookies not even allowed to receive a copy of their playbook after the draft let alone to participate in the normally-scheduled off-season conditioning and organized team activities that were eliminated with the work stoppage, first-year players arrived at training camp not even knowing where their lockers were, so it was difficult expecting much from them in such an unusual year. However, McPhee, the Ravens’ fifth-round pick from Mississippi State, provided a major boost to the interior pass rush on third downs from the start of the season and is only getting better after a two-sack performance in the 24-10 win in Cleveland. The game is still moving fast, according to McPhee, but the 280-pound lineman shows an impressive combination of power and quickness in getting after the quarterback — even if he doesn’t completely know what he’s doing yet. Smith had higher expectations being drafted in the second round and after a slow start in the preseason, the former Maryland star has set rookie records as well as provided the vertical threat the Ravens have lacked for years. His five touchdown catches lead the team, and he ranks second behind veteran Anquan Boldin in receiving yards with 645. Considering the accepted notion of wide receivers generally needing more time to adjust to the NFL game before making significant contributions, Smith’s emergence is even more impressive. While both rookies have plenty of room to grow, it’s safe to say the lockout didn’t cripple their ability to contribute heavily to a playoff-bound team.
5. The circumstances are clearly unprecedented, but is Indianapolis really coming to town on Sunday? Yes, they’re 0-12 without Peyton Manning, but you wouldn’t even know the Colts — that unspoken team from Indianapolis — were coming to town by the complete lack of buzz from the fan base this week. The Ravens haven’t beaten Indianapolis since 2001, but it seems not even the recent memories of two playoff losses can squeeze much adrenaline out of Sunday’s matchup with the worst team in football. To suggest longtime Baltimore Colts fans will — or should — ever get over the heart-wrenching pain of the Colts sneaking out of town in March 1984 shows an ignorant insensitivity, but perhaps most have come to peace with their city’s football fate 27 years later. The lack of enthusiasm for Sunday’s encounter reflects the animosity toward the Colts in recent years was much more about the dominance of Indianapolis (and Manning) over the Ravens than it was the historical backdrop of the rivalry. Even so, it’s no stretch to predict many fans taking extra enjoyment if the Ravens beat Indianapolis in convincing fashion to snap an eight-game losing streak (including two playoff games).