(4-11, 6-9 ATS)
(11-4, 8-6-1 ATS)
Last weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals ended the playoff dreams for the San Diego Chargers by pulling off the big time upset at home. They can’t end the season of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but they can send the hosts on the road for the whole postseason an upset of epic proportions in NFL betting action in Week 17.
Cincinnati has shown some fight in recent weeks, and we are trying to figure out how it is doing that in spite of the fact that there are a number of injuries to deal with. QB Carson Palmer is looking around and wondering what has happened to all of his friends. WR Terrell Owens is done for the year, while neither TE Jermaine Gresham nor WR Chad Ochocinco are expected to suit either. That puts a real damper on a passing attack that ranked No. 13 in the league at 230.8 yards per game, and it really leaves the Bengals with very few options. This was a team that only averaged 326.3 yards per game this year and parlayed that into 21.0 points per game. The defense has had some great moments, particularly early in the season, but when push has come to shove, averaging 25.5 points per game allowed is nothing to write home about. Since their bye week, the Bengals are conceding 28.0 points per game, including giving up 49 to the Buffalo Bills and 39 to the Atlanta Falcons. When the Bengals give up more than 20 points in a game this year, they are 0-11. When they give up 20 or fewer, they are 4-0.
Baltimore has all to play for on Sunday, as it knows that it can do no worse than the No. 5 seed in the playoffs with a win. The biggest prize though, would be the No. 2 seed in the second season, something that would require a win and a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cleveland Browns. We know when this team puts it all together that it can be downright frightening. We really haven’t seen it all come together quite yet, though, and Head Coach John Harbaugh is hoping that this changes just in time for the playoffs. The Ravens haven’t had a losing streak all season long, and they have won three in a row as we speak, their longest winning streak of the year. When you talk about this team though, you talk about the defense, and this year once again, Baltimore is littered with Pro Bowlers on this side of the ball. As a core, the numbers weren’t absolutely stellar this year, as 313.8 yards and 17.5 points per game are solid, but not up to the standards that this unit as for itself. The return of S Ed Reed to the lineup helped immensely after the team’s bye week, and it is amazing that he is still a Pro Bowler and still led the team in picks with six on the campaign.
If nothing else, there is also a big time measure of revenge to be exacted here. The Bengals beat the Ravens thanks to five field goals in a 15-10 win back in Week 2, and the hosts haven’t forgotten about it. Cincinnati has won three straight in this series, but that comes to an end this week. An angry set of Ravens will make the Bengals disappear and will probably deliver a blow to the franchise that Head Coach Marvin Lewis will not recover from.
NFL Free Pick: Baltimore Ravens -10