After four weeks, the Baltimore Ravens have compiled a 3-1 record. After a disappointing home loss, the Ravens rattled off three impressive wins.
In the past two weeks, they were on the road at Cleveland and home against Carolina. A field goal as time expired lifted the Ravens against the Browns and the Panthers were completely taken apart by Steve Smith.
Baltimore has all the makings of a team that will be in the playoffs at the end of the year. They have a very solid balance on offense and are defensively sound.
There is a possibility that the Colts and Ravens could see each other again in the playoffs. After playing two cupcake teams, the Colts will be tested by a Baltimore team that can move the ball well and rush the passer.
The Ravens on Offense
The Ravens offense has thrived this season on the play of the offensive line. The line currently ranks second in pass protection and seventh in running the ball. Joe Flacco has a tendency to hold the ball for too long, but the line play has allowed him to get away with it so far this season.
The Ravens have given up just three sacks all season.
In terms of traditional stats, the Ravens are averaging 134.5 yards rushing (eighth in the NFL) and 260 yards passing (12th in the NFL) per game. DVOA has them as the sixth best offense in the league, fourth in passing and 15th in rushing. They have also turned the ball over just three times.
They have a drive success rate of 78-percent, meaning drives that aren’t three-and-out. They also average 2.67 points per drive, third in the NFL (the Colts are first at 2.80 PPD).
They struggle to run the ball in power situation (short yardage, goal line, etc) but are great in the open field. Justin Forsett has been a very good rusher for the team and is great at picking up blocks on passing downs.
Much of the passing attack relies on Smith and now Owen Daniels. Dennis Pitta, who is still tied for second in receptions, was lost for the season during the Browns game. Smith has had 100 or more yards receiving in three of his four games and is rated +4.0 by PFF in the passing game.
The other Ravens receivers have been awful this season. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are nearly liabilities at the position and have combined for 11 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown. Steve Smith, on the other hand, 25 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns.
What this means for the Colts:
The Colts would be wise to double cover Smith all game long as defensive coordinator Greg Manusky suggested. With the way the Ravens line is playing, the Colts would be better off dropping into coverage and forcing Flacco to beat them with accurate passing, not always his strong suit.
The Colts haven’t been that impressive on defense this season and it will take a great game plan to beat the Ravens. Getting Jerrell Freeman back helps but losing LaRon Landry, despite his poor play, is going to hurt the secondary. The good news is the his replacement, Sergio Brown, is more of a coverage safety which is far more valuable in the NFL (as long as he isn’t put in one-on-one situations).
The Ravens on Defense:
The Ravens are very good at stopping the run, allowing just 82.5 yards per game (eighth in the NFL). They struggle mightily downfield and are giving up 260 yards per game (24th in the league).
And the advanced stats agree. The Ravens DVOA has them at 21st against the pass and sixth versus the run. They have faced a few good teams who just seem to be offensively inconsistent (Steelers, Browns, and Panthers).
The cracks in this team stem from the secondary. Only cornerback Jimmy Smith has played well this season for this group. Asa Jackson has filled in for an injured Lardarius Webb, and has not played well at all. This is not the same secondary that locked opponents down with Ed Reed and Matt Elam is fairly awful at the position.
What this means for the Colts:
Pass the ball. Then pass it some more. And finally pass it again. Andrew Luck can throw 60 times on Sunday and it won’t be a problem. They way he is play, they should throw the ball a lot.
The Ravens secondary is really bad and despite having so many high profile pass rushers, they are actually worse at rushing the passer than the Colts have been. With the offensive line giving Luck all kinds of time to throw, the Colts have to feature the passing game all day long.
If they try to control the pace, and run the ball it will fail and the Colts will fall behind early. Come out and attack that secondary, and this will be a game.