Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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Prediction: IND 20, BAL 24 (Line: BAL by 6.5)

The Colts come into this game as a true wildcard - what to expect from a team that was never supposed to get here? They even get an additional spark from HC Chuck Pagano returning from his cancer treatments. But they are only 4-4 in road games and the Ravens are 6-2 at home and will be on fire with the well-timed news that Ray Lewis will be retiring at the end of the playoffs. Luck will make this game interesting but Lewis should charge up the team for his final home game. This will certainly be the most emotional game no matter who wins.

Indianapolis Colts
Homefield: Lucas Oil Stadium
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @CHI 21-41 10 @JAC 27-10
2 MIN 23-20 11 @NE 24-59
3 JAC 17-22 12 BUF 20-13
4 BYE ----- 13 @DET 35-33
5 GB 30-27 14 TEN 27-23
6 @NYJ 9-35 15 @HOU 17-29
7 CLE 17-13 16 @KC 20-13
8 @TEN 19-13 17 HOU 28-16
9 MIA 23-20 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
QB Andrew Luck - - 240,2
RB Vick Ballard 60 2-20 -
TE Dwayne Allen - 3-20 -
TE Coby Fleener - 1-10 -
WR Reggie Wayne - 6-70,1 -
WR T.Y. Hilton - 4-80,1 -
WR Donnie Avery - 2-30 -
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Colts not only reached the playoffs, they did not need to win their final game. And yet they did anyway. This game could have been far easier played at home but on the road the Colts are still playing less effectively and that's more than natural given this was supposed to just be a rebuilding year anyway. But the team has genuinely improved through the course of the first season and it is more than merely adding Andrew Luck - though he was the biggest factor.

The defense has much improved as the season progressed and particularly when at home or against bad offenses. The rushing game has always been a mild surprise since it evolved into Vick Ballard becoming a full-time back with decent production for the last month. He comes off a season high 27 carries against the Texans in a meaningless game and has been right at about 20 runs in the others. Ballard only has two rushing touchdowns on the season though.

Luck has not needed to throw so much for the last month and has not been above 205 yards in a game. He still owns the rookie record of six 300 yard games but hasn't thrown more than 35 passes per week in December because the offense has been more balanced. He also has not thrown an interception for three games. Luck ends the regular season with 23 passing touchdowns though only once managed to throw for more than one score. He did run in five touchdowns as well but those all came from week ten and before when the running game as less effective.

The offensive line is still a concern and even with the success against weaker teams lately, Luck is still getting sacked 3 or4 times a game. The starting left guard suffered a concussion last week so it may be even worse for this game.

Reggie Wayne has cooled from his first half of the season when Luck was constantly throwing to him. Wayne has been above 65 yards just once in the last five games and scored five times this year. He remains the primary pass target by a large margin. Donnie Avery has been stuck at 35 yard efforts in almost all of the last eight weeks and even was blanked just last Sunday. He is a starter but will not be back next year. T.Y. Hilton has emerged as a potential future star in that way that anyone playing with an elite quarterback is going to look better. Hilton had several big games this year but almost all were either at home or against the Texans.

This should be fascinating since the Ravens get Ray Lewis in the lineup and he should make the place electric at least to start the game. The Ravens only allowed eight passing touchdowns at home this year though that often had healthy yardage attached. The defense has been great against the run at home and will not allow Ballard to become a factor.

The Ravens are also great against tight ends and only given up two touchdowns to the position all season long. The offense needs to have their success with the wideouts and should manage at least one passing score here and possibly two. This is the softest spot in the defense.

Gaining Fantasy Points IND 10 28 5 19 19 23
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 7 18 17 2 29 11


Baltimore Ravens
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 CIN 44-13 10 OAK 55-20
2 @PHI 23-24 11 @PIT 13-10
3 NE 31-30 12 @SD 16-13
4 CLE 23-16 13 PIT 20-23
5 @KC 9-6 14 @WAS 28-31
6 DAL 31-29 15 DEN 17-34
7 @HOU 13-43 16 NYG 33-14
8 BYE ----- 17 @CIN 17-23
9 @CLE 25-15 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
BALTIMORE Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco - - 240,2
RB Ray Rice 120,1 4-20 -
RB Bernard Pierce 50 - -
TE Ed Dickson - 2-20 -
TE Dennis Pitta - 4-40 -
WR Anquan Boldin - 5-60,1 -
WR Jacoby Jones - 2-20 -
WR Torrey Smith - 5-80,1 -
PK Justin Tucker 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens crawl into this game having lost four of their last five games though last week doesn't count since many of the players were rested in a throw-away game. Aside from the one home win over the Giants, there is plenty to be worried about the Ravens who have struggled on offense even after dumping Cam Cameron and replacing him with Jim Caldwell. That should become more apparent if the Ravens win here and take it to the road against division leading teams.

What has to happen this week is that Ray Rice has to be set loose on one of the weakest rushing defenses in the league. With Caldwell now calling the plays, Rice has been used more though they are still not shy about relying on Bernard Pierce as well. Should this game end up with the Ravens leading by any comfortable margin, likely Pierce takes over and Rice is done for the day but in a playoff game Rice will be the one with the heavy load. He'll only hand off after he has a good game.

The Colts have allowed ten touchdowns to running backs over their eight road games and three times given up over 160 yards to an individual runner. There is every reason to expect a run-heavy attack here and for it to be successful.

Joe Flacco did post better passing stats in the first three games after Cameron was shown the door though in fairness they Ravens were also losing games and needed to pass. He threw for eight scores in those three games while throwing multiple scores in only three other games all year. The Colts secondary has been playing much better down the stretch and not just because opponents often run against them more.

The yardage is there for the taking if Flacco has to pursue it with recent games games usually posting 250+ yards on the visiting Colts.

Anquan Boldin was held out last week to rest up his shoulder but will play this week. Torrey Smith also had no role though his production from week to week varies wildly. He scored once on his five catches for 88 yards on the Giants but never had more than 33 yards in the three previous weeks. With the weakness of the Colts against wide receivers mostly about getting burned by the opposing split ends, figure this to be one of the better showings by Smith unless the rushing effort is so successful that deeper throws are just not needed.

Ray Lewis will have his team charged but so will Chuck Pagano. That makes for an interesting game that could potentially go back and forth in momentum. I still think it all comes down to Ray Rice.

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 18 10 19 10 9 14
Preventing Fantasy Points IND 12 27 27 4 25 21


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