With injuries and COVID-19 leaving them thin at multiple positions, the Ravens will need a bounceback performance from Lamar Jackson to hang with the well-balanced Indianapolis Colts.
RAVENS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled to one of the worst games of his career (13-for-28, 208 yards, two interceptions, two fumbles) in a Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s dropped to 18th in Pro Football Focus' quarterback grades and 19th in ESPN’s QBR rankings (which he topped in 2019). To make matters worse, his top pass blocker, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, suffered a season-ending ankle injury Sunday. Wide receiver Marquise Brown complained on social media after Jackson targeted him just twice in the Pittsburgh loss, though Brown still leads the team in targets, catches and receiving yards. Tight end Mark Andrews also had a quiet game with three catches on six targets for 32 yards. Willie Snead IV was easily the team’s top receiver against the Steelers, with five catches on seven targets for 106 yards (57 after the catch). The Ravens rank 31st in passing offense and 25th in yards per attempt.
COLTS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Philip Rivers has played fairly well in his first season for the Colts, completing 69.7% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games. The Indianapolis offensive line, led by guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski, has allowed Rivers to be sacked just seven times. Top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has not played up to his past Pro Bowl form, with just 22 catches on a team-high 39 targets for 251 yards. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has been a threat out of the backfield with 18 catches on 20 targets, and tight end Mo Alie-Cox has come out of nowhere to have an outstanding season, with 14 catches on 18 targets for 231 yards. The Colts rank 11th in total passing and fourth in yards per attempt.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens produced their best ground game of the season against the Steelers' previously ferocious run defense, gaining 265 yards on 47 carries. They did not miss Mark Ingram II, who was out with an ankle injury, as Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins combined for 200 yards on 31 carries. Dobbins is averaging 6.7 yards per carry, better than Jackson’s 6.2, though the quarterback still leads the team with 411 rushing yards. The Ravens are back to leading the league in rushing by a comfortable margin at 178.7 yards per game.
COLTS RUNNING GAME: Taylor has not excelled as the team’s primary runner, averaging 3.9 yards on 100 carries. Backup Jordan Wilkins hasn’t been any better, averaging 3.7 yards on 49 carries. Indianapolis ranks 25th in total rushing and last in yards per carry, odd given that their guards and right tackle Braden Smith have all received excellent run-blocking grades from Pro Football Focus.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens held Steelers running back James Conner to 47 yards on 15 carries, and Pittsburgh largely abandoned its ground game after halftime. The Ravens rank seventh in total run defense but allow 4.4 yards per carry, 17th best in the league. Rookie middle linebacker Patrick Queen leads the team with 48 tackles and played every defensive snap against the Steelers. Safety DeShon Elliott has provided fierce run support, and defensive end Calais Campbell has shored up the front four. New addition Yannick Ngakoue grades as a below-average run defender, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Steelers did try to run at him early in Sunday’s game.
COLTS RUSH DEFENSE: The Colts have smothered opposing runners, allowing just 3.4 yards per carry. They rank second in total run defense and held the Detroit Lions to 29 yards Sunday. They feature many outstanding run defenders, from Khari Willis at safety to Darius Leonard at middle linebacker to Grover Stewart at nose tackle.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens will be without All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend. With seven other defenders — including starters Queen, Elliott, L.J. Fort and Matthew Judon — absent from practice this week because they were in close contact with Humphrey, it’s difficult to project the team’s performance in Indianapolis. The loss of Humphrey will strain a secondary that was already thin because of injuries to cornerbacks Tavon Young and Anthony Averett. The Ravens have played outstanding pass defense, holding opposing quarterbacks to 5.4 yards per attempt and ranking third in pressure percentage. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has delivered one of his best seasons and will be all the more essential with Humphrey out. Campbell leads the team with four sacks, and eight Ravens have at least two.
COLTS PASS DEFENSE: The Colts blitz on 11.3% of drop-backs, per Pro-Football-Reference, last in the league. They nonetheless rank eighth in pass defense and allow just 5.9 yards per attempt. Leonard ranks among the best pass covering linebackers in football, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes has made three of the past four Pro Bowls. Defensive end DeForest Buckner (13 quarterback hits) is the Colts' most effective pass rusher, though defensive end Denico Autry leads the team with four sacks.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Justin Tucker made a 51-yard field goal against the Steelers and has missed just once (from 61 yards) this season. Punter Sam Koch ranks seventh in the league with a net average of 42.6 yards and has put 12 of 25 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Ravens have dominated on returns, with a combined 471 yards compared to 201 for their opponents.
COLTS SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has made 16 of 18 field-goal attempts but hasn’t tried one from 50 yards or beyond. He’s missed two extra-point attempts. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez ranks 10th in the league with a net average of 41.6 and has put 11 of 19 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Colts have two outstanding returners in Nyheim Hines, who handles most of the punts, and Isaiah Rodgers, who handles most of the kickoffs. Rodgers scored on a 101-yard return against the Cleveland Browns.
RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens are at the most dangerous junction of their season, coming off a difficult loss to the Steelers and dealing with the ankle injury to Stanley and the COVID-19 positive test for Humphrey. Their franchise player, Jackson, struggled through a shaky game against Pittsburgh and won’t catch a break against an extremely sound Indianapolis defense.
COLTS INTANGIBLES: The Colts lead the AFC South under third-year coach Frank Reich and have quietly established themselves as one of the best all-around teams in the conference. They beat the Lions by 20 on the road and have won all three of their home games (albeit against poor competition). Strength of schedule is the biggest question for Indianapolis; they lost to the Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars and haven’t faced an elite opponent so far.
PREDICTION: Everything seems to be pointing the Colts' way. They’re undefeated at home, with one of the league’s best all-around defenses, and they’ll face a diminished version of the Ravens without Stanley or Humphrey. The Ravens will need Jackson to recapture his MVP form to have a chance, and the guess here is he will have a bounce-back game against a team that’s feasted on soft competition. Ravens 30, Colts 24.