RAVENS PASSING GAME: Quietly, Joe Flacco has steadied the passing game, throwing for an average of 275 yards in the past three games and getting intercepted just once over the past four. The Ravens are 5-1 this season when Flacco doesn’t throw an interception. The Ravens still rank just 29th in passing yards per game, but they’re finding ways to get more plays downfield. With wide receiver Jeremy Maclin not expected to play, the Ravens need contributions from Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro and Breshad Perriman.
COLTS PASSING GAME: With Andrew Luck out, Jacoby Brissett took the reins of the Indianapolis offense under difficult circumstances. He’s played well at times and proved more than capable of hitting big plays. He has four touchdown passes of 60 yards or more, the second most in the NFL. Brissett, though, has been sacked a league-high 49 times, and he hasn’t had much time to get the ball to his two top targets: wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle. Former Ravens wideout Kamar Aiken has just 14 catches in 13 games.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens had only 97 rushing yards Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, and most of them came when the outcome wasn’t in doubt. Starting running back Alex Collins had his least productive game of the season on the ground and appears to be dealing with some physical problems. That should lead to greater roles for Buck Allen and Terrance West, who has been a weekly inactive. Given the Colts’ vulnerabilities, expect the Ravens to run the ball early and often Saturday.
COLTS RUNNING GAME: The ageless Frank Gore is having another solid season as the Colts’ lead back. Gore is 14th in the league with 793 rushing yards, and he’s over the 1,100 all-purpose yard mark for the 12th consecutive season but is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. Rookie backup Marlon Mack is averaging eight touches per game. Brissett has four of the team’s 10 rushing touchdowns. Starting center Ryan Kelly was placed on injured reserve this past week.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: For the first time in seven weeks, the Ravens gave up over 100 yards on the ground as the Browns rushed for 130. However, 59 of those yards came on one carry by Isaiah Crowell. Starting defensive end Carl Davis is dealing with a shoulder injury, but it seems likely he’ll play. Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, the team’s top tackler, looked much healthier last week. The Ravens have given up at least one rushing touchdown in four consecutive games.
COLTS RUSH DEFENSE: Ted Monachino’s defense is allowing 124.4 rushing yards per game, the fourth most in the NFL, and it has surrendered 14 rushing touchdowns. Only five teams have given up more. The Denver Broncos gouged the Colts last week for 213 yards on the ground. Making matters worse, the Colts put leading tackler Jon Bostic on injured reserve this past week. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is a solid player, but Indianapolis has been left thin up the middle.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Colts struggle to protect quarterback Jacoby Brissett, so this would be a good week for the Ravens to have their pass rush going. They are tied for seventh in the league with 38 sacks. Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon have combined for 18 of those. In recent weeks, the Ravens are using safeties Chuck Clark and Anthony Levine Sr. in a hybrid inside linebacker role to get more speed onto the field. The Ravens’ 22 interceptions are the most in the league.
COLTS PASS DEFENSE: The Colts have not gotten to the quarterback enough, and they’re giving up far too many big plays. Those are the primary reasons they are allowing the third-most passing yards per game (257) in the NFL. They also rank last in the league in surrendering 7.59 yards per passing play. Only the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fewer than the Colts’ 23 sacks. Outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard, who has 5½ sacks, is the Colts’ best defensive player.
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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: It’s been another standout season for coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s group, which is making a difference every week. Sam Koch’s 37 punts inside the opponent’s 20 are six more than any other punter in the league. Justin Tucker is 29 of 32 on field-goal attempts, and he’s made 14 straight. His last unsuccessful attempt was blocked, and his other two misses were from 58 and 62 yards. The Ravens are first in the NFL in kickoff-return average and second in punt-return average. Their kick coverage was spotty last week.
COLTS SPECIAL TEAMS: A likely Hall of Famer, Adam Vinatieri is having another strong year. He’s 24-for-27 on field-goal attempts, and he’s made all four of his tries from 50 yards and beyond. The special teams core has been good overall. Rookie Rigoberto Sanchez is fifth in the league in net punting average. The Colts are tied for first with the Ravens in lowest kickoff-return average allowed and fifth in lowest punt-return average allowed. They also have blocked two kicks.
RAVENS INTANGIBLES: To this point, the Ravens have done well not to look past inferior opponents. Aside from the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, they’ve been able to put teams away, outscoring opponents 231-73 in their eight victories. Their confidence has seemingly grown with the weekly improvements of the offense and with the defense’s ability to take the ball away. The Ravens are 4-2 at home this season. They are more banged up than they’ve been in recent weeks.
COLTS INTANGIBLES: Say this for the 3-11 Colts, they’ve been in a lot of close games. Five of their losses have been by six points or less. They’ve also held seven halftime leads, but their season-long Achilles’ heel has been finishing. The Colts have been outscored 223-91 in second halves and overtimes. They have three more days of rest than the Ravens, but they won’t be getting back the 12 starters or key contributors who are on injured reserve. They are 1-6 on the road.
PREDICTION: The Colts’ habit of taking leads and being in most games should have the Ravens on high alert, but beyond Hilton, Indianapolis doesn’t have a lot of healthy high-end talent to scare teams. The Colts have been especially worn out up front on both sides of the ball, and that bodes well for the Ravens to dominate this game physically. At this time of the year, there will always be some level of angst, but a home game against a battered team playing out the string should be treated as an early Christmas gift. Ravens, 27-13