AFC Divisional-round playoffs – Baltimore Ravens (10-7, 9-7-1 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (14-2, 10-5-1 ATS), Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Saturday, Jan. 16th, 8:15 PM Eastern, CBS
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Colts -6 1/2/Ravens +6 1/2
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After the hubbub surrounding their last two games of the regular season we finally get to see if the braintrust of the Indianapolis Colts made the right call a few weeks ago taking their foot off the gas, instead of chasing perfection. The first test of Indy’s ability to shift their machine back into high gear comes Saturday night when they host the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC divisional-round playoff game.
Most online sportsbooks opened this game with Indy favored by 6 points, with a total of 44, and those numbers have held steady in early betting action.
The Colts are also being offered at around -260 on most NFL betting moneylines, with Baltimore getting about +210 to win outright.
The Ravens won three of their last four games to earn one of the AFC Wild Card playoff berths. Then last Sunday they beat down the New England Patriots in Foxboro 33-14, piling up 24 first-quarter points and rushing for 234 yards on the day.
Baltimore won outright as 3 1/2-point underdogs Sunday, and the game went OVER its posted total of 43.
The Colts, as you might have heard, won their first 14 games this season to push their NFL record regular-season winning streak to 23 games. But then, in a week 16 game at home vs. the New York Jets, Indy pulled many of its starters, including QB Peyton Manning, and lost 29-15. The Colts also lost their regular-season finale, 30-7 at Buffalo, in a half-hearted effort. So the big question for Indy now is whether they can turn it back on for a run at the AFC championship.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco, in his sophomore season as a starter in the pros, has led his team to the playoffs for the second straight season. On the year the former Delaware Blue Hen completed 63% of his passes for 7.2 YPA, which ranked in the middle among starters, with 21 TD passes, 12 interceptions and an 88.9 passing rating.
On the other side of this QB match-up, Indy’s Peyton Manning won his record-setting fourth league MVP award for his performance this season, and deservedly so. On the season No. 18 hit on 69% of his throws for 7.9 YPA, with 33 TDs, 16 INTs and a 99.9 rating. And strangely enough, he probably won the award when he got pulled in that loss to the Jets, because the Colts looked incompetent after that.
Also, even though the Colts threw the ball over 600 times this season, their offensive line allowed a league-low 13 sacks.
During the regular season Baltimore ranked 13th in the league in total offense at 351 YPG and fifth in rushing at 138 YPG. On the other side of the ball the Purple and Black Attack ranked third in total defense at 301 YPG and fifth vs. the run at 93 YPG.
Indy ranked ninth in total offense this season at 363 YPG, but dead last in rushing at 81 YPG. On defense the Colts ranked 18th overall at 339 YPG and 24th vs. the run at 127 YPG.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Ravens only ranked 19th in the league this season in average time-of-possession at 29:18. Indy, meanwhile, with its quick-strike attack, ranked 30th in TOP at 27:40.
Overall, Baltimore ranked eighth in the league this season in total yardage at +51 YPG, while Indy ranked 14th at +24 YPG.
And the Colts have actually been outgained in seven of their last nine games.
These two teams met earlier this season back in week 11 in Baltimore, when the Colts hung on to beat the Ravens 17-15. Baltimore outrushed Indy that day 98-76, held the ball for over 32 minutes and picked off Peyton Manning twice. But driving for what could have been the game-winning score in the final few minutes, Flacco threw into a crowd in the middle of the field and got intercepted.
The Colts covered the spread that day as one-point favorites on the road. And while the game stayed UNDER its posted total of 44, it had chances to do otherwise. Indy lost a fumble at the Baltimore 1-yard line in the third quarter, and while the Ravens got inside the Colts’ 30 seven times, including a first-and-goal at the one in the fourth quarter, they had to settle for five field goals, and missed one from 30 yards.
These two teams have actually met each of the previous three seasons, including once in the playoffs back in 2007, and Indy has won each time.
On the injury front the Colts have decided to go with former Raven kicker
Matt Stover for the playoffs, after Adam Vinatieri couldn’t
get rehabbed after undergoing knee surgery in October.
Including last week’s playoff win, the Ravens have gone 7-9-1 on the totals this season, as their games have averaged 41 points.
The Colts are 9-7 on the totals this year, with their games averaging 45 points.
Over the last nine seasons of NFL playoff betting action, the top two seeds in each conference that is to say, the four teams who had Wild Card weekend byes are 23-13 straight up and only 15-20-1 against the pointspreads in divisional-round play. And the totals are 17-19.
The Sagarin PURE POINTS ratings at USAToday.com rates the Ravens at 29.2, the Colts at 25.5. Factoring in Sagarin’s updated NFL home-field advantage figure of 2.5, and Baltimore is a one-point road favorite over Indy on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: I like the Baltimore Ravens to cover the point spread. Who wins the game straight up is anybody’s guess.