Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens Wild Card Round Preview and Prediction
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts have been riding a wave of emotion since learning their coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with Leukemia headed into week 4. Pagano returned after a 12-game absence wearing his heart on his sleeve for a 28-16 home triumph over division foe Houston last Sunday.
Pagano will not be taking his doctor’s advice to rest this week as he leads his team into Baltimore to face his former club for the first time since accepting the head coaching job at Indianapolis. He intends on being diligent in the film room to give his offense every possible advantage against a defense he knows on an intricate level.
The resilient Colt play-caller started as a defensive back coach, and then moved on to defensive co-ordinator working with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed for 4 years. Pagano drew up some of the most intimidating defensive schemes the league saw during his tenure in Baltimore.
Although their coach’s knowledge of the Ravens’ defense will certainly be advantageous for the Luck and Colts, the Ravens will also have emotional motivation on their side. Ray Lewis announced that he will retire following this year’s postseason meaning he will likely play in his final home game when he returns from injury this weekend.
Lewis reached 12 Pro Bowls, has been a seven-time All-Pro and was twice named defensive player of the year. He was a Super Bowl champion in 2000 and is the lone player in NFL history with at least 40 career sacks and 30 interceptions. While he hasn’t been playing anywhere near this level over the past couple seasons, he is still the unquestionable emotional leader of this ball club and should give a lift to a battered defensive unit.
Luck has had a relatively inconsistent first season, standing 31st in completion percentage (54.1) and 26th in passer rating (76.5), but threw five touchdowns without an interception in the Colts’ final three contests.
Baltimore concluded the regular season at 17th in total defense (350.9 YPG), its lowest ranking since the 2002 season. Along with Lewis, the Ravens will see Terrell Suggs and safety Bernard Pollard return to the lineup for Sunday’s Wild Card matchup.
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens (-310) Money Line Play (betting prediction)
The Colts have used “Chuckstrong” as momentum to carry them into the playoffs, but the clock is about to strike midnight on this Cinderella story.
The Ravens have one of the best home field advantages in the AFC. Combine that with the fact that Ray Lewis (their motivational leader and arguably the franchise’s MVP to date) will be suiting up for his final home game adds up to another playoff triumph for the Black and Purple.
Here are some trends that back up my call:
Wild card road teams have a rough time following a division matchup in their season finale, going 20-40-1 ATS, with an 0-4 ATS mark last year.
Send these teams out as underdogs of more than 3 points and the job gets much tougher as they are just 4-30 SU and 9-25 ATS. The Bengals were the most recent victim of this trend, losing by 6 in their Wild Card matchup in Houston this Saturday afternoon.
I have been running a bit cold over the past couple weeks and although the Ravens look tempting on the spread, I’m staying safe with a money line play.
I predict a Ravens win, 30-14.
Money Line Play: Baltimore (-310) (5dimes.eu)
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NFL Record: 10-7-1