The Baltimore Ravens have had a tenuous season that started well but ended with a terrible December finishing 10-6. The Ravens will host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in this weekend’s second AFC wildcard game. Indianapolis finished the season 11-5. Led by rookie QB Andrew Luck, the Colts had a great end of season run to make playoffs. A number of factors are prominent in this matchup. First, we see a clear home field advantage for Baltimore, second the experience of the Ravens is superior to the Colts, third Baltimore’s offense and defense outperforms the Colts on the score board, and fourth, the Ravens are getting healthy at the right time.
Baltimore is 6-2 at home this season, which is certainly better than Indianapolis’ 4-4 on the road. At home Baltimore has beat Cincinnati, New England, Cleveland, Dallas, Oakland and the Giants. At home Baltimore has lost to Pittsburgh and Denver. On the road Indianapolis has Tennessee, Jacksonville, Detroit and Kansas City. On the road Indianapolis has lost to Chicago, the Jets, New England and Houston. That seems like a pretty clear home field advantage for Baltimore.
Indianapolis’ QB Andrew Luck and RB Vick Ballard are rookies in the NFL. Both had tremendous experiences in college and both have been integral to the Colts’ success this season; however, neither has faced the pressure of an NFL post-season. On the Raven’s side QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice are seasoned veteran in the league, with the Ravens and in the post-season. Baltimore’s defense is also very experienced in the post-season and may even return star LB Ray Lewis.
At home this season the Ravens have scored an average of 31.8 points which is significantly better than their total season average of 24.9 points. Defensively they have allowed an average of 22.4 points at home and over the entire season allowed an average of 21.5 points. So using Baltimore’s numbers the score might be about 28-22 for Baltimore. On the road this season the Colts have scored an average of 21.5 points and their total season average is 22.3 points. On the road the Colts have allowed an average of 29.1 points but over the entire season they have averaged 24.2 points allowed per game. Therefore 22 is a good score to pick for the Colts while the Ravens should finish between 25 to 31 points.
In an attempt to get healthy for the post-season the Ravens sat some players last weekend. Star LB Terrell Sluggs was one such player; he had bicep problems but is listed as probable for this week. Also there is a good chance that Pro Bowl LB Ray Lewis will attempt to return from a torn tricep this week. Lewis has been out for weeks and the team announced this week that Lewis will retire at the end of this season. The team said they will not announce whether Lewis will play this week until just before the game. So keep an eye on the situation, with the expectation that Lewis will want to return this week.
The odds suggest a score of about 26-19 for Baltimore. Using season averages it is possible that the score could be about 28-22. The over bet seems like a lock, but the spread is precarious and depends on the health and play of Baltimore’s defense. That Colt’s coach Chuck Pagano was the Raven’s defensive coordinator last season may be a great benefit to Indianapolis this week as they draw up their game plan.
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