Monday Night Football Preview
For the second straight week, we will see a team make their second appearance on Monday Night Football in the 2021 season as the Indianapolis Colts travel to their old home and face the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts have only been back to Baltimore nine times since they left the city back in 1984 and this game will be the first to be featured on Monday Night. Both teams are looking to maintain their spot in a contentious AFC conference and will have to be their best to come away victorious on Monday Night.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
The Ravens are home favorites in this matchup, being given a 6.5 point spread over the visiting Colts. Baltimore has been a difficult team to gauge from a betting perspective this season, having gone 2-2 against the spread through Week 4, including a game they couldn’t cover versus Detroit. Based on their current level of play and talent, they have what it takes to win on Monday Night, but by how much is a solid question. Their average margin of victory is only six points so far in 2021 with only one game being a win by more than two points (last week versus Denver). Many sites offering Free NFL Picks are giving them the home-field advantage edge and the momentum into this game. However, while it seems like a safe bet to take the Ravens and the points on Monday Night some are worried about a potential trap game as the Ravens do play red hot 4-1 Chargers next week.
Lamar Jackson has bounced back as an elite fantasy option so far in 2021 after many fantasy managers were unsure how he would perform this season. Jackson is currently the QB9 (depending on scoring format) and is finding the endzone both on the ground and in the air, elevating his numbers and making him a weekly starting fantasy quarterback once again. He will look to continue his strong start against a Colts defense that is tied for allowing the most passing touchdowns through Week 4 with eleven. Keep Jackson in your lineup and expect big things from him this week.
When Indianapolis lost last year’s starting quarterback Philip Rivers to retirement in January 2021, they were faced with many options to replace him. They could stand pat with the guys they already had on the roster, they could use their draft capital and select someone to build around under center or they could make a trade with that capital and find a veteran player to take the reins again. The Colts’ management chose the third option but made an interesting choice in who to acquire.
Carson Wentz was coming off a losing season in Philadelphia where he led the league in interceptions and looked like he had completely regressed as an NFL quarterback. However, someone on the Colts saw something in Wentz and made a trade with the Eagles to obtain him; giving a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional pick in 2022 for him. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, he has yet to find his 2017 form this season. Wentz is ranked as the QB22 and has been inconsistent as a fantasy option. He is a streaming-level quarterback and this matchup is not a favorable one, as Baltimore has been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks on over 30% of their dropbacks through Week 4 and has allowed the eleventh fewest fantasy points to the position in that timeframe. While Wentz has shown some flashes this season, he is someone who should be on your bench/waiver wire on Monday Night.
The Colts have seen a majority of their rushing attempts go to second-year running back Jonathan Taylor early in 2021 and he has shown he can handle the work. Taylor has 274 yards and one touchdown on 58 attempts through Week 4 and is currently ranked as the RB19 in 0.5 PPR scoring formats. He is a solid RB2 option who will see a healthy amount of carries on Monday Night. While this matchup is not the best, Taylor will see enough work to give him a stable floor and should be started and trusted this week.
Since losing their top four running backs to either injury or free agency, the Ravens have been in a tough spot in 2021. Their backfield is full of new faces who have used the early part of this season to find a role in the offense and make themselves known among their position mates. The only player who has found any fantasy relevance is Latavius Murray, who is currently ranked as the RB34 in 0.5 PPR scoring formats. Most of his production has been because of his nose for the endzone, scoring three touchdowns in his four games so far this season. Murray has shown he can be a red zone weapon but has yet to gain enough yards or receiving work to be a consistent fantasy starter outside of a Flex option in a good matchup. Indianapolis has been solid defending the run so far this season so Murray along with Le’Veon Bell, Ty’Son Williams, and Devonta Freeman are players I would keep on the bench/waiver wire for Monday Night.
One player that caused many debates through the recent fantasy offseason was the status of Marquise Brown in the Baltimore offense. Brown fell flat in 2020 and was inconsistent when it came to boom-or-bust performances. So far in 2021, he has found the boom managers have been waiting for. Brown has had three WR18 or better finishes through Week 4 and has emerged as one of Jackson’s favorite options on big plays downfield. He will have a great opportunity to keep his season rolling against the Colts, who are tied for allowing the most receiving touchdowns to opposing wide receivers through Week 4 with eight. Brown will be a great start for Monday Night and will have a WR1 level performance this week.
Indianapolis’ passing attack has seen multiple players receive work through Week 4 as Wentz has spread the ball around among his wide receiver group. The two main receivers for the Colts have been Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal, both of whom are ranked as WR35 and WR32 respectively in 0.5 PPR scoring formats. Both players have had their strengths and weaknesses with Pittman being the yardage and target leader while Pascal is the only wide receiver on the team to find the endzone this season. These guys will need to be at their best to help Wentz get through a tough matchup on Monday Night and are both good Flex options for this week.
When looking at the tight end landscape in fantasy football, it can be hard to know what to do with this position. Some managers like to reach and draft one of the top-of-the-line options early in drafts. Others like to wait and see what falls to them and hope they can find the next great unknown star. For those who did the first option and took Mark Andrews in your drafts, it is difficult to know how to feel. He is currently ranked as the TE9 through Week 4 and has posted five receptions along with 50+ yards in his last three games. But, on the other hand, he is also ranked below players like Dawson Knox and Dalton Schultz, two players who likely went undrafted and were scooped off of waivers in a majority of leagues. Whether Andrews will make his way up the leaderboard or not remains to be seen but he will look to keep his streak going on Monday Night. While his matchup is less than ideal, Andrews is still a very talented player who will put up solid numbers this week.
Both D/STs in this matchup has some upside as they have played well through Week 4 but have not shown themselves to be one of the elite options that can be started every week. These units have been advantageous in their own rights, with the Ravens putting constant pressure on quarterbacks and the Colts obtaining turnovers on 18% of their defensive drives. With the upside of both offenses in this game and the mid-level play of both D/STs, look for better options on the waiver wire this week.
This game will feature lots of talent on both teams but will come down to one of the most important positions on the field: quarterback play. If Wentz can evade pressure and make plays, the Colts will be able to stay in this game longer than people think and could even leave Baltimore with the win. But, if Jackson can control the game with his legs and keep the time of possession in Baltimore’s favor, Indianapolis will be in for a long night. I have this one going to the Ravens by a score of 24-13.
Brandon Sysak is an staff writer for Gridiron Experts. I have been covering different aspects of the NFL, fantasy football and the NFL Draft since 2017. I am originally from Midland, MI but now reside in the Cincinnati, OH area. I began my career with Gridiron Experts covering the 2017 College Football National Championship.