Colts vs Ravens – NFL Pick for December 23rd
Spread: Ravens -14
Thursday Night Football is done for the season, but the NFL has scheduled a few Saturday games for the season’s stretch run. The premier matchup of the day is clearly the NFC North battle between the Vikings and Packers, with the early afternoon game between the Colts and Ravens serving as the appetizer.
Nobody has been saying much about the Ravens all year, but John Harbaugh’s squad remains very much in the thick of the AFC Wild Card picture at 8-6 heading into Week 16. Baltimore is percentage points behind the Bills for the last playoff spot in the conference, though the Ravens have an excellent chance of winning out to get to 10-6. The Bills, meanwhile, have to go on the road to face the Patriots this week before traveling to Miami in the season finale. Buffalo has a far tougher road, while the Ravens get relative cupcake matchups against the Colts and Bengals.
While this should be an easy win, the Ravens can’t afford to take Indy lightly. It is a bit weird to see Baltimore listed as the biggest betting favorite on the board this week, but that’s a testament to just how miserably the Colts have played all season.
The Ravens come into this one in good form overall, winners of 4 of their last 5 and 5 of their last 7 games overall. Last week, they picked up an easy 27-10 win over the hapless Browns in Cleveland. Following a miserable start during which he was dealing with a nagging back injury, Joe Flacco has really come around of late. The MVP of Super Bowl XLVII doesn’t have season-long numbers that jump off the page, but he’s saved his best football of the season for the late stages.
Over his last 5 games, Flacco has completed nearly 65 percent of his throws with 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The early-season back injury limited Flacco’s ability to get the ball down the field. As a result, Flacco is averaging just 5.82 yards per pass on the season, which is the lowest mark in the league and the lowest mark of his near decade-long career.
As he’s gotten healthier, though, Flacco has been able to make more big plays. Flacco is averaging nearly 6.6 yards per attempt over his last 5 games. While that’s still far from an elite number, it’s a whole lot better than his own early-season number. The Ravens’ offense, which struggled tremendously through the first half of the season, has really started to click. Baltimore has scored at least 20 points in 6 straight games, though they will be without big-play machine Jeremy Maclin for this one. Maclin is doubtful to play against the Colts thanks to a knee injury.
While Flacco looks improved, the Ravens have also gotten excellent production from Alex Collins in the backfield. The unheralded former 5th-rounder has earned the No. 1 job in the Ravens’ backfield, and he’s amassed 844 yards on 4.9 yards per attempt so far this season. Collins has proven to be a dynamic runner and a capable safety valve for Flacco.
As for the Colts, this season just can’t end soon enough. Indianapolis is just 3-11 on the season without Andrew Luck, who has missed the entire campaign with shoulder troubles. Jacoby Brissett has looked solid at times as the fill-in, but this is a franchise going nowhere fast. The Colts have lost 5 straight games overall and 8 of their last 9. Last week, Indianapolis was embarrassed on its home field by a downtrodden Broncos squad, 25-13.
It won’t get any easier for them this week in Baltimore. The Colts’ 3 wins on the year came against the Browns, 49ers and Texans. Not exactly a murderers row, especially given the Texans had already lost Deshaun Watson for the season when they last met.
14 points is a big spread, but the Ravens have been rolling on both sides of the ball of late. The Colts, meanwhile, have not. This looks like what should be another easy win for the Ravens.