NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Split on my picks for last Thursday's season opener, although it should have been a winning sweep. The Falcons melt down every time they get near the Eagles goal line with a chance to win a game. Steve Sarkisian is a dang clown. Ah well, lost the side on Atlanta at 3.5, but the 'under' hit by a mile as we recommended in the 18-12 Philly win.
This Thursday's matchup doesn't look quite as exciting on paper as the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals renew their usually bitter rivalry as they become the first teams to play on the quick turnaround in Week 2. If you have to play on a Thursday, might as well do it this early when players are still pretty fresh … as opposed to, say, Week 15.
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Let's just start by saying some trends I do believe in and will affect my judgement while others I don't. In the latter category would be Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' abysmal 8-31 record in prime-time games including playoffs. I honestly can't explain that, nor can I the 5-19 record of his quarterback Andy Dalton at night. Somewhat of a fluke.
This is Cincinnati's only scheduled prime-time game, but they could be flexed later in the year. Since 2006, which is a couple of years before John Harbaugh arrived, the Ravens have a 22-17 record in prime-time contests and are 7-2 on Thursday nights. Baltimore plays at night again in Week 4 at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Ravens at Bengals Betting Story Lines
The winner here may well have a nice little lead in the division already. Of course, the Steelers and Browns tied in Week 1 - Cleveland should lose Week 2 in New Orleans, and Pittsburgh easily could at home to high-powered Kansas City.
Ravens fans need to calm down a bit as they are a bit overconfident because of their 47-3 destruction of the visiting Bills on Sunday. That was impressive, sure, but Buffalo is freaking terrible, especially at quarterback with Nate Peterman, who should never start an NFL game again, and incredibly raw rookie Josh Allen. That said, whenever you hold an NFL team to 153 yards, it's notable.
Joe Flacco looked almost like Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco as he was 25 of 34 for 236 yards and three scores -- Flacco threw three or more touchdowns to his wide receivers in a single game for only the fifth time in his career and for the first time since October 2014. None of the three - Willie Snead IV, John Brown or Michael Crabtree - were with the team last year. Maybe the Ravens don't need Dez Bryant. One huge benefit of that rout was Harbaugh got his starters out of there in the third quarter. Extra rest of any kind before a Thursday game is huge.
Cincinnati looked like toast in Indianapolis down 23-10 late in the third quarter but scored the game's final 24 points to ruin Andrew Luck's return. Andy Dalton was a very efficient 21 of 28 for 243 yards and two scores, one to star AJ Green (Dalton also had a TD-saving tackle on his pick). Joe Mixon had 95 yards and a TD on 17 carries and caught five balls for 54 yards. The Bengals have a lot of talent, and them winning the division would not shock me. Neither would going 6-10 because of Dalton.
One key defender on each side remains suspended for this one: Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith and Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Ravens at Bengals Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the game is a pick'em with a total of 43.5 . There is a moneyline, though, with Baltimore at -118 and Cincinnati at -102. On the alternate lines, the Ravens are -1 (-110) and -1.5 (-105). Baltimore is 1-0 against the spread (first road game) and 1-0 "over/under." Cincinnati is 1-0 ATS (first home game) and 1-0 O/U.
The Ravens have covered just three of the past 14 following a win of at least 14 points. The Bengals have covered six straight vs. the AFC. The under is 8-3 in Baltimore's past 11 vs. the AFC North. It's 4-0 in Cincinnati's past four vs. the division. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings. The Ravens are 4-9 ATS in their previous 13 in Cincinnati.
Ravens at Bengals Betting Prediction
Cincinnati had won five straight at home in the series before laying a huge 20-0 egg in Week 1 last year. The Bengals got the last laugh, though, stunning the Ravens in Week 17 in the final minute to knock Baltimore out of a wild-card spot and push Buffalo into it (hard to believe the Bills were a playoff team).
No Smith could mean a huge night for Green, and I'm almost always leaning the home side in these TNF games unless given a compelling reason not to. Go Bengals on the moneyline and the under.
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