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Monday Night Preview: Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Here’s a preview of Monday night’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, courtesy of STAT Stack:


Line: Ravens -7, Total: 46


Lamar’s Interesting Octobers  

In September, we mentioned quite a few times about Patrick Mahomes' propensity for winning during the season’s first month — until this Ravens team handed him the first September loss of his career back in Week 2. Well, Lamar Jackson has started seven games during the month of October in his career … and the Ravens are 7-0 in those contests. In September, we mentioned quite a few times about Patrick Mahomes propensity for winning during the season’s first month has been very good in October, but the numbers say otherwise. In his career, Jackson is completing less than 60% of his passes in the year’s 10th month, the only month in which he’s under that threshold. His 8-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio is also his worst in any month — October is the only month in which Jackson's TD:INT ratio is worse than at least 2.5:1. His QB rating in September, November and December is over 100 in each month, while his rating is just 83.6 in October.

So, what’s going on? To find out, we investigated Jackson’s rushing numbers, and it turns out that October is the month where his legs have been the most dangerous. He’s averaging 7.4 yards per carry in his seven October starts, which is a full yard better than in any other month. He’s averaging just over 75 yards on the ground in those games and has scored four TDs with his legs. Additionally, he’s yet to lose a fumble during the month, the only month where that’s the case. Also worth noting: Jackson historically runs well on Monday Night Football. In four Monday contests, Jackson is averaging over 10 yards per carry and 97 rushing yards per game. He’s also yet to throw an interception under the bright lights of Monday Night (8 TD, 0 INT), but he did lose two fumbles against the Raiders during a Week 1 Monday Night loss in Las Vegas to open this season. In 2020, Jackson was held to 58 yards rushing on 13 carries in a 24-10 win over the Colts.  

Ravens Go for Record that they Desperately Want 

Speaking of rushing, we should talk about the major milestone that the Ravens are on the cusp of achieving. But let’s start with how we got here. Last week, with three seconds left on the clock and leading by 16 points, Baltimore had 97 total rushing yards. Rather than taking a knee, head coach John Harbaugh had Jackson run one last time and he picked up five yards to move Baltimore over 100 yards rushing on the day. Why was that so important? They tied the 1974-77 Pittsburgh Steelers for consecutive games eclipsing the century mark on the ground with 43. If they can do it again against the Colts, they will set the new all-time NFL record. 

We’d be remiss, however, if we didn’t revisit Denver head coach Vic Fangio’s comments when he was asked about the Ravens decision on that final play against his team: "I thought it was kind of bulls***. I expected it from them. Thirty-seven years of pro ball I've never seen anything like that ... but it was to be expected, and we expected it … I just know how they operate, that's just their mode of operations there; player safety is secondary." 

Fangio, it should be noted, was an assistant coach for the Ravens from 2006-09, which included Harbaugh’s first two seasons in charge. It will be interesting if that has any carry over moving forward with this team and how they approach going for the record against the Colts. Indianapolis is allowing 114 yards per game on the ground but did hold Miami to just 35 yards in its Week 4 win over the Dolphins. In their three losses to start the season, the Colts surrendered an average of 140 yards rushing per game. 


Money Flowing on Ravens; Sharps going the Other Way 

Baltimore is attracting a considerable amount of both tickets and money, garnering 68% of the former and 69% of the latter, according to Action Network. However, they are reporting sharp action on the Colts. Despite the money on the Ravens, this line has hardly moved and in some books, it hasn’t moved at all. It’s odd for a spread to stay exactly the same at a book for an entire week, but according to Vegas Insider, several outlets have not shifted this line once since posting it last Sunday. 

The public has a slight lean on the over in this game, with 55% of the tickets and 53% of the money going in that direction. However, in the last eight meetings between these two squads, the under has hit in all of them. 


Limiting the Extended Plays 

The biggest key for the Colts in this game will be getting after Jackson and forcing him to throw it quickly or take off and run. When Jackson is at his best as a passer, it’s when he’s able to extend the play and allow his receivers to break off their routes and go deep. To wit, Jackson has the highest average time to throw, according to Next Gen Stats. Jackson spends an average of 3.19 seconds holding the ball before he throws, one of only two QBs whose number is over 3.1 (San Francisco’s Trey Lance, another mobile QB, is at 3.12). Jackson also leads in the NFL in average air yards per throw (IAY) at 12.1 and average air yards per completion (CAY) at 9.3. His IAY number is more than two yards higher than the next closest passer, and his CAY figure is nearly 1.5 yards higher than second. Jackson’s longest air yard completion this season is 60.8 yards, which is just short of leader Russell Wilson’s number of 60.9 yards. Although it officially went down as a 49-yard score to WR Marquise Brown, the pass traveled over 60 yards in the air until Brown made the catch, a touchdown that gave Baltimore the lead it would never relinquish in last week’s win over Denver. 

Speaking of Brown, he’s exactly who Jackson is looking to hit when it comes to throwing deep. Brown’s average air yards per target is 16.1, the eighth-highest mark in the league. That mark represents a large jump for Brown, whose average depth of target in 2019 was 11.0 and in 2020 it was 12.9. Defenders respect Brown’s speed, too, because he gets an average cushion from defensive backs of 7.2 yards at the line of scrimmage, which is 9th among wide receivers. The biggest issue for Brown is his propensity for dropped passes. According to Sports Info Solutions, Brown has dropped 3 passes this season. That’s not a great mark, but it’s masked somewhat by teammate Sammy Watkins who has four drops and is tied for first among all NFL WR in drop rate at 13.8% (Jets WR Corey Davis has the same drop percentage), according to Pro Football Reference. 

The Colts have their work cut out for them trying to keep Jackson’s legs in check in both the passing and the rushing game. But, if he’s able to break free and get the ball down the field, they can always hope that the receiver just drops it.