Sunday Night Football

Sunday Night Football

Ravens get Goliath for second straight week

- Baltimore played well enough to beat the Patriots, but choked at the end. Can they hold Peyton Manning in check and pull off the upset against the visiting Colts this week? Indy fought off a tough challenge from the Jaguars last week. Of note, Indy has won four straight meetings, all of which fell UNDER the total.

The Colts defeated Jacksonville 28-25 as a 6.5-point favorite in Week 13. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (45).

Peyton Manning threw for 288 yards with four touchdowns for Indianapolis, while Dallas Clark caught seven passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns.

The Ravens were edged 27-24 by the Patriots in a thrilling game on Monday night Football. The Ravens were 18.5-point underdogs, while the combined 51 points made it OVER the posted total of 46.5.

Kyle Boller led the Ravens with two TD passes, and completed 15-of-23 pass attempts in the loss.

Current streak:
Indianapolis has won 3 straight games.
Baltimore has lost 6 straight games.

Team records:
Indianapolis: 10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS
Baltimore: 4-8 SU, 2-10 ATS

Indianapolis most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on turf are 9-1
After being outgained are 7-3
When playing outside the division are 8-2

Baltimore most recently:
When playing in December are 7-3
When playing on turf are 4-6
After outgaining opponent are 7-3
When playing outside the division are 6-4

A few trends to consider:
Indianapolis is 15-2 SU in its last 17 games
Indianapolis is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games on the road
Indianapolis is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing Baltimore
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Indianapolis's last 5 games when playing Baltimore
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Baltimore's last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Baltimore's last 5 games when playing Indianapolis
Baltimore is 14-5 SU in its last 19 games at home
Baltimore is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing at home against Indianapolis

Next up:
Indianapolis at Oakland, Sunday, December 16
Baltimore at Miami, Sunday, December 16

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Re: Sunday Night Football

Game Preview for Colts vs Ravens

(Sports Network) - The defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts are now in the driver's seat in the AFC South and will try to march closer to a division crown this Sunday night, as they head to Baltimore and Mamp;T Bank Stadium to battle the Ravens.

The Colts put a little distance between themselves and second-place Jacksonville last weekend, after posting a 28-25 victory at home. That win improved Indianapolis to 10-2 on the season, while the Jaguars fell to 8-4.

Indy can now clinch the division for the sixth straight year with a win against the Ravens coupled with losses by both Jacksonville and the 7-5 Tennessee Titans. The Colts can also clinch a playoff spot under a variety of different scenarios that include the likes of Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Buffalo.

Indianapolis continues to be led by quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and running back Joseph Addai, but has been without receiver Marvin Harrison for the last six games.

Harrison has missed time thanks to a bruised left knee, though he did practice on a limited basis Wednesday. He is considered questionable for this weekend.

The Colts draw an angry Ravens club this weekend, though. Baltimore comes into this contest after having almost handed the undefeated New England Patriots their first loss of the season last Monday night.

Baltimore led late in the game, but a host of penalties and an ill-called timeout eventually led to New England quarterback Tom Brady's eight-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney, who may have actually bobbled that catch before going out of bounds in the end zone, for a 27-24 lead.

The Ravens' frustration was on full display as after the play, linebacker Bart Scott was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct and was given a second 15-yard penalty for throwing the official's yellow flag into the stands.

Baltimore, which lost its sixth straight game to fall to 4-8 and is on the longest losing streak in team history, gave the Pats one last scare, as QB Kyle Boller heaved a 52-yard pass to Mark Clayton inside the five, but he was dragged down well shy of the goal line with no time left on the clock.

The Ravens started the season 4-2 before going on their disappointing run. However, the club has history on its side to finish strong, as Baltimore has won six of its past seven games in December.

SERIES HISTORY

The Colts have a 4-2 edge in their all-time regular season series with the Ravens, including three straight victories. Indianapolis handed Baltimore a 24-7 defeat at Mamp;T Bank Stadium in the 2005 regular-season opener and was a 20-10 home winner when the teams met in 2004. The Ravens have won two of the three all-time regular season matchups between the clubs in Baltimore, including a 39-27 win in 2001.

In addition to the regular season series, the teams have met once in the postseason, with Indy scoring a 15-6 road win in a 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff en route to a Super Bowl title.

Colts head coach Tony Dungy is 5-0 all-time against the Ravens, including a win while he was at the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001. Baltimore's Brian Billick is 1-4 against Indianapolis in his career and is 0-5 head-to- head against Dungy.

The Colts franchise called Baltimore home from 1953 through the 1983 season.

WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL

While all the talk this year has been on the play of the Patriots offense, the Colts are still lighting up the scoreboard as well. The club is averaging 28.1 points per game (3rd in the NFL) and 369.2 yards per game (4th). The offense still runs through Manning, who threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns against the Jaguars. Manning (3,109 passing yards, 23 TD, 13 INT) has 3,391 career completions, and needs just 23 more to pass Joe Montana for eighth place on the all-time list. The signal-caller has tossed nine touchdowns in five career meetings against Baltimore. The Colts displayed their multiple weapons against Baltimore. Wayne (76 receptions, 8 TD) was Manning's favorite target, hauling in eight passes for 158 yards with a touchdown, but it was Dallas Clark (49 receptions, 9 TD) who did the bulk of the scoring. The tight end made seven catches for 60 yards, and caught two TD passes. With Harrison (20 receptions, 1 TD) still on the mend, tight end Ben Utecht added three catches for 47 yards, while wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez had just one catch for 22 yards. Joseph Addai (943 rushing yards, 9 TD) led the ground game against Jacksonville with 67 yards on 21 carries. His backup, Kenton Keith, is questionable for this weekend due to illness.

The Ravens have historically been a very good defensive team, and that is still true to a degree this season. The club is third in the NFL against the run, giving up just under 79 yards per game on the ground. Baltimore hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in a league-high 15 straight games, and held Patriots running back Laurence Maroney to just 44 yards Monday. The last running back to hit the 100-yard mark against Baltimore was Kansas City's Larry Johnson on December 10, 2006. The Ravens' pass defense, which is 15th in the league, held Brady in check somewhat, as the red-hot QB passed for only 257 yards and two touchdowns. Baltimore posted three sacks in the game, tied for the most the Pats have allowed this season. Haloti Ngata (52 tackles, 2 sacks), Corey Ivy (45 tackles, 3 sacks) and Antwan Barnes all got to Brady, while Ngata added seven tackles in the game. Kelly Gregg (58 tackles, 2 sacks) also had seven tackles, while Scott (74 tackles, 1 sack) and Ray Lewis (107 tackles, 1 sack) led the club with eight each. Ed Reed (30 tackles, 6 INT) had an interception in the game and leads all NFL safeties in picks since 2002 with 33. Baltimore's defense is a little banged up, as Chris McAlister, Reed, Samari Rolle and Gerome Sapp are all considered questionable. All but McAlister were able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, while McAlister was unable to go.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

The Ravens offense had one of its better games of the season against New England, posting 376 yards of net offense, though the bomb at the end of the game helped those numbers. Boller, who will likely start the rest of the season now that Steve McNair is on injured reserve, threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns to one interception in the loss. Boller (1,452 passing yards, 7 TD, 6 INT) also turned in his best passer rating of the season, checking in at 105.3. He was helped by a strong ground game, as Willis McGahee (1,048 rushing yards, 7 TD) totaled a season-high 138 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. He has found the end zone in seven straight games on the ground. Baltimore, which is averaging 104.2 rushing yards per game, ran for a season-high 166 yards as a team Monday, the most the club has tallied since December of 2005. Wide receiver Derrick Mason (842 receiving yards, 3 TD) led the team with six catches for 67 yards with a score, and is second in the NFL with 85 catches. He is poised to break his own franchise mark of 86 receptions in a season, a record he set in 2005. Devard Darling made one catch for 53 yards, while tight end Daniel Wilcox hauled in a TD pass. It is also worth noting that the Ravens didn't allow a sack for the first time in six games, and held New England sackless for the first time this season.

The Colts are getting it done on defense as well. The club is second in the NFL by allowing just 277 yards per game, and is giving up only 16.4 points per game, third in the league. Indy has posted seven interceptions over its last five games, including one against the Jaguars last weekend. That pick came by safety Antoine Bethea (63 tackles), giving him a career-high four on the season. The Colts tallied three sacks against the Jags, getting one each from Robert Mathis (31 tackles), his seventh of the season, and Tyjuan Hagler (41 tacklers). Freddie Keiaho (54 tackles, 1 INT) led the team with 11 tackles last Sunday to go along with half a sack, while Marlin Jackson (75 tackles, 1 INT) had the other half. He also had nine tackles in the win, while Kelvin Hayden (69 tackles, 2 INT) and Gary Brackett (93 tackles, 2 INT) each posted six stops. Defensive tackle Raheem Brock is considered questionable for this game due to a rib ailment.

