Wild Card Pick
The Baltimore Ravens will host Andrew Luck and the surprising Indianapolis Colts On Sunday in the 3rd of three Wild Card Playoff Games this weekend. The Ravens opened as a -6.5 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook and now sit as solid -7 point favorites across the board. The total is 47 points. A whopping 74% of the action at the world largest sportsbook, sportsbook.ag, is on the Colts who are quickly becoming a public favorite much the way they were when Peyton Manning was there.
This is an incredibly difficult game to handicap. As a handicapper, you have to decide whether or not your going to take each teams entire body of work into account or whether you're going to put more weight on each teams performance down the stretch. This is significant as these teams were like night and day down the stretch.
The Colts won 5 of their last 6 games and 9 of their last 11. The Ravens dropped 4 of their last 5 games after getting off to a 9-2 start to their year. If you take the entire season into account, you have to lean towards the Ravens. The Ravens were 6-2 at home with an average winning margin of 32-22. The Colts were 4-4 on the road and outscored 29-21. The Colts yards per point numbers on the road were 17 on offense and 14 on defense for a -3 differential. Not too good. The Ravens at home were 12.6 and 16.1 for a +3.5 differential. Not bad, but nowhere near as dominant defensively as in years past.
Now take a look at the last 6 games of the season for each team. The Colts went 5-1 and outscored opponents 24-21 while the Ravens went 2-4 and were outscored 22-23. The Colts ypp numbers in that stretch were 12.6 on offense and 18.7 on defense for a +6.1 differential while the Ravens were 17 and 13 for a -4 differential. Very un-Raven like.
But all NFL teams are not created equal and that is where this game gets tricky. The Colts played the easiest schedule in the NFL. Their season to date numbers aren't great and again, that's against weak opposition. Give the Colts credit for early season wins over the Vikings and Packers. The rest of the way, they came up short against teams like the Patriots, who blew them out, and the Texans who beat the Colts at home 29-17 before losing in the season finale. The Colts haven't proven they could beat a good team on the road this year. Their road wins were against the Titans, Jags, Chiefs and Lions. Basically, the worst teams in the NFL and they were all close games with the exception of the Jags.
As for the Ravens, they are in no way, shape or form the Ravens of old. Their defense is nowhere near as dominating and scary as it once was. In fact, you can make a case for the Ravens not being able to beat "good" teams this year, especially down the stretch. If you glance at the Ravens schedule, you'll see a nice blow out win over the Bengals in game 1 and a 31-30 win over the Pats in game 3, with a loss to the Eagles in between. After the Patriot game, they didn't face a playoff team until December other than the Texans, who beat the Ravens 43-13. When they finally did play a playoff team, The Redskins on December 9th, they lost. That loss was followed by a loss to Denver at home, a win over the Giants who failed to make the playoffs, and a season ending loss to the Bengals, a playoff team.
To sum up, the Colts have managed to win 11 games this year thanks to Andrew Luck who has carried this team and will no doubt shatter QB records for the next 10 to 15 years. The Colts and Luck have improved each week but still haven't proven they can win a big game on the road. They face a Ravens squad who also have faltered against good teams and more importantly have faltered down the stretch. They'll get a huge emotional boost with Ray Lewis coming back this week but this could very well be a dangerous spot fore the Ravens.
Until the Colts can prove they can win a big game against a good team on the road, we have to stay away from them. The home field, the playoff experience, the Colts tendency to turn the ball over (-12 turnover margin to the Ravens +9) all combine to put us on the Ravens here. In our write up on the Packers game, we mentioned using the Packers in a 7 point 2 team teaser. The other leg of that teaser could be the Ravens as we think they win this game. We'll also recommend the Ravens -7. More times than not, if you can pick the straight up winner of these games, the cover will follow. Also note that our model has the Ravens winning this game by a score of 31-17, plus, we get to go against the public which never hurts. Ravens -7