Week 16 will kick off in Baltimore when the Ravens host Indianapolis at 4:30 on Saturday. The surging Ravens are favored by nearly two touchdowns against a bad Colts team. Losers of four straight and eleven games this season, Indianapolis is essentially jockeying for draft position at this late point in the season.
Barring a large turnover disparity, Indianapolis should not pose much of a challenge for the Ravens. The Colts - fielding the 30th ranked passing offense, 22nd ranked rushing offense, 30th ranked pass defense and 29th ranked run defense - do not excel in any phase of the game. Furthermore, they have a negative 31 sack differential and head coach Chuck Pagano is likely coaching his penultimate game for the team.
Conversely, Baltimore has everything to play for, as they are currently positioned in a three way tie for a wildcard playoff berth. Due to their opportunistic defense, efficient quarterbacking and underrated offensive line, the home team is well equipped to put this contest away early.
Five Key Matchups:
WR Mike Wallace vs CB Quincy Wilson
After disappearing for stretches early in the season, Wallace has stepped up in recent weeks. Since the Week 10 bye, Mike has averaged better than 76 receiving yards per game at more than 16.5 yards per reception. Wallace’s resurgence has been a major factor in the offense’s recent improvement.
With Rashaan Melvin ruled out with a hand injury for the fourth straight week, Pierre Desir on the injured reserve list and Vontae Davis released in midseason due to groin surgery, Indy will turn to their second round rookie out wide. Wilson is a big, physical corner but has taken time to acclimate to the NFL, starting just three games thus far. Denver’s top three receivers combined for 197 yards and a score against this secondary last week. Wallace should have a noticeable edge.
LT Ronnie Stanley vs OLB Jabaal Sheard
Baltimore's offensive line has allowed just three sacks over their last four games. However, Stanley struggled with the strength of rookie Myles Garrett last week. Ronnie was limited in practice this week with an illness and has battled several minor injuries this season. The Ravens are hoping their franchise left tackle can elevate his play to a Pro Bowl level over the next few weeks.
Sheard is one of the only impact players remaining on the Colts subpar roster. After two years in New England, he has produced 4.5 sacks and pair of forced fumbles this season. His Week 9 strip of Tom Savage sealed Indianapolis’ most recent victory. The Colts will need a huge game from Sheard if they hope to pull off the upset.
OLB Matthew Judon vs RT Joe Haeg
Anthony Castonzo is have a fine season protecting Indianapolis’ blindside. The same cannot be said for Haeg, a former guard who has allowed many of Indianapolis’ league worst 53 sacks. He will have his hands full blocking the Ravens deep rotation of edge rushers.
Judon is emerging as one of the better all around outside linebackers in the league. He leads the Ravens with 15 tackles for a loss this season. Matthew has been on a tear lately, racking up four sacks, two forced fumbles and eight quarterback hits in his last five games. The matchup against Haeg should allow him to showcase his skills in front of a national audience.
LB Patrick Onwuasor vs RB Marlon Mack
Mack is an explosive rookie back who should be in line for a greater workload behind Frank Gore. The 13-year veteran power runner, Gore, will presumably find tough sledding against the Ravens front and is nearing retirement. Indy would be wise to give Mack an opportunity versus the defense that allowed a 59-yard scamper to Isaiah Crowell last Sunday. Marlon is averaging five yards per touch with three scores this season.
Despite the narrative, Onwuasor has had a solid season at Zachary Orr’s former position. He is the second leading tackler on the team, posting 38 combined tackles since Week 11. As a former safety, ‘Peanut’ is well suited to match up against the speedy Mack.
CB Marlon Humphrey vs WR T.Y. Hilton
Hilton has failed to develop chemistry with quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The three time Pro Bowler may not eclipse 1,000 yards this year for the first time since 2012. He has scored only four touchdowns this year, but his sub-4.4 second speed still threatens defenses. Chunk plays from Hilton and the aforementioned Mack may be Indy’s only chance to move the ball on Baltimore’s defense.
Humphrey has been overshadowed by Marshon Lattimore, Tre’Davious White and Desmond King in this extremely talented rookie cornerback class. Nonetheless, Marlon has played exceptionally well as a rookie this season. With Jimmy Smith on injured reserve and Brandon Carr showing signs of regression, Humphrey is poised to claim the top cornerback job outright in Week 16 by shutting down Hilton.
Exactly five years ago the Ravens dominated the Giants in a Week 16 home game that propelled them onto a miraculous postseason run, culminating in the franchise’s second championship. Expect another beatdown this Saturday.
The Ravens have found their way at the perfect time. Baltimore's coordinators are dialed in and the depth of the roster is shining. The defense should smother the Colts while the offense does whatever it pleases due to favorable game script and field position. Ravens 29, Indy 3