Baltimore Ravens (8-7 SU, 7-8 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1 SU, 6-9 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday January 1st, 2017. 1:00PM (EST) 2016
Where: Paul Brown Stadium Cincinnati, O.H.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BAL +3/CIN -3
Over/Under Total: 42
Last week for about 45 minutes, the Baltimore Ravens appeared to be in control of their destiny. The Ravens had shut down the Steelers offense and were in a position to clinch the AFC North as they held a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter. Then things took a sudden change as the Steelers offense rallied behind Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to score 21 points in the 4th quarter in a dramatic comeback victory by Pittsburgh. The loss not only caused the Ravens to lose the AFC North but it also simultaneously eliminated them from the playoffs. Now instead of preparing for the postseason, the Ravens will conclude their 2016 campaign with a road trip against the Cincinnati Bengals to cap off week 17.
Obviously this game appears to be a tough spot for the Ravens from a motivational and/or emotional standpoint. They just went to the brink with the Steelers in a hard fought game that held a ton of importance and will now transition to a somewhat meaningless game to close out the season against the Bengals. Therefore motivation has to be a concern for Baltimore as they look to put some type of positive spin on the heels of last week’s disappointing 4th quarter collapse. Despite the Ravens 8-7 SU record on the year compared to the Bengals 5-9-1 SU campaign, the Ravens will be 3 point underdogs for those reasons when both teams collide on Sunday.
However, Baltimore’s team and coaches have vowed that they will finish the season strong. I know there may be some added motivation to send WR Steve Smith out with a victory in what is expected to be the Hall of Fame receiver’s final game. Still even with those factors considered, I think this is a tough bounce back spot for the Ravens. Quarterback Joe Flacco is not exactly having a great year and the entire offense is struggling with consistency. Flacco has actually thrown at least 1 pick in his last 5 games but has also thrown 10 touchdowns during that stretch. Flacco has been leaned on heavily down the stretch thanks to a Baltimore rushing attack that has lacked reliability.
In fact, the Ravens rank 26th in the league in rushing offense averaging just 96 yards per game in what has become a committee backfield between Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon. Dixon, the rookie, has actually looked really good with the ball in his hands. Dixon’s weakness has been in pass protection and as a result has not been able to stay on the field. Still, he has shown some great moments when the ball is in his hands and he is a guy that could put a spark back in this offense. With the playoffs not out of the question, it would not be surprising to see Coach John Harbaugh give Dixon the bulk of the action as they look for ways to reignite this offense.
The good news for Baltimore’s offense is that they may not have to be overly impressive to beat a depleted Bengals team this Sunday. Cincinnati’s offense has been dealing with the loss of star WR A.J Green for weeks and most recently TE Tyler Eifert’s season ended when he was added to the IR for back related issues. While there is a chance Green could return on Sunday, he would likely still not be at 100% even if he plays which is still unlikely. Therefore, the Bengals are without their two best pass catchers and do not forget that running back Giovani Bernard also went down several weeks ago.
As a result, quarterback Andy Dalton has had to rely heavily on some unknown suspects in recent weeks to move the football. WR Brandon LaFell has posted some nice box scores with at least 90 yards receiving in 3 of the last 4 games. LaFell has inherited the bulk of the targets from this depleted offense which gives him some fantasy value if nothing else. Still, the Bengals have struggled down the stretch averaging just 18 points in their last 7 games and now they get the tough task of facing off with a Ravens defense that ranks 5th overall in total defense. Therefore considering the Bengals injury woes and the Ravens struggles on offense combined with the motivation factor, I would not be surprised if the scoring remains really low.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Neither team has played well against the number this season. Baltimore is trending down as they have covered just once in their last 6 road games. Meanwhile, the Bengals are just 3-6-1 ATS in their last 10 games at home. Instead, I believe the under 42 is the play here as this is a bad matchup for both offenses. Take the under 42!
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