The Ravens came into the season as heavy Super Bowl favorites, and after nine weeks, they’re currently slated as the fifth seed in the AFC. However, many would say the Colts have overachieved through nine weeks, as well.
Both teams need this win to keep pace in their respective divisions. Luckily for the Colts, they get the Ravens coming off a game versus their major division rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens not only suffered a loss in the record book, but also on their roster depth. The Ravens lost two starters on their offensive line, including Ronnie Stanley, the 2019 first-team All-Pro. Stanley suffered an unfortunate season-ending leg injury. Adding insult to injury, the next day, the Ravens lost another first-team All-Pro player in Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey tested positive for COVID-19 and left the Ravens short-handed in another position.
Opportunities come around in life every once in a while that you have to take advantage of. In Week 9, the Colts have one of those opportunities. It is not often that you get to face a Super Bowl-caliber team off a difficult matchup and not at full strength. If the Colts are going to show the NFL world that they are a team to be trifled with, Week 9 is a great place to start.
Now, for the three keys to the game.
1) Win the Turnover Battle:
Lamar Jackson was the unanimous MVP in 2019. However, it is no longer 2019 and Lamar has looked human this season.
In 29 career starts, Lamar has only turned the ball over 22 times. In short, he doesn’t turn the ball over very often. However, coming off of a four-turnover game in Week 8, Lamar may be vulnerable.
The Colts have an excellent defense and need to force Lamar to turn the ball over in this game early and often. The Ravens are too good, otherwise, that the Colts will not win this game if they don’t win the turnover battle.
Good teams can be beaten when they’re forced to make unusual mistakes. This Colts defense is good enough to force the reigning MVP into bad decisions, and if the Colts are going to come out of this one with the upset, they will need them.
2) Get the Ravens in Long Third Downs:
The Colts currently have the league’s second-best run defense, only giving up 79.9 yards per game. The Ravens have the league’s best rushing offense at just over 178 yards per game.
Not many teams can slow the Ravens down in their running game. The Steelers learned that the hard way last week. Heading into Week 8, the Steelers had only given up 413 yards on the ground through 6 games. That averages out to 68.8 yards per game. The Ravens then proceeded to rush for over 260 yards in Week 8 vs. the Steelers.
The Colts aren’t going to stop the Ravens from running the football. No team can. The best thing the Colts can do is slow them down enough to force third-and-long.
Lamar can make every throw in the book — you don’t win MVP without being able to do that. But, the whole Ravens game plan revolves around getting into third-and-short. The Ravens play a different brand of offense than any other team in the NFL. Regardless of the distance, the Ravens are always a threat to run the ball for two reasons. One, they are extremely good at it; and two, they convert fourth downs at a higher percentage than any other teams over the past two seasons.
Force the Ravens into an area where they are uncomfortable and the Colts can win this game.
3) Attack the Interior of the Ravens Offensive Line:
In 2019, the Ravens had three Pro Bowlers on their offensive line. Heading into Week 9, they’re down to one. The biggest loss, however, has been eight-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda. The future Hall-of-Famer retired this offseason leaving the Ravens scrambling to find his replacement at right guard. Tyre Phillips the rookie out of Mississippi State took that spot for a little while, but after an injury in Week 8, it seems he won’t be available.
All-in-all, the Ravens’ interior of their offensive line is extremely vulnerable. The Ravens haven’t run the ball as successfully this season, largely because of the play of their interior offensive lineman. They have also allowed pressure from the inside at a much higher rate than last season.
DeForest Buckner should have a day in this game. The Ravens have struggled all season against talented interior defensive lineman. Buckner presents a new challenge for this Ravens front, and if he is able to make a big enough impact on this game, the Colts will win.
(Featured Image Credit: Colts.com)