Preview: Ravens return to Baltimore to face Pagano’s Colts

BALTIMORE, MD — The Ravens’ road to the playoffs goes through M&T Bank Stadium, and they control their own destiny. Two home games against weak opponents remain on Baltimore’s schedule, while Wild Card competitors in the Titans and the Chargers deal with harsher opponents over the final two weeks of the regular season.

The 39-38 loss to Pittsburgh hurt, but the Ravens took care of business in Cleveland last week to stay in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race. The screenshot below, courtesy of CBSSports.com, displays the current NFL playoff standings.

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 4.56.41 PM.png

Even though the Bills currently sit ahead of the Ravens, if the Ravens simply win out, they will clinch a playoff spot, even if the Bills win out themselves. Buffalo’s last two games both take place on the road against the Patriots and the Dolphins. The Titans host the Rams and the Jaguars, who both sit atop their respective divisions. The Chargers travel to New York this weekend to face the Jets before returning home to host the Raiders.

With the Colts and the Bengals sharing a combined record of 8-20, the Ravens clearly own the easiest schedule of the Wild Card contenders. Clinching a playoff berth can happen: it all comes down to beating the Colts and the Bengals.

The Colts limp into Baltimore having lost their last five games, the most recent defeat coming last Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. Indianapolis will ride the rest advantage into Baltimore, looking to spoil the Ravens’ postseason dreams. Despite their 3-11 record, the Colts continue to play hard for head coach Chuck Pagano, who’s future after the 2017 reason remains in question. Pagano is said to be on the “hot seat.”

The Colts’ 2017 season ended before it even began. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck‘s throwing shoulder caused him to miss the entire season, and he sought treatment as far as England to get his shoulder repaired. He looks to make a return next season, but without him, Jacoby Brissett mans the quarterback position for Indianapolis. Brissett has played respectable football this season, but  has turned the ball over more times (seven interceptions, eight fumbles) than he’s thrown touchdown passes (11).

Luck’s injury is the pinpoint of a long list of injuries for the Colts. 16 players currently make up Indianapolis’s injured reserve list. That list includes this year’s first-round pick Malik Hooker, cornerback Vontae Davis, former Raven John Simon, and running back Robert Turbin. Former Ravan Rashaan Melvin (hand) will not suit up against his former team on Saturday. Receivers T.Y. Hilton (hand) and Donte Moncrief (ankle) are listed as questionable on Indy’s injury report. Hilton looks likely to play, Moncrief’s status remains uncertain.

Ravens injury roundup: Following Wednesday’s practice, here is what we know about the Ravens players currently dealing with injuries.

  • Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (knee) missed practice for the second straight day. On Monday, John Harbaugh said that Maclin underwent an MRI but the injury is not deemed a serious one.
  • The following players were limited in Wednesday’s practice: Defensive end Carl Davis (shoulder), outside linebacker Matthew Judon (illness), cornerback Maurice Canady (knee) and cornerback Anthony Levine Sr. (hamstring). The only difference between Tuesday and Wednesday is the addition of Judon, who missed practice on Tuesday with the illness.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD.

When: Saturday, Dec. 23, 4:30 pm

Radio: WBAL-1090, 98 Rock, Baltimore Ravens’ Website

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Jarrett Johnson

TV: NFL Network, CBS/WJZ-TV13

Commentators: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green

Notes on the Colts:

  • No players on the Colts’ roster received Pro Bowl nominations. That’s the first time in 19 years that no Colts got elected to the Pro Bowl.
  • The Colts will make an important decision on Brissett this offseason. Who knows what Luck will look like after all of the work done to his shoulder? With that said, Brissett showed this season that he can start in the NFL. A number of teams in need of a quarterback will show interest, and Brissett will get a nice payday. The chance that Jim Irsay would pay another quarterback in addition to Luck is slim.
  • Hilton’s 852 receiving yards ranks 19’th in the NFL this season. Hilton typically ranks within the top 5-10 receivers in the NFL.
  • 44-year-old kicker Adam Vinetari is 24-of-27 in field goals this season.

Notes on the Ravens: 

  • Sam Koch is the first punter to win multiple AFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards in a single season since Brian Moorman did it with the Bills in 2009.
  • Terrell Suggs received his seventh Pro Bowl nomination this week. He ranks third in the AFC with 11 sacks, the seventh time he eclipsed double-digit sacks in a season. He’s also third in the NFL in forced fumbles with four.
  • Alex Collins ranks 10’th in the NFL with 844 rushing yards. He’s broken six rushes of more than 20 yards.
  • The Ravens’ defense has 30 turnovers to their name this season. They lead the NFL with 22 interceptions.

Next Week: The Ravens end the regular season on New Year’s Eve with a 1:00 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. This marks just the second time in seven years that the Ravens play their week 17 game at home, and the first time in three seasons. All five of those road matchups occurred in Cincinnati, and the Bengals have not played a week 17 game in Baltimore since the 2010 season.

Image Credit: NBC Sports 

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