Ravens Are Near Unanimous Pick to Beat Colts
The Ravens (3-1) enter tonight's game against the visiting Indianapolis Colts riding a three-game winning streak. If they extend it to four they will have sole possession of first place in the AFC North, thanks to the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals both losing in dramatic fashion yesterday.
All but one of the 52 pundits we looked at are picking the Ravens to beat the Colts (1-3), who are coming off a 27-17 win in Miami in Week 4.
The lone prognosticator to pick the Colts to win in Baltimore is ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. You might remember Fowler as the guy who said "a lot of people around the league" are telling him "this might be the year that everybody figures out Lamar Jackson."
After playing three of their first four games on the road, the Ravens begin a four-game homestand tonight and won't get on a plane until Nov. 11 (Week 10) against the Dolphins.
Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about tonight's game:
The Ravens are catching the road-weary Colts at the right time.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "This is a third consecutive road game for the Colts against a Ravens team playing home for the first time after two on the road. And it's in prime time? That's a bad combination for the Colts. I think the Ravens will play well on defense again like they did against the Broncos and the Colts won't handle Lamar Jackson. Ravens take it."
Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "[The Colts will] be playing on the road for the third straight week, and it's not clear [Carson] Wentz is the man to go play-for-play with Jackson. The Ravens will kick off their long homestand with a workmanlike victory."
Don't be surprised if the Ravens win in a blowout.
Bleacher Report: "The Ravens finally overcame the Chiefs in their only other home game this season. That fully loaded stadium should be fired up for this one, and the Ravens are good at winning big (they won a league-high nine games by at least 14 points last season, one of which came in Indy). That hadn't happened yet this year before they easily disposed of a formerly undefeated Broncos squad on the road last week."
FanSided's Matt Vederame: "The Ravens typically beat up on bad teams, and right now, that's exactly what the Colts are."
Offensive tackle play has been one of the biggest issues for the Ravens and the Colts and how those groups perform for their teamswillgo a long way in deciding the game.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "With left tackle Ronnie Stanley continuing to be sidelined, the Ravens have been relying on Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle and Patrick Mekari, who had been slated for a reserve interior role, at right tackle. However, Villanueva went out with a knee injury against the Broncos and didn't practice much this week. If he can't go, the Ravens would likely be forced to start either Andre Smith or David Sharpe, who are currently on the practice squad. The Colts, meanwhile, badly miss standout right tackle Braden Smith. They've used Julien Davenport at right tackle while starting Eric Fisher at left side. The Ravens' tackles will have a little more margin of error Monday, given Jackson's mobility."
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "Indianapolis' offensive line is now a vulnerability worth attacking, and Baltimore's big uglies up front are well-suited to stop Jonathan Taylor on the ground."
DT Brandon Williams is the Ravens' X-factor.
Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos: "Traveling to Baltimore for a prime time contest as heavy underdogs, Head Coach Frank Reich will likely lean on his rushing offense to keep the Ravens' explosive offense off the field and the score within reach. Brandon Williams' effectiveness controlling the line of scrimmage and preventing Taylor from reaching the second level, where the Ravens linebackers have struggled to tackle this season, should determine the difference between a comfortable Baltimore victory and another game decided late in the fourth quarter."
The Ravens' improved passing attack again could be on display.
Zrebiec: "The Colts had the second-best rushing defense in the NFL last year, and the reasons were on display in the early-November meeting against the Ravens. This year, they've not been as dominant, allowing 114 rushing yards per game, which ranks 15th. Still, [Defensive tackle DeForest] Buckner made it clear this week that stopping the Ravens' run game, and Jackson in particular, is a priority. It figures to be another opportunity for the Ravens to show the growth of their downfield passing attack."
CBS Sports' Will Brinson: "Indy's actually sporting a good rush defense but I think we can expect some shots down the field to Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. If the Ravens can get vertical they can put the Colts in a rough position needing to come back."
Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith: "Lamar Jackson is throwing downfield more than ever before, and as a result his completion percentage is down but his yards per attempt is up. I think that's going to put a lot of pressure on the Colts' secondary, and the Ravens' should score a bunch."
The Colts match up well with the Ravens and will keep the game close.
Pro Football Talk's Phil Simms: "I think the Colts match up well with the Ravens in a lot of ways. I do think Carson Wentz and the passing game have found a little bit of a groove; it's not perfect yet. And I keep thinking the run game's going to come around, and we saw a little last week with the Colts' offensive line. So I do think that they're going to be a little bit more of a pain in the butt for the Ravens defense than maybe we expect. … I wouldn't be shocked if the Colts upset the Ravens, but I don't have the guts to pick that."
|ESPN||10 of 11 panelists pick Ravens|
|Baltimore Sun||5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||“[The Colts will] be playing on the road for the third straight week, and it’s not clear [Carson] Wentz is the man to go play-for-play with [Lamar] Jackson. The Ravens will kick off their long homestand with a workmanlike victory.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens|
|NFL.com||Ravens 27, Colts 16||“I'm so impressed by Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's ability to dial up creative pressures, no matter who he has playing cornerback. Indianapolis' offensive line is now a vulnerability worth attacking, and Baltimore's big uglies up front are well-suited to stop Jonathan Taylor on the ground.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens|
|Sporting News||Ravens 30, Colts 20||“Baltimore's overall defense, execution and efficiency is better and there's always extra fan emotion in prime time when it plays the team from Indy that used to call Charm City home.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“This is a third consecutive road game for the Colts against a Ravens team playing home for the first time after two on the road. And it's in prime time? That's a bad combination for the Colts.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“Importantly, the Ravens will show they’re the better team. More importantly (or not), they’ll get to 44 straight 100-yard rushing games.” — Mike Florio|
|Sports Illustrated||5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens|
|Fansided||Ravens 29, Colts 21||“The Ravens typically beat up on bad teams, and right now, that’s exactly what the Colts are.” — Matt Verderame|
Report: Ravens Receiving Trade Inquiries About Running Backs
The Ravens are receiving trade inquiries from teams interested in their running backs, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
After losing their top three running backs to season-ending injuries during the preseason, the Ravens turned to Ty'son Williams, who spent last season on the practice squad, and signed veterans Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le'Veon Bell.
"The Ravens may not end up trading any of their running backs, but the inquires — some of which came as recently as last week — affirm that Baltimore successfully made up for the season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill all in a span of 10 days starting in late August," Schefter wrote.
Williams leads the Ravens' running backs with 164 yards rushing on 27 carries (6.1 yards per carry), but was a healthy scratch last week. Murray, who had the majority of the carries the past two games, has rushed for 151 yards (3.4 YPC). His three rushing touchdowns lead the Ravens' running backs.
"The clarity is that they all can play," Head Coach John Harbaugh said after reviewing the film from last week's game. "That's probably as clear as we are, right now. So, we just have to figure out how they fit together with what we're doing offensively. We're happy with all of those guys, and we'll see as we go."
The trade deadline is Nov. 2.
Justin Tucker Trends Without Even Playing
Justin Tucker again showed why he is perhaps the greatest kicker of all time two weeks ago when he kicked a record-breaking, game-winning 66-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions. Yesterday, a couple other kickers showed why the Ravens are so fortunate to have perhaps the greatest kicker of all time.
In the Green Bay Packers' 25-22 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the teams combined for five consecutive missed field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime. Conversely, Tucker has converted 52 consecutive field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Due in large part to the field goal follies in Cincinnati, Tucker was trending on Twitter yesterday even though the Ravens weren't playing.
Here's yet another reason to appreciate Tucker: Per Sports Illustrated, kickers missed 12 extra points in Week 5 heading into tonight's game, tying the Super Bowl-era record set in Week 11 during the 2016 season, the year after the NFL moved PAT's back to the 15-yard line.
During an interview with Glenn Clark Radio a couple weeks ago, CBS NFL analyst and Hall of Fame wide receiver James Lofton said not only is Tucker a Hall of Famer, but he might be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"Kicking has become an art form and the kickers are so proficient now," said Lofton, who is a Hall of Fame voter. "To be the best of the best lot ever makes it an easy choice. I could very well see him not only being a Hall of Famer but a first-ballot Hall of Famer."
How Much Does Ravens' Rushing Streak Matter?
Perhaps you've heard some talk this past week about the Ravens tying a record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games in Week 4 against the Broncos.
Tonight, the Ravens will look to break the record of 43 straight games set by the 1974-77 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harbaugh, who made the decision last week to extend the streak rather than take a knee with Baltimore leading by 16, has made it clear that the record is meaningful to the Ravens. However, how much the streak truly means has been a topic of debate.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the record is "meaningless" and was critical of Harbaugh for running a play at the end of the game in Denver. However, Florio also said that Harbaugh is "one of the great coaches of this or any era" and is bound for the Hall of Fame.
"Of course, the reason that he cares [about the record] is one of the reasons why he's great," Florio wrote. "He's ultra-competitive. And the drive to rack up things that matter (like winning games that matter) can compel a person to pursue stuff that doesn't matter."
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote that how much the record matters "depends on whom you ask," but "after this past week, the rest of the NFL will be watching a little more closely."
Zrebiec wrote: "Who knows whether the Colts were even aware of the Ravens' streak of 100-plus-yard rushing performances as of last week? You can bet, though, they're aware of it now after how much attention was given to Harbaugh's decision to eschew a kneeldown and run an extra play against the Broncos to eclipse the 100-yard plateau. … I imagine the Colts would take extra pride in denying the Ravens of that mark. What used to be considered a formality will now likely be a source of motivation for opposing defenses."
In last year's game against the Colts, the Ravens gained 110 yards rushing and averaged 2.9 yards per carry, both season lows.