Monday Night Football Picks: Ravens at Lions Week 15 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/12/2013
The Monday Night Football schedule stunk for the first eight weeks or so but has rallied nicely of late, and the penultimate MNF game of the season this week, Ravens at Lions, is arguably the most intriguing matchup of Week 15. Enjoy it because the finale next week, Falcons at Niners, should be a blowout.
In my opinion, it's an upset if both Detroit and Baltimore aren't in the playoffs. The Lions (7-6) are tied with Chicago atop the NFC North but hold the tiebreaker over the Bears and Packers (6-6-1). Both Chicago (at Cleveland) and Green Bay (at Dallas) easily could lose Sunday. Baltimore (7-6) is tied with Miami for the AFC wild-card lead but holds that tiebreaker. Bovada has a prop on which team will be that conference's sixth seed, and both the Ravens and Fins are even money. It's certainly conceivable both could lose this week, with Miami hosting New England (although when I previewed that game I liked the Fins). The Pats certainly will have a big say as they visit Baltimore next week.
Ravens at Lions Betting Story Lines
Baltimore is on a season-high three-game winning streak, although there is good news and bad news. While the offense has upped its scoring in each of those three, the defense has given up more in each. Allowing 26 points last week in the wintry conditions to a one-dimensional Minnesota team that lost Adrian Peterson early to an injury is a concern. That game could be considered a fluke with five touchdowns scored in the final 2:05 in perhaps the craziest regular-season finish in NFL history.
Baltimore loves close games, playing in nine that have been settled by six points or less. The Ravens are 5-4 in those. So maybe this is a Super Bowl-caliber team again as Baltimore's only blowout loss was on the opening Thursday in Denver. I guarantee you the Broncos do not want a rematch in the divisional round, and that's very possible should Baltimore win on wild-card weekend at either Cincinnati (current playoff opponent) or New England. No one will want to play the only team to win at least one playoff game each of the past five seasons.
I've said this before and will again: the Lions are the Cowboys of the Midwest. One minute they look like a Super Bowl contender, usually in a home game, and the next they do something stupid and make you wonder why their coach is still there, in this case Jim Schwartz. It's largely been the bad Lions of late, losing three of four games, and that one win was against an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team traveling on a short week. Detroit has turned the ball over 15 times in the past four games, for a minus-11 differential. Even in that Packer win, they turned it over four times. As good as Matthew Stafford is, he still forces the ball. He has been picked off 10 times the past six games. He wasn't last week but fumbled five times. To be fair, that was in a blizzard.
The big injury news here is to Lions running back Reggie Bush. He's been very good when healthy, but it's hard for him to stay that way. He missed last week's game while tweaking a calf injury jogging in warm-ups. He hasn't practiced this week as of Thursday, but he says he will play. If he doesn't that means more Joique Bell, but it really hurts Detroit overall because Bush is also such a good receiver. And Bush is frankly a different player in the dome as that's when he can maximize his speed. Bush has had more than 100 yards of offense in every Lions win and has 931 total yards in seven indoor games (one in Arizona).
For Baltimore, the big injury news is that sacks leader Elvis Dumervil is expected to return after missing a game with a sprained ankle. I think he could have played last week, but Baltimore figured it would beat the Vikings without him. He has 9.5 sacks.
Ravens at Lions Monday Night Football Week 15 Betting Odds and Trends
At Sportsbook.ag, Detroit is a six-point favorite with a total of 48.5. The Ravens are 6-7 ATS (2-4 on road) and 6-7 “over/under” (4-2 on road). The Lions are 6-7 ATS (3-3 at home) and 8-5 O/U (5-1 at home). Baltimore is 5-0-1 ATS in its past five road games against teams with a winning home record. It is 1-4 ATS in its past five after a win. The Lions are 5-2 ATS in their past seven after an ATS loss. Detroit is 3-13 ATS in its past 16 after allowing more than 30 points in its previous game. The under is 6-0 in Detroit's past six Monday games. The over is 4-1 in Baltimore's past five road games against teams with a winning home record.
Monday Night Football Picks: Ravens at Lions Betting Predictions
Take any over on Calvin Johnson this week after Ravens safety Matt Elam said this about him: "He's pretty old, so I don't know how physical he'll be. He's a big guy, but he's older."
Remember when Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant said he was as good as Johnson leading into their game? All “Megatron” did then was catch 14 passes for 329 yards. You would think Elam would know better, but he's a rookie. He obviously won't be guarding Johnson as a safety but will be responsible for those double-teams.
The Ravens have stunk on the road with just one win, and they could have lost that one at Miami. Detroit has generally been pretty good at home, although Tampa Bay somehow went to Ford Field and won. I like Detroit here by a touchdown. Take the over.
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