Indianapolis Colts (3-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
The Ravens are 8-6 and in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot in the AFC, but they are a little overrated. They’ve had the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of opponents strength of schedule and that doesn’t even take into account that they’ve gotten to face a number of backup quarterbacks. Of their 8 wins, only one has come against a team that currently has a winning record, the Detroit Lions, who also have next to no success against quality football teams. Four of those wins have come against teams with backup quarterbacks, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Tom Savage led Texans, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, and the Brett Hundley led Packers. Their other 3 wins have come against the Browns (twice) and the Bengals.
They have an impressive margin of victory and rank 7th in the NFL in point differential at +89, but that’s largely because of a league best +17 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so that’s not something the Ravens are necessarily going to be able to count on going forward, especially as their competition gets harder in the post-season. They rank just 10th in first down rate differential at 1.72%, despite the easy schedule. The Ravens are still a top-6 team in the AFC and a deserving playoff team, but if they were in the much tougher NFC and faced a tougher schedule, they’d probably be the 10th or 11th best team in the conference.
The good news for them is their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week, as the host the 3-11 Indianapolis Colts. As bad as the Colts’ record is, it’s arguable they are even worse than that suggests. Their 3 wins have come against the Browns, 49ers, and Texans, 3 of the worst teams in the league, by a combined 12 points, while their 11 losses have come by a combined 155 points. Their point differential at -143 is 2nd worst in the NFL, despite the fact that they actually have a positive turnover margin at +4. They enter this game dead last in first down rate differential at -6.84% and have a league high 5 losses in which they won the turnover margin. They have also lost safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, and left guard Jack Mewhort in the last couple months, so this team is even worse than they were earlier in the year.
The Ravens are in a good spot to cover because they have another relatively easy game on deck, with the Bengals coming to town next week. Favorites of 6+ are 72-43 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. Unfortunately, this line has strangely shot up from Baltimore -10 on the early line last week to Baltimore -13.5 this week, so we’re not getting any line value with the Ravens.
The Ravens easily could blow out the Colts like they have with several other bad teams, but their offense is mediocre, so I’m not confident that they can do that without winning the turnover battle, which is far from a guarantee. I have this line calculated at -11, so we’re actually getting some line value with the Colts. The Ravens are my pick for pick ‘em purposes because of the good spot they’re in, but I wouldn’t recommend betting either side.
Baltimore Ravens 24 Indianapolis Colts 10
Pick against the spread: Baltimore -13.5