NFL

The Ravens need a return to winning ways while the Colts can clinch a playoff spot

By Sports Desk December 31, 2021

The Baltimore Ravens are in danger of letting their season get away from them after a four-game losing run and things do not appear to get any easier with the Los Angeles Rams visiting on Sunday.

John Harbaugh's men have a positive recent record against the Rams though, and will need to properly utilise the impressive form of Mark Andrews.

The Indianapolis Colts can clinch their playoff spot with a win against the Las Vegas Raiders, while a potentially fascinating encounter in the race for the playoffs between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos will take place at SoFi Stadium.

Stats Perform takes a look at the standout statistics ahead of the penultimate week of the NFL's regular season.

Los Angeles Rams (11-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

The Rams have lost four straight games against the Ravens (outscored 120-29 in those games) and are 2-5 all-time against them - Baltimore the only franchise in the league the Rams have never won a road game against (0-3).

Rams running back Sony Michel ran for 131 yards and a touchdown in last week's win against the Minnesota Vikings, two yards from tying a career-high set in 2018 with the New England Patriots. He has 423 yards in his last four games after a combined 305 in his first 11 games.

The Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 41-21 last week, allowing 525 passing yards, the most in franchise history. They also finished with just 39 rushing yards of their own, their fewest since a franchise-low 11 in 2016.

Andrews had eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown last week. He now has three straight games with at least 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. He is the only Raven to ever have three such games in a row, and just the second tight end in NFL history (Jimmy Graham in 2013).

Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) @ Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The Raiders were 7-2 in their first nine games against the Colts but have gone just 2-6 since then (dating back to 2004). They won 31-24 in their last trip to Indianapolis in 2019 but lost at home the following season.

After beating the Broncos last week, the Raiders have won back-to-back games despite scoring 17 points or fewer in each. It is the first time they have done so since 1991 – those victories came against the Broncos and the Colts.

The Colts beat the Arizona Cardinals 22-16 last week, improving to 8-2 in their last 10 games after starting the season 1-4. Their 31.2 points per game since Week 6 leads the NFL.

Jonathan Taylor had 108 rushing yards in his last outing, his ninth display this season with at least 100 yards – the Colts have won all nine of those games. Indianapolis has not won a game in which he has been held under the century mark this season.

Denver Broncos (7-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-13 in Week 12, their largest win over them since a 23-7 triumph in the 2005 season. Fourteen of the last 21 games between these teams have been decided by one possession (eight points or fewer).

Drew Lock is expected to start at quarterback again after starting his first game of the season last time out. Since the start of 2020, Lock has the lowest completion percentage among the 29 quarterbacks with 500 or more pass attempts (57.6 per cent).

The Chargers allowed 189 rushing yards in a 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The Chargers are allowing 140.3 rushing yards per game, on pace for their worst mark since the 1987 strike season (144.7).

Justin Jackson had a career-high 162 scrimmage yards against the Texans while filling in for Austin Ekeler. He has 261 scrimmage yards in his last two games, which Ekeler has done just once in a two-game span this season (264 yards from Weeks 4-5).

Elsewhere...

Atlanta Falcons (7-8) QB Matt Ryan will look to add to his 3,555 yards thrown overall this season when he faces the Buffalo Bills (9-6). It is his 12th consecutive season with at least 3,500 passing yards. He joins Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in an exclusive club to achieve the passing milestone in that many straight campaigns.

The Patriots (9-6) have lost at least two December games in each of the last four seasons (3-2 in 2018, 2-3 in 2019, 1-3 in 2020, 1-2 in 2021). New England, who host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13), have more December losses over the last four seasons (7-10) than in the previous 15 seasons combined (56-9, 2003-2017).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) star Brady is 30-7 as a starter against the New York Jets (4-11) in his career (including postseason). That is the second-most wins by any QB against a single opponent behind only his own record against the Bills (33). Brady is 7-0 in his last seven against the Jets, winning by an average of 23.3 points. 

The Kansas City Chiefs - who can clinch the AFC's top seed if they avoid defeat against the Bengals and the Tennessee Titans lose in Miami - have lost their last five games in Cincinnati, with their last win there coming in September 1984.

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    The Capitals, requiring a victory at the Wankhede Stadium to make the last four, were limited to 159-7, with Jasprit Bumrah (3-25)  the pick of the bowlers.

    Rovman Powell (43) and Rishabh Pant (39) fell short of half-centuries, but Delhi's total looked competitive as the Indians made a slow start in response.

    Mumbai struggled to 27-1 at the end of the powerplay after Anrich Nortje dismissed captain Rohit Sharma, who managed only two off 13 deliveries.

    Ishan Kishan offered more attacking intent, scoring 48 off 35 balls before falling to Kuldeep Yadav (1-33) in the 12th over and Dewald Brevis (37) followed to Shardul Thakur soon after with 65 runs still required.

