Colts at Ravens: What to look for Monday

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INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Monday night meeting with the Ravens in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.

Broadcast: ESPN

History Lesson

The NFL universe will be tuned in as the Colts and Ravens share the primetime stage. They also share a mixed bag.

The Ravens are 16-2 in home primetime games since 2008 under coach John Harbaugh, and have won 14 of their last 15 under the lights at M&T Bank Stadium. But it’s worth nothing they’re a more moderate 6-4 in their last 10 appearances on MNF. The Ravens opened the season against the Raiders in Las Vegas on a Monday night and fell 33-27 in overtime.

The Colts, meanwhile, are 11-16 in primetime games since 2012, but 10-10 on the road. On the MNF stage, they’re 2-5 since ’12. Their last appearance was a 34-7 loss at New Orleans in 2019.

Limit the Damage

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of those unique talents in the NFL. A defense can bottle him up for extended lengths of a game, but then a botched assignment, missed tackle or Jackson’s athleticism results in a game-breaking play.

So, limit the Ravens’ chunk plays. And that’s easier said than done. They league the NFL in 20-plus plays from scrimmage with 26 (19 completions, a league-best seven rushes). Jackson is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt, 5th-best in the league, and 14.4 yards per completion while involving Hollywood Brown (17.2), Mark Andrews (14.1), Sammy Watkins (18.1) and James Proche (17.2). He’s had four rushes of at least 20 yards, tops in the NFL regardless of position.

The Colts’ defense ranks 8th in fewest yards allowed per game (330.8), but it’s suffered too many breakdowns. It’s yielding 5.83 yards per play (22nd in the league) and 7.88 yards per pass attempt (27th), and has given up 13 completions of at least 20 yards.

Jackson is going to get his, and create for others. But limit the explosive plays.

By the way, the Ravens can break an NFL record by rushing for at least 100 yards in a 44th straight game, and Harbaugh is hellbent on getting that mark.

Wentz Trending

As evidenced from last Sunday’s business trip to South Florida, Carson Wentz is regaining his health. Remember, he was little more than a stationary QB the previous week in Nashville against the Titans.

Wentz probably will need his mobility/escapability against the Ravens. They rank in the middle of the pack with 10 sacks, but the Colts’ offensive line remains a patchwork unit. Left tackle Eric Fisher hasn’t been close to this Pro Bowl form since returning from his Achilles rehab and left guard Quenton Nelson (ankle) and right tackle Braden Smith (strained foot) remain out. The tag team of Matt Pryor and Julién Davenport at right tackle isn’t producing the desired results.

Wentz flashed his play-making ability against the Dolphins with four completions of at least 20 yards, including a couple that required buying time to allow routes to open up down field.

Of course, it’s also imperative for him to take care of the football. He’s suffered only the one fluky interception against the Rams and the offense has turned it over just three times.

Here’s some advice: don’t help the Ravens.

Lean on Taylor

Speaking of help, nothing will help Wentz run the offense than a reliable ground game. Even with the patchwork nature of the o-line, it and Jonathan Taylor are showing signs of life.

Taylor has averaged 6.4 yards in each of the last two games and had a season-best 103 yards, including a 23-yard TD, on 16 cracks at the Dolphins. Surprisingly, he’s yet to get more than 17 attempts in a game. That must end. We understand the need to get the football in the hands of playmaking Nyheim Hines, but Taylor needs more work. He’s the type of back capable of breaking long gainers when given enough opportunities.

We’re not implying anything will come easily on the ground against the Ravens. They allowing just 85.8 yards per game (7th in the league) and 4.13 yards per attempt (14th). But Baltimore has faced just 83 rushing attempts in four games, the 4th-fewest in the league.

A lot of Taylor and a little more of Hines could make the evening much more manageable for Wentz.

And the Winner is: Ravens 24, Colts 19.

We believe this one’s winnable. Seriously. But this also is one the Colts probably will need to weather the early storm of passion from the crowd and the moment. Once things settle down, we’re expecting a solid outing from Indy. Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe not.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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