Monday Night Football Predictions: Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints Odds & Picks
by Alan Matthews - 11/21/2014
OK, let's talk about my favorite two divisions in the NFL this season, the Ravens' AFC North and Saints' NFC South. I say favorite because all four teams in each could still win the division. Yes, even the 2-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't dead in the South.
There was little clarity in the AFC North last week as the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens all won and the Browns lost. At 6-4, Cleveland and Baltimore are tied for last but also just a game behind first-place Cincinnati (6-3-1) in the loss column. I expect the Browns to lose in Atlanta on Sunday -- which I previewed here at Doc's -- and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Cincinnati fell in Houston. Thus, the Ravens could be in a tie for first place with Pittsburgh (7-4) if they win this game. The Steelers are on the bye in Week 12. The Bengals and Steelers are given +200 Bovada odds to win the division, with Baltimore at +250.
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By the way, the four North teams have a winning percentage of .700 (17-7-1) outside the division this season. Since the merger, only seven divisions have ever finished with a combined winning percentage of .700 or better vs. non-divisional foes. All seven previous divisions, including last year's NFC West, have produced at least two playoff teams. Four times three playoff teams have come from those divisions, last the 2008 NFC South.
Speaking of the South, the Saints (4-6) are tied with the Falcons for first place. However, Atlanta holds two tiebreakers right now: division record (4-0 to Saints' 2-1) and head-to-head. The teams play in the Superdome in Week 16. The remaining schedules after Week 12 seem to favor New Orleans.
Falcons: vs. Cardinals, at Packers, vs. Steelers, at Saints. vs. Panthers. That looks like 2-3 to me.
Saints: at Steelers, vs. Panthers, at Bears, vs. Falcons, at Bucs. That looks like 3-2 to me.
Bovada has the Saints at -175 and Falcons at +180 to win the South. Needless to say, if Atlanta wins Sunday and New Orleans loses here, those numbers will flip-flop. The site also has an interesting prop: Will the winner of the South win a playoff game? "No" is -300 and "yes" +200. It's obvious the South winner will be the No. 4 seed and thus would host the No. 5 seed, the first wild-card club. Right now that would be Green Bay, which currently loses a tiebreaker with Detroit. I expect the Packers to beat out the Lions for the NFC North. So would you trust the South winner to beat the Lions, the NFC East runner-up or Seattle/San Francisco? I think yes the first two but not the Niners or Seahawks. So I'd roll the dice on yes at a nice price.
Ravens at Saints Betting Story Lines
The last time Baltimore played in the Superdome things went pretty well -- other than a power outage -- as the Ravens beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Of course, Joe Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP, and he got a huge contract out of that performance. He was terrible last season and has been quite inconsistent this year. Over his past three games, Flacco has produced a below-average 75.5 passer rating when under duress or getting hit. Only six quarterbacks have been worse in that span. Since a five-touchdown masterpiece against Tampa Bay, Flacco has five TDs in four games but also five picks. He has had two games completing less than 60 percent with 195 yards or less since then. Top receiver Steve Smith started on fire but hasn't topped five catches or 67 yards in the past four.
New Orleans used to be invincible at home under Coach Sean Payton but has dropped two straight there. No shame in losing to the 49ers (in overtime) or Bengals, but the Saints barely put up an effort in last week's 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. Drew Brees, who isn't having a typical Drew Brees season, threw it 41 times and had only 255 yards and one TD. Brees has only two three-TD games this year. That used to be a weekly occurrence. The Saints defense, a problem all year, made Andy Dalton look like Aaron Rodgers. To make matters worse, excellent Saints rookie receiver Brandin Cooks was lost for the rest of season to a thumb injury. New Orleans might get back running back Pierre Thomas this week. He has been out since Week 7. Thomas is the clear backup to Mark Ingram, but Thomas is a good receiver out of the backfield.
Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints Week 12 NFL Monday Night Football Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New Orleans is a three-point favorite (-125) with opening alternate lines of 4.5 (+115), 3.5 (+100), 2.5 (-150) and two (-155). Not sure why four isn't available yet, but surely it will be at some point. The Saints are -175 on the moneyline and the Ravens +155. The total is 50 points. Baltimore is 5-4-1 against the spread (1-3-1 on road) and 5-5 "over/under" (4-1 on road). New Orleans is 4-6 ATS (2-3 at home) and 7-3 O/U (3-2 at home).
The Ravens are 4-1 ATS in their past five Monday games. They have covered just once in their past seven following an ATS win. The Saints have covered five of their past six Monday games. New Orleans is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 after scoring fewer than 15 points in its previous game. The under is 5-2 in Baltimore's past seven Monday games. The under is 4-1 in the Saints' past five following a double-digit loss at home. The over is 5-2 in New Orleans' past seven after a loss.
Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints Expert Monday Night Football Picks and Betting Predictions
Flacco has won four of his past five starts on Monday nights and five in a row overall against NFC teams. However, the Saints have won an amazing 14 straight home prime-time games, including playoffs. A vast majority weren't close, including a Week 9 blowout of red-hot Green Bay. Interestingly, Brees has beaten every team in the NFL but one: the Ravens. He has only faced them three times and not since 2010. Baltimore's defense hasn't looked good in losing two straight road games. Brees' drought ends this week. Give the 2.5 points and go over.
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