The Indianapolis Colts completed one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history by beating the Texans in what was really a meaningless game for the Colts, enabling Indianapolis to finish at 11-5 after going 2-12 a year ago.
Of course, that 2-12 netted the Colts Andrew Luck, turning around their fortunes and leading to this encounter with the AFC North Champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Ravens are -6½ favorites at home with the total set at 46.
COLTS – RAVENS PLAYOFFS BETTING LINE:
OPEN: RAVENS -6.5 | CURRENT: RAVENS -6.5 | O/U: 47
1. Why Indianapolis will cover the spread: Indianapolis will cover this spread if its run defense improves and contains Ray Rice and his backup Bernard Pierce, who has also looked good when given the opportunity. The Colts ranked 28th in rushing defense allowing 137.0 yards per game and 31st in defensive rushing average at 5.1 yards per carry, but they have to commit to stopping the run here and dare Joe Flacco to have a big passing game in a huge game. Another key is Luck continuing his dream rookie season vs. a Baltimore pass defense that slipped to 17th in the league at 228.5 yards per game. Yes, Ray Lewis is expected back but Luck cannot let that deter him.
2. Why Baltimore will cover the spread: The Ravens will cover this spread if Flacco can shed his reputation of shrinking in big games and force the Indianapolis defense to respect the pass. That would prevent the Colts from putting an extra man in the box and allow Rice and Pierce to shred a run defense that has been unable to stop anyone when playing out of a base set. A second key is the Baltimore defense applying some pressure on Luck, and that is where the return of Lewis helps as the Ravens have not had much of a pass rush without him.
3. Total Talk:We like this game to sneak ‘under’ a rather inflated total. While we are not calling for a huge game from Flacco by any means, we do expect him to be effective enough so that the Colts cannot fully commit to stopping the run as they would like. That should allow Baltimore to control both the ball and the clock on offense with Rice and Pierce. And the Ravens may have to because we do expect nice things from Luck in his first career playoff game.
Lewis may be the spiritual leader of the defense, but he is not the player he used to be and even if the Baltimore pass rush improves with his return, Luck has the mobility to escape the pressure. Thus, look for the Colts to put enough points on the board to cover the spread, but for the Ravens to salt away the victory and the ‘under’ by running the ball on a helpless rushing defense.
4. Betting Trends for Colts/Ravens: The Colts are 19-7-2 ATS vs. teams with winning records, and they are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 conference games. The ‘under’ is 11-4 in the Ravens’ last 15 home games vs. teams with winning road records, as well as 5-2 in the last seven Baltimore January games.
Baltimore 23 – Indianapolis 20
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