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2014 NFL Week Five Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

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The Colts look to get above .500 for the first time in 2014 against a semi-familiar opponent who has played pretty well so far this season, the Ravens. Can the Colts keep the Ravens winless in Indianapolis?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts are a quarter of the way through the 2014 season, where we've seen them lose to a couple of Playoff teams from a year ago, and blowout a couple divisional opponents that aren't very good. Sunday we see them go up against a team that falls right in between those two categories: the 3-1 Baltimore Ravens. They weren't a playoff team a year ago, but they have been impressive so far this season.

While all of us know the story of the 2-2 Colts, the Ravens have played well in three of their first four games, but the one "dud" was not against the Bengals, a team they lost to. Their Week 3 game at Cleveland was a struggle for them, winning by just 2 points after walloping the Steelers the week before, and before smoking the Panthers last Sunday. The other differing factor for Week 3: it's the only game they've played away from Baltimore this season. Over the past five seasons, the Ravens are a superb 37-8 playing at home, but just 23-25 on the road. That's good news for the Colts.

This is also the first regular season game that Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano will go up against the last team he worked for. He had come back the previous week before the 2012 Playoffs and was on the sideline during the Colts loss in Baltimore in the Wild Card round, but this will be the first game he's been at 100% going against some of his former players and coaches. I don't think either team will be able to get many tendencies from the other (other than we all know Ravens OC Gary Kubiak loves play-action rollouts), but I'm sure it's going to be talked about before the game Sunday.

In what I'm dubbing "The Curse of the Mayflower", the Ravens have never won a game in Indianapolis, an 0-5 record. In fact, it's been almost 10 years since the Ravens scored a touchdown in Indianapolis. They lost 20-3 back in the 2009 Playoffs (it was a ass-kicking), and lost 31-3 back in 2008, a game where the Ravens turned the ball over five turnovers, including three interceptions from rookie Joe Flacco. Overall the Colts have a 9-5 record against the Ravens, including the three Playoff games.

How do these two teams match-up this year? Let's dive into the numbers and find out.

Statistical Preview between the Colts and Ravens (Adjusted):

Statistic Colts Ravens
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 72.1% 10 66.9% 11 69.6% 17 67.7% 13
ANPY/A 6.875 4 3.958 3 5.333 17 5.701 17
Turnovers 0.89 3 2.35 4 1.68 19 1.79 17
Yds/Drive 32.16 7 27.39 11 30.89 10 30.43 19
ToP/Drive 2:51.0 8 2:25.0 4 2:50.0 11 2:46.0 19
Yds/Play 5.511 8 5.157 14 4.887 26 5.400 22
Orange Zone Eff 53.3% 20 52.0% 9 50.2% 22 48.1% 4
First Downs/Drive 1.77 12 1.61 14 1.87 8 1.65 16
3rd/4th Down 38.8% 16 35.7% 11 43.2% 9 42.6% 24
Avg Start Pos 31.6 7 26.7 3 31.5 9 28.3 8
3 and Outs 3.98 23 4.32 11 3.47 11 3.92 14
RZ Eff 64.5% 17 62.3% 10 61.3% 20 63.3% 11
Plays/Drive 5.828 9 5.325 11 6.146 4 5.663 15
Penalty Yds / Play 0.698 8 1.072 4 0.702 9 1.128 2
RB Success 36.9% 30 53.4% 31 40.7% 23 40.3% 8
Yds/Carry 4.03 22 4.78 25 3.68 25 4.02 14
Overall 8 9 15 16

Keys to the Game:

  • We'll start with when the Ravens have the ball, which means we get to talk about the improved Colts Defense. They've been shutting down the pass quite well this year, and the Ravens have surprisingly not been that great passing the ball, once you adjust for opponents. Big day for Flacco, or if either of the Smiths go nuts (Torrey or Steve), and it'll be bad news for the Colts.
  • Same goes for turnovers, where the Ravens are a little worse than league average, but the Colts have been finding ways to create mistakes from their opponent. Colts should plan on a couple, or it might not be so pretty for the colts.
  • I'm somewhat surprised the Ravens have such a low Yards per Play, as Flacco has a huge arm and it seems you always see a bomb being completed to Steve Smith. That must mean most of their other plays aren't going for many yards. It means the Colts can take some chances by moving another guy into the box, although with the depth at Safety a major concern for the Colts, I expect to see several shots down the field. Did I say several? At least six or seven easy.
  • Third and fourth downs will be crucial, as both teams are well above average. I think the winner of the game will be who wins 3rd and 4th down when the Ravens have the ball.
  • Both teams are in the top 10 on both sides in Field Position. With the increased winning percentage Field Position has had during this season, this will also play a big role in the outcome. Force the other team to play on a longer field, the better chances you have of winning.
  • The Colts have a good opportunity to show the last two weeks offensively were not a fluke. The Ravens still have the reputation of being a staunch defensive team, but the numbers don't measure up. The Colts sit in the top 10 in our top six stats, which means they should be able to move the ball, especially through the air, go on some sustained drives, and hit some big plays. Putting up equivalent numbers to the last two weeks will really show me they've turned the corner.
  • Here's where I'm concerned about for the Colts Offense: scoring points when they get into scoring position. The Ravens rank 4th in the NFL inside the 35 yard line, giving up a little over a Field Goal per drive down there, which is very good. They're Red Zone Efficiency isn't quite that good, but still an impressive 11th. The Colts struggled early in the season but have figured it out since Week 1. No offense to Adam Vinatieri, but if we see him a lot, and it's not after a TD, the Colts will be in trouble.
  • Don't expect a big day running the ball from either team, as neither team runs the ball well.
I think this is going to be a pretty good, high-scoring game, that'll be decided in the 4th quarter. I think the Colts get enough stops on 3rd/4th down, and the Offense finds a way to continue scoring points in the Red Zone, and the Colts move to 3-2 on the season.

Colts 30, Ravens 25

Thursday Night Prediction: Packers 29, Vikings 25