FANTASY FOCUS

Now is the time that Colts owners begin to worry about their players. This week marks the first round of most fantasy playoffs, and due to recent dominance, this is the time of the year Indianapolis begins shutting down its players in preparation for the real playoffs. That won't be the case this week, as the Colts have yet to lock up the division, so rest assured in starting Manning, Wayne, Clark and even Addai. Avoid Harrison, as he may not play again this week, but give the Colts defense a look, even against the red- hot McGahee. Also, if Keith is available and you have Addai, grab him now as you may need him soon. For the Ravens, their strong defense faces a major test and there might be better options out there. Give McGahee a start and try to ride his hot run, but avoid all other Raven offensive players outside of Mason.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Ravens gave one high-powered team a run for its money Monday, but the club needs to avoid a letdown this week after how the Patriots game ended. The club may have to battle some psychological demons given last weekend's conclusion, and if the Colts smell blood, they will jump all over Baltimore. That may be the case anyway, as Indianapolis has yet another division title in its grasp, while the Ravens are playing for pride. Lewis and Reed won't let the team come out flat, but it won't be enough to stop the Colts.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colts 34, Ravens 13

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What bettors need to know: Colts at Ravens
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Inch to clinch

The Indianapolis Colts can clinch their fifth straight AFC South title Sunday with a victory over the Baltimore Ravens as long as the win is combined with losses by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

Indy can earn a first-round bye if it finishes second in the conference. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the Colts’ main threat and are sitting third at 9-3.

“We've got to stay ahead of Pittsburgh,” Colts head coach Tony Dungy told reporters. “That's our goal right now and to continue to win and get this division locked up. It was a big game and we knew that and we knew what the division standings looked like and we knew it was going to be tough.”

The Steelers are just one game behind the second-place Colts in the conference standings. Pittsburgh visits the unbeaten New England Patriots on Sunday as a 10 ½-point underdog.

Quote the Ravens

Baltimore was minutes from doing the unthinkable on Sunday.

That was until the Patriots decided to fight back.

New England’s winning drive covered 73 yards and required two fourth-down conversions. One of those conversions was a result of a Baltimore holding penalty that eventually led to Jabar Gaffney’s game-winning touchdown with 44 seconds left.

It was the Ravens’ sixth straight loss and it left some players pointing fingers.

“It's hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time,” Ravens defensive back Chris McAlister told reporters. “They put the crown on top of them, they want them to win. They won.”

Baltimore’s complaints didn’t end with McAlister.

“The refs called me a boy,” defensive back Samari Rolle told reporters. “Number 110 called me a boy. I will be calling my agent in the morning and sending my complaint. I have a wife and three kids, don't call me a boy. Don't call me a boy on the field during a game because I said, 'You've never played football before.’”

The league is reportedly looking into the situation.

The Ravens, though, may want to stop complaining and turn their attention to this week’s opponent.

Running wild

It was a performance for the record books.

Baltimore’s Willis McGahee rushed for 138 yards Monday against New England’s sixth-ranked rush defense. He also became the third Baltimore running back to surpass the 1,000-yard rushing plateau.

“I felt like if I run the ball like we did tonight, I control the game, keep the defense off their feet,” McGahee told reporters. “That's what we did ... the calls, you can't do nothing about them.”

The Ravens will likely employ the same strategy against the Colts.

Indianapolis conceded more than 170 rushing yards last Sunday to Jacksonville. The Colts’ rush defense ranks 18th in the NFL, surrendering more than 105 rushing yards per contest.

McGahee’s 138-yard effort was his best since coming to Baltimore from Buffalo in the offseason.

Head to head

Indianapolis has won three straight in Baltimore. It also holds a 4-2 edge in its all-time regular season series with the Ravens.

The Colts, though, aren’t overlooking Sunday’s tilt in Baltimore.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Dungy told reporters. “They play the type of defense where you can look bad for two, two-and-a-half quarters, three quarters. They can create some things. You can have a lot of punts. It can be a sporadic game. You’re never going to be just smooth and moving the ball up and down the field. That’s how they play.”

Baltimore has also won two of the three regular season meetings with Indianapolis in Maryland. But it was the Colts that won 15-6 at M&T Bank Stadium in last season’s AFC divisional-round game.

“We knew that going in there last year,” Dungy continued. “We had to kick a bunch of field goals and play defense, so we have to be ready for that type of game.”

The Colts have covered the spread in their last three meetings with the Ravens, dating back to 2002.

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Indianapolis (10-2, 7-5 ATS) at Baltimore (4-8, 2-10 ATS)

The defending Super Bowl champion Colts aim to stay on track for a first-round playoff bye when they head to M&T Bank Stadium to face the reeling Ravens.

Indianapolis held off division rival Jacksonville 28-25 as a 6½-point home favorite last week. QB Peyton Manning was an efficient 20 of 29 for 288 yards with four TDs and one INT. The Jaguars, though, outgained Indy 411-342, and the Colts had the ball for just a little more than 24 minutes.

