The final game of Week 5 is here. The 3-1 Baltimore Ravens play host to the 1-3 Indianapolis Colts at M&T Bank Stadium, and each team needs to come away with a win to keep pace in the division. Baltimore has weathered a slew of injuries and managed to remain in the mix of AFC contenders, while the Colts have been unable to overcome their ailments and do the same.
Will Lamar Jackson and company net another victory to move to 4-1, or will Carson Wentz and the crew pull off an upset on the road? We're glad you asked, because we're here once again to break down the matchup. But first, here's how you can watch the game.
How to watch
When the Colts have the ball
Part of the reason the Colts felt confident they could fix the issues that plagued Carson Wentz in Philadelphia was that they had an elite offensive line. Well, not so much right now. Star guard Quenton Nelson is on injured reserve and right tackle Braden Smith is out with foot and thumb injuries after not practicing all week. Wentz has been under pressure on a league-high 47.4 percent of his dropbacks this season, per TruMedia, and while some of that is attributable to his tendency to hang on to the ball for too long, but some of it is also attributable to a line that is obviously not operating at a high level at the moment.
As a result, Wentz is not really threatening defenses with any downfield passes. He's averaging just 6.6 air yards per attempt, the fourth-lowest mark among qualified passers. While he has avoided turning the ball over (one interception and one fumble in four games), he has also completed just 10 passes of 20 yards or more. Only Jameis Winston, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill, Jacoby Brissett, and Davis Mills had fewer prior to Week 5.
None of this is ideal when facing a Baltimore defense that has largely excelled despite several injuries in the defensive backfield. The Ravens sport the league's fourth-highest pressure rate on opponent dropbacks, and they send extra rushers on the blitz more often than all but three teams as well. Rookie edge rusher Odafe Oweh is off to a terrific start, and he's been a wonderful complement to the more experienced pass rushers like Calais Campbell, Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston, and Pernell McPhee.
Indianapolis figures to try to center the game plan around Jonathan Taylor and the ground game -- the better to keep Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense off the field. But Baltimore's blitz-heavy defense is also good against the run, ranking inside the NFL's top 10 so far, and with the Colts' offensive line issues, they may find it difficult to get much going against the likes of Campbell, Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike, and Broderick Washington.
The best plan of attack might be one where the Colts attack with short, quick passes to Nyheim Hines out of the backfield (right in Wentz's wheelhouse anyway), or to Michael Pittman or Parris Campbell on short crossers. That way, they'd be targeting Baltimore's linebackers rather than a secondary that has so far been extremely stingy in coverage. It'll be interesting to see whether the Ravens use Marlon Humphrey to shadow Pittman, who has been the clear No. 1 receiver, or elect to keep him in the slot (working mostly against Zach Pascal) and trust Anthony Averett on the outside.
When the Ravens have the ball
Yeah, that is not happening. Jackson has been working without his left tackle for most of the season, without his first-round pick wide receiver, and without the team's top three running backs. And he leads the NFL in yards per completion (14.4). He's averaging a career-best 269.3 passing yards per game and he is once again gaining over six yards per carry on double-digit rushing attempts per contest. It is extremely safe to say that the league has not exactly figured him out.
Even without Rashod Bateman, Jackson is balling at the moment, and he should continue to do so against an Indianapolis defense that has underwhelmed relative to expectations thus far this year. The Colts rank just 25th in pass defense DVOA through four weeks, per Football Outsiders, and they've allowed a horrendous 128.1 passer rating on throws at least 10 yards downfield. That's the second-worst mark in the league, and a blinking neon light for Jackson to attack the Colts deep with Marquise Brown -- especially with cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and edge rusher Kwity Paye out for this game.
The Colts have gotten pressure at an average-ish rate so far this year, but they've been quite vulnerable to quarterback scrambles when he breaks contain, yielding 10.5 yards per rush on those plays. (This despite their zone-heavy defensive scheme that should theoretically do a better job against scrambling quarterbacks than teams that play more man coverage.) Obviously, losing contain and allowing Jackson to break the pocket and take off down the field is unacceptable when playing against the Ravens, though we could also see the Colts try to shadow him with Darius Leonard, their fastest side-to-side linebacker. Not many teams have had much success shadowing Jackson in the past, but it might be worth a shot.
Jackson is also the focal point of the team's run game, and he's complemented now by a trio of veterans who don't bring much to the table. (The coaching staff apparently does not trust the team's most dynamic runner -- Ty'son Williams -- in pass protection.) Latavius Murray led the way in the backfield last week, followed by Le'Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman. All three have been cut at some point in the last year, and none of them should be considered much of a threat against the Colts' No. 5-ranked rush defense by DVOA. Most of the running back runs are designed to go up the middle while Jackson threatens the edges, and the Ravens would be far better off doing the latter anyway, so as to not run right into DeForest Buckner up the gut.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Colts 13