Baltimore Ravens (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date and Time: Thursday, September 5th, 2014, 8:30 pm EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bal. +10/Den. -10
Over/Under Total: 48
The Baltimore Ravens earned the honor of being in the National Football Leagues showcase Thursday Night Kickoff special in September by winning the big game in February, but if you ask the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens I bet theyd say they got the short-end of it since they are forced to travel to Mile High Stadium to take on Peyton Manning and the AFC-favorite Denver Broncos in the NFL regular season opener on NBC.
The Ravens like most championship teams have endured their share of player turnover following the title season, but with virtually most of the pieces back in Baltimore including now-no-doubt-franchise QB Joe Flacco, not much is really expected out of Ravens camp this year. Whether its because the Ravens have been written off because of the difficulty of repeating as champs, or if there are legit holes in their title-winning armor, remains to be seen in 2013.
The same can not be said about Manning and the Broncos however, as they are everybodys short favorite to win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl this season despite an offseason of off-the-field turmoil (DUIs, player suspensions). Even after the NFL suspended Broncos defensive end Von Miller for six-games to start the season, the Broncos remained atop the AFC list of favorites as the folks out in Las Vegas and offshore didnt hardly blink an eye.
The line movement on the point spread is a perfect example of the love for the Broncos in the opener. When some sportsbooks opened the point spread for this game all the way back in May (like 5Dimes.eu), the Broncos were listed as 7-point favorites. The number quickly moved to minus -8.5 by early August and is all the way up to minus -10 at some offshore sportsbooks, and thats after the Miller suspension.
The over/under total opened as high as 49.5 but has since dropped to as low as 48 at most books, although you can still find plenty of 48.5s on the board offshore as well as in Vegas.
Offensively the only real concern with the Ravens coming into the season is along the offensive line, and its razor-thin depth. But they spent most of the preseason working backups, and once the games count its hard to deny the Ravens offensive combination of speed (Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones), power (Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce behind Vonte Leach) and experience (Ravens took flyers on both Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley). Without Miller the Broncos will be missing both sides of their pass rush, because Elvis Dumervil now plays for Baltimore. Corner Champ Bailey had leg issues late in the preseason, which could be trouble for him and the Broncos secondary if theres no pressure on Flacco.
The Broncos should enjoy the addition of Wes Welker to the slot, which when combined with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas does give Denver fans plenty to be excited about this season. The Broncos also have depth issues along the line (C Dan Koppen already out with ACL), but theyll be facing a Baltimore defense that is merely a shell of the intimidating unit it once was in the league. Dummervil may give an inspired effort, and his presence alone should help Terrell Suggs draw more one-on-ones, but theyll still have a beast of a time trying to get Manning rattled because he gets rid of it too quick.
The betting trends for this opening night tilt are mixed, with some of the stronger trends good for both sides. For example, Baltimore is a solid 4-2 ATS when theyre a 3.5-to-9.5 underdog, but Denver is even better at 7-1 ATS when the favorite in