Previewing the Colts-Ravens Wild Card Matchup
The only luck involved with the Colts run to the playoffs begins with a capital L. Andrew Luck threw for an NFL rookie record 4,374 yards this season as he helped the Colts improve from two wins in 2011 to 11 wins in 2012. Luck was able to do this in part because of another NFL rookie record he broke which was most pass attempts (627).
Luck rejuvenated Reggie Wayne’s career and improved his receiving yards by 395 from the 2011 season. He also helped free agent signing Donnie Avery have a career year in receptions and yards (60-781). Luck even made use of third round rookie T.Y. Hilton who was just five yards away from leading all rookies in receiving yards (861).
While the Colts passing attack has been successful, their running game has struggled. The Colts rank 22 in rush offense. The Colts’ leader in rushing touchdowns is Andrew Luck with five and their second leader is Delone Carter with three. Vick Ballard has been getting the bulk of the work since Donald Brown was placed on IR, but has only two TDs on the season. Also don’t rely on the tight ends Dwayne Allen or Coby Fleener. Neither has posted a huge game this season and neither is a reliable option.
This week the Colts face the Ravens who have not had the shutdown defense that they have had in the past. They rank outside the top-15 in both pass and rush defense. Expect Luck, Wayne and Hilton to be the biggest contributors for the Colts.
Luck is averaging 273 yards on the season, but lately he hasn’t been doing as well. Through the first 12 games he averaged 300 yards per game, but through the last four games he’s averaging only 194. The declining numbers are concerning, especially playing on the road against a Ray Lewis inspired defense.
Oddly enough, while Luck’s numbers are going down, Hilton’s numbers are rising. Through the first 11 weeks Hilton averaged 44 yards per game, but through the last five weeks his numbers have improved to 74 yards per game.
Overall the Colts players should put up solid numbers, but don’t expect huge performances.
The Baltimore Ravens have had an inconsistent passing attack in 2012. Joe Flacco has had some poor performances (six games under 200 passing yards) and some really good ones (five games over 300 passing yards). It’s usually one extreme or the other with Flacco and that reflects on his receivers as well.
Torrey Smith is the perfect example of a boom-or-bust player. He had eight games this season under 50 receiving yards and five under 35. But, he also included some spectacular performances like when he caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots. He’s a boom-or-bust player, but has done well in some good matchups, which this one is (The Colts are #30 in aFPA to WRs).
Anquan Boldin has been a lot more consistent than Smith. He averaged around 61 yards per game in 2012 and was fairly consistent. He also averaged around four receptions a game, which comes out to double-digit performances in PPR leagues.
The Ravens also had one of the best running backs with Ray Rice. Although he had 49 less touches in 2012 than he did in 2011, he was still among one of the best fantasy options with 1,621 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns this year.
Rice is in luck (no relation to Andrew) as he faces a Colts defense that has struggled against the run in recent weeks. Over the last three games the Colts have given up 210 yards on the ground a game.
Flacco, Rice and Boldin are the only players that you can rely on to be productive this week. Smith has a chance to have a big game, but nothing is certain with him. Expect Rice to produce big numbers. With Rice’s abilities it isn’t hard to predict that he will be able to take advantage of the Colts’ recent struggles.
Bottom Line: Vegas predicts this game to be the highest scoring of the weekend, with the Ravens winning by a touchdown for the newly-about-to-retire Ray Lewis.