Baltimore had New England on the ropes on Monday night before ultimately losing 27-24 as a 19-point home underog. The Ravens, who have dropped six straight games (1-5 ATS), couldn’t overcome 13 penalties for 100 yards, including a late defensive holding call.

The Colts are 1-3 ATS in their last four games and 1-7 ATS in their last eight December starts. But they are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 overall (including playoffs) and 3-0 SU and ATS in three meetings with the Ravens over the past three seasons, including last year’s 15-6 win as a four-point road underdog in the divisional playoffs.

The Ravens, who have the league’s worst pointspread record, are on ATS slides of 1-9 against the AFC, 1-7 following a SU loss, 2-6 as a home pup and 2-5 at home overall. On a positive note, Baltimore is 7-1 ATS in its last eight December games.

The Colts have followed up a 5-0 “under” streak by topping the total in their last two. Still the under is 6-2 in Indy’s last eight road contests and 4-0 in the last four series meetings.

ATS ADVANTAGE: INDIANAPOLIS

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Colts at Ravens Preview
VegasInsider.com

Emerging from a desperate state of affairs, the Ravens will once again drag themselves onto the gridiron at the M&T Bank Stadium at 8:15 p.m. EST. It was only on Monday night that Baltimore limped back into the locker room after almost downing the “invincible” New England Patriots. I say almost because the Pats where able to make a last minute drive into the opposing end zone, sealing the fate of the game by the score of 27-24.

It’s been a tough year for coach Brian Billick and his Ravens squad.

At the bottom of the AFC North Division with a 4-8 straight up record, Baltimore has remained at the bottom half in the league in scoring (now at 22.5 PPG). Sure its defense has always been known to carry a lot of the offensive dead weight but in the team’s last six loses the Ravens has given up an average of 28.3 PPG (compared to 16.6 PPG in the first six games of the season).
   
And if you’ve backed Baltimore against the spread it’s been a year marked by the sound of tearing tickets apart. A 2-10 ATS record (0-6 ATS on the road) and a 6-4-2 performance in the "over/under" makes the Ravens a very poor investment unless you’ve grown accustomed to fading this crew.

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at this floundering Baltimore team, how might Indianapolis tackle Sunday night’s contest?

For starters, the Colts are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in their last four meetings with the Ravens. While the passing game has faced some challenges against this defensive minded organization from Maryland (Indianapolis’ QB Payton Manning has averaged 230.3 YPG in those last four head-to-head meetings), the Colts have managed to do just enough to win games. Be aware that the ‘under’ has been a perfect 4-0 in those head-to-head contests.

With signal caller Steve McNair out for the rest of the season, expect the Colts’ coaching echelon to throw everything at Baltimore’s weak offensive line (which has broken down its ability to protect the QB). So far this season, the Ravens have allowed opposing defenses to hit the leader under center 27 times (ranked 20th in the NFL). Strong safety Bob Sanders will be lurking in and out of the box for Indianapolis, looking to force Ravens' field general Kyle Boller into poor decision making mode.

Boller had a positive outing against New England on Monday, throwing for 210 yards with two TDs and only one pick but his inconsistent play throughout the season has reared its ugly head more then once. Six interceptions, 17 sacks and seven TDs aren’t statistics of a successful offensive push (stats on the year).

The Ravens are 1-9 ATS in their last 10 games versus AFC teams and are 2-11 ATS in their last 13 overall contests.

Concerning the ground attack, Indy has had a great showing from running back Joseph Addai. In only his second season in the NFL, Addai has churned out four games with 100-plus yards. On the season, the back from LSU has worked for 943 rushing yards with nine trips across the goal line.

And Addai will be needed for Indianapolis which has been afflicted by the injury bug. All-Star wide out Marvin Harrison is probably one of the biggest loses that the Colts have had to deal with (although WR Reggie Wayne has stepped up production two-fold). Latest reports indicate that Harrison may miss the remainder of the season but that’s still to be called “official”.

With Harrison out of the lineup, Indianpolis has gone 3-3 ATS and 2-4 on the 'over'.

The Ravens’ own RB Willis McGahee is coming off the best performance of the season, racking up 138 rushing yards with one score against the Pats. Breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the third time since entering the NFL in 2004, McGahee will have a huge hurdler in-front of him. Indy’s ‘D’ hasn’t been spot on against the run, giving up 108.3 PPG, but sacrificing only 16.4 PPG is direct evidence of keeping opponents from crossing the goal line.

There’s no doubt that this matchup should be very interesting to say the least. It’s been 24 years since the Colts packed their bags and left Baltimore and the venom throughout Maryland remains extremely bitter.

Since 1992, Indy is 2-2 SU and ATS when playing in the hostile confines of its old home town of Baltimore.

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