Free NFL Picks: Ravens at Bengals Week 17 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/24/2013
The Baltimore Ravens are the only team in the NFL to win a playoff game each of the past five seasons, but that streak is in major jeopardy on Sunday should Baltimore lose at Cincinnati. The Bengals have been dominant at home this season and also have something to play for despite having clinched the AFC North.
The Ravens would have avoided all this drama had their won at home against New England last week. So as it is, Baltimore, Miami and San Diego (all 8-7) are tied for the final AFC wild-card spot. Pittsburgh (7-8) also is still in the running. The simplest thing for Baltimore to do is beat Cincinnati and have either Miami (home to Jets) or San Diego (home to Chiefs, who have no reason to play their starters) lose. Baltimore wins any head-to-head tiebreaker with either the Dolphins or Chargers, but Miami would win a three-way tiebreaker with those two. Miami takes it with a win and Ravens loss or win and Chargers win. The Bolts must win and have both the Fins and Ravens lose. Pittsburgh needs plenty of help: win over Cleveland plus losses by Baltimore, Miami and San Diego. Got all that?
The Bengals will clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a victory and a Patriots loss at home against Buffalo. Those games are being played simultaneously, so there won't be any lying down by either team. Should Cincinnati win and New England win, as I expect, the Bengals will host the Ravens/Dolphins/Chargers/Steelers No. 6 seed next weekend in the wild-card round, with the Colts hosting K.C. in the other AFC game. Got all that? Sounds complicated, but at least we know the four division champs in the AFC -- nary a division has been clinched yet in the NFC, which is amazing. One of the best things the NFL has done in recent years was ensure that there are all intra-divisional games in Week 17.
Ravens at Bengals Betting Story Lines
I will admit that I was shocked how flat Baltimore was in last week's 41-7 home loss to the Patriots, Baltimore's worst loss since 1997 and worst-ever at home. Yes, it was a short week for the Ravens, but they had been excellent at home and the Pats hadn't exactly been crushing teams. It was all but over five seconds into the second quarter when the Patriots went up 17-0. The Ravens turned the ball over four times and had nine penalties. It's just not the kind of undisciplined football you see this team play under John Harbaugh. Shoot, even Justin Tucker missed a kick. Joe Flacco didn't look great playing with a knee brace -- he injured the knee in Week 15's win at Detroit -- so that's something to watch this week because the Bengals are going to get after him. Harbaugh admitted on Monday that Flacco "definitely isn't 100 percent."
Cincinnati predictably blew out Minnesota 42-17 last week to clinch its first division title since 2009, which was the last time the Bengals had a home playoff game (lost to Jets). Cincinnati can definitely win the Super Bowl when Andy Dalton is on, and he was against the Vikings with 366 yards and four touchdowns. He now has nine TDs and no picks in the previous three games. In the five games before that, Dalton had at least one pick in each and 10 total. The Bengals have scored at least 41 points in four straight home games, and Dalton has 15 TD passes in those games. The defense is doing its part, having had a score in four straight games overall (home and away), and the team's 3.4 defensive points scored per game also leads the league.
Cincinnati did suffer a potential big injury against the Vikings as linebacker Vontaze Burfict is in the league's concussion protocol this week, so it's very questionable whether he will play. He leads the NFL with a team-record 157 tackles and also had two sacks against Minnesota.
Ravens at Bengals NFL Week 17 Betting Odds and Trends
At BookMaker, Cincinnati is a 5.5-point favorite with a total of 44.5. The Ravens are 7-8 ATS (3-4 on road) and 7-8 “over/under” (4-3 on road). The Bengals are 9-5-1 ATS (7-0 at home) and 9-5-1 O/U (5-2 at home). The Ravens are 6-0-1 ATS in their past seven road games against teams with a winning home record. The Ravens are 1-4 ATS in their past five following a double-digit loss at home. The Bengals are 5-1 ATS in their past six after a win of at least two touchdowns. They have covered four straight against teams with a winning record. The under is 7-3 in Baltimore's past 10 against the AFC North. The under is 6-2 in Cincinnati's past eight against the AFC North. The favorite is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Free NFL Picks: Ravens at Bengals Betting Predictions
Baltimore beat the visiting Bengals 20-17 in overtime in Week 10. The Ravens led 17-0 at the half, but Cincinnati tied it on a 51-yard Hail Mary from Dalton to A.J. Green at the end of regulation. The Ravens won it on Tucker's 46-yard field goal with 5:27 left in OT. The Ravens had just 189 yards and gave it away three times. The Bengals had 364 yards but also nine penalties for 134 yards (114 in the first half) and three Dalton interceptions.
However, the Bengals have won three of the past four in this series at home. Much like Steelers-Ravens, Bengals-Ravens games are usually fairly low-scoring and close. Only one of the past seven matchups has been decided by more than eight points. Which QB can limit the turnovers in this one? If Flacco can't elude the rush on his gimpy knee, I don't think it's him. That said, I expect a total bounce-back effort here from the prideful Ravens and think the game ends on a late field goal again (but for Cincinnati). Take the points and the under.
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