The Colts travel back to their old home in Baltimore today. You can be sure that there will be plenty of talk about the band in Baltimore and the Mayflower moving trucks that snuck the team out of the city by cover of darkness. Nothing will be more inspiring about the narrative than that it is winter and snow is falling along the same path those Mayflower trucks traversed to land at their new home in Indianapolis.
With that out of the way, the forecast predicts that there may be rain showers throughout much or all of the game. This may dampen some of the passing game (HAR!) or not, given that the Colts secondary in particular will be a prime target for exploitation. Baltimore likes to check the ball down to Danny Woodhead and Buck Allen a lot anyway, so they won’t have to stretch the field vertically to keep the ball moving through the air.
Ravens running back Alex Collins has really started to come into his own as the leader of the Baltimore backfield. The issue for Collins is that the strongest area for Indy’s defense by far, particularly after all of the injuries to the secondary, is in run defense between the tackles. This is where Collins butter most of his bread.
In many respects, these final contests will serve more as gold digging expeditions for the Colts front office than they will focus on the outcome on the scoreboard. There are players who are going to be playing for a roster spot in 2018, whether that comes through a futures contract, extension, or a chance to play somewhere else — these players do have something important to keep them playing hard through the end.
I suspect that the Ravens will win this game relatively easily, given the state of the Colts roster. However, if Indy wants a chance to stun Baltimore on the road, they need to focus on these key areas.
5 Keys to a Colts Win
- Colts will need to lean on tight ends to move the ball through the air. Jack Doyle and newcomer Ross Travis may be the biggest threats to a Ravens secondary that will likely focus on using their corners to shutdown T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers. If Indianapolis can get the ball in the red zone, Travis and Doyle will become even more important.
- Indianapolis will need to focus on outside contain throughout the entire game. The Colts have a habit of trying to get too cute to generate a pass rush. Late in games that often means that slants and stunts from the edges leave the defense exposed to rushes around the ends and allow running backs to carry the ball in space. With pass-catchers like Woodhead and Allen coming out of the backfield, they will not be able to afford to ask cornerbacks and safeties to make every play on the edges.
- The secondary has to give Mike Wallace extra attention. While Wallace may not be quite as explosive as he was earlier in his career, he is a deep threat who plays right into Joe Flacco’s strengths. With the Colts struggling to get pressure on opposing signal callers all season, it is likely that Flacco will have time in the pocket to allow routes to develops. The Ravens are not particularly gifted at receiver so shutting down Wallace will go a long way in stopping big plays that could break the game open.
- Jacoby Brissett has to get the ball out of his hands quickly. This requires offensive play-calling that provides him with routes that develop quickly and that he can get through his reads faster than he has for much of the season. Rob Chudzinski likes dialing up a lot of routes that press downfield and potentially get chunk plays. It is okay to hit T.Y. Hilton for a long touchdown but feasting on short and intermediate routes will be key to loosening up the extra help that will focus on Hilton over the top.
- Marlon Mack needs to break out. With little to play for in the final two weeks of the season, the Colts need to do a better job of scheming to get Mack involved in the offense. There is no doubt that Frank Gore is the better of the two backs at this point and field conditions may play a big role in how useful Mack can be but he needs to serve as another dump-off options for Brissett in the quick release passing game and Indy needs to stick with him for more carries. He may not be a guy who averages 3-4 yards per carry consistently but he is a guy who will break 20+ yard runs and maybe even take a long play to the house if you give him more opportunities. If you don’t make him a focus in these two games, you waste a chance to see what you have as you head into an off-season with two veteran running backs on injured reserve and your “bell cow” likely to leave in free agency.
4:30 PM ET on Saturday, December 23, 2017
M&T Bank Stadium — Baltimore, MD
NFL Network/CBS (only in Indianapolis and Baltimore) — Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl (sideline)
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM) — Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor (sideline)
Westwood One — Scott Graham, Mike Mayock, Scott Kaplan (sideline)
TV National Broadcast Map
See which games will be shown in your area, from 506Sports.com.
Tony Corrente. He is in his 23rd year of NFL officiating.
Over/Under: 41.0 | Spread: Ravens (-13.5). (topbet)