Baltimore and the Indianapolis Colts were both expected to be in the frame for the AFC play-off places entering the season, but ahead of their Week Five match-up in Maryland only the Ravens have lived up to the hype.
Baltimore lead the AFC North division at 3-1 after three straight victories and are strong 20/67 favourites to bring up win number four at the Colts’ expense.
Both these sides have been bitten by the injury bug this year, but the Ravens have handled it well, while the Colts opened the season with three straight losses.
They finally had something to cheer about last week when knocking off the Miami Dolphins and are 27/10 to keep the good times rolling with victory at the M&T Bank Stadium.
Colts Need to Establish the Run
With both sides boasting top-quality defences, this one will come down to which of these run-heavy offences can establish their dominance.
The Colts have had issues getting their ground going this year with a banged-up offensive line finding it tough to open up running lanes.
They head into this game though off the back of their best rushing performance of the season with lead back Jonathan Taylor putting up 103 yards and a touchdown in Miami.
They’ve also been handed a boost by centre Ryan Kelly’s return to action, but that’s unlikely to make a huge difference against a Ravens defence that is giving up 85.8 rushing yards per game, the seventh-lowest average in the NFL.
Wentz will be Under Pressure
Baltimore’s defence is built to combat the run and that means the Colts will need quarterback Carson Wentz to step up to the plate to have a chance.
Wentz has played admirably the last two weeks for a man playing with two sprained ankles and is turning the ball over less than he did with the Philadelphia Eagles, but questions remain over whether he’s the best fit for the Colts.
However, he still holds on to the ball for too long and that will need to change as he prepares to face a Ravens defence that has the fifth-highest blitz percentage in the league.
His opposite number, Lamar Jackson, has no such issues escaping pressure, with his elusiveness proving a key part of an offence missing its top-three running backs due to injury.
It’s no surprise to see Jackson leading the Ravens in rushing yards as a result and his ability to run the ball remains his best asset as he continues to struggle to move it through the air, posting a pass completion percentage of 60.5 per cent after four weeks, the fifth-lowest in the league.
Grinding out the Victory
The Colts defence ranks middle of the pack against both the pass and run, suggesting Jackson won’t have a particularly easy night moving the ball.
Meanwhile, their offence hasn’t put up more than 23 points in their last two games and that makes the seven-point spread they need to cover appear sizeable.
The Colts have covered the handicap in six of their last eight road games and if they can build on last week’s win at Miami, they are worth considering at 25/28 to cover the spread.
The best bet of the night could be to play the points though, with the total currently set at 46. With the Ravens offence having spluttered in recent weeks and the Colts failing to crack the 20-point mark twice in four games, taking the under at 25/27 holds appeal.
Points are often at a premium when these two meet, with 12 of the last 13 games finishing under that points total and the current iteration of both these franchises indicates that pattern should continue.
*All odds correct at time of writing