    Pant failed to review when David, on nought, edged behind and the Australian capitalised by blasting an 11-ball 34 before he was removed by Thakur (2-32) to leave Mumbai needing just 15 from 13 balls.

    Ramandeep Singh (13 not out) saw Rohit's side over the line with five deliveries to spare, which meant Royal Challengers Bangalore took the final play-off spot and will face Lucknow Super Giants in the eliminator on Wednesday.

    Brilliant Bumrah

    Bumrah has been somewhat off the pace for the struggling Mumbai in this year's competition, barring his excellent 5-10 against Kolkata Knight Riders.

    However, the India quick was in imperious form in the first innings of this game, removing Prithvi Shaw (24), Mitchell Marsh (nought) and Powell to take his tally to 15 in the 2022 IPL.

    Pant's reviews

    Pan dropped a simple chance when Brevis skied Kuldeep on 25. The skipper then ignored Thakur's advice and opted to not review when David edged behind.

    The Capitals captain followed that up by reviewing a Nortje delivery to Tilak Varma that pitched well outside leg stump, capping a miserable day for the India wicketkeeper.

  • Guardiola hails Liverpool for pushing Man City to new heights Guardiola hails Liverpool for pushing Man City to new heights

    Pep Guardiola hailed the efforts of Liverpool for pushing Manchester City to new heights in the battle for the Premier League title.

    City are one point ahead of the Reds heading into their final match of the season against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium, with Jurgen Klopp's side at home to Wolves on Sunday.

    Victory over Steven Gerrard's Villa would ensure a fourth Premier League title of the Guardiola era in just five years at City, with only Alex Ferguson winning more (13).

    It would also make the Spaniard the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

    Guardiola believes his side would not have achieved what they have without the competition from Liverpool, who remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple.

    "We would not achieve what we have without them [Liverpool]," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "We have our opponent who brings you to the limits, otherwise complacency arrives.

    "The players are not stupid, I do not need to tell them how good they are. They play against them and see them on TV and I said, 'wow, if we want to be there, we have to do it'.

    "I think it is quite similar like they should think about us."

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    "Incredible, top human quality players and persons," he added. "Without that, no tactics, no ideas. Nothing, nothing, top-quality players.

    "All the other managers have amazing ideas and tactics. The praise in the football world is so suspicious. Every time you give good praise to me, I do not believe you. Not for one second, I'm so suspicious.

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    "I have found a lot of incredibly talented managers in the Championship, or the Premier League who do not have success. Do you know why? They do not have the good players that we have, it is as simple as that."

    Victory over Villa would secure City's eighth top-flight title, the outright fifth-most in history since its inception in 1888, while it will be their sixth Premier League title (outright second-most after Manchester United’s 13).

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    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was dismissed in late November before the short-term appointment of Ralf Rangnick, who will leave with the lowest win rate of any United manager in Premier League history (currently 43.5 per cent – 10 wins from 23 games).

    Erik ten Hag is the next man tasked with transforming United's fortunes, and midfielder Mata urged improvements from his side next term as questions persist over the players' commitment and attitude.

    "It's clear that on the pitch, we have made many mistakes," Mata told The Athletic. "We could have also dealt better with certain situations that were happening in the club, managers changing, negative things.

    "At the end of the day, we let that maybe affect too much the energy of Carrington.

    "Certain standards were not met. Whether that's attitude, level of training, off the pitch, which doesn't include players, we haven't been good enough. So that's where we could learn.

    "Also, certain things were out of our control, which we shouldn't let affect us. You feel that way when you see certain things are not good enough. But we shouldn't have let things happen.

    "Many circumstances can affect certain behaviours. If you don't have a solid base, when bad things come, it is difficult to stay all together.

    "We need a reset in the culture of the club. That's how I feel. The standards, what it means to represent this club to any player, what entitles you to play for Manchester United, what is expected on the pitch and off the pitch.

    "Many things that need to be clear – this is Manchester United and anyone who doesn't meet those standards is not up to the task and should not be here. That's as clear as I can be."

    United require victory over Palace to guarantee they do not drop to seventh, which would mark their joint-worst finish in the Premier League (alongside the 2013-14 season) and see them play Europa Conference League football next term.

    Cristiano Ronaldo will look to add to his 18 Premier League goals this season, only netting more in a single campaign in 2007-08 (31), while goalkeeper David de Gea will aim to end a positive season on a personal level on a high note.

    De Gea implored United to perform for the fans when they visit Palace, who have never won in 12 Premier League home games against the Red Devils (D4 L8), which is the most one team has faced another at home without ever winning in the competition.

    "We know [this season has] been difficult," he told MUTV. "But at least just for [the fans] and for our pride [we will] try to win the game.

    "[I want to] at least give a win for the fans because they have been absolutely amazing for the whole season and it's great to have them at every single game.

    "It will always have been a tough season for us, but I am very proud of my season, to be honest.

    "I worked really hard in the summer to be here and be ready to play and show my qualities for the team. I think I did very well. I played very consistent this season and helped the team a lot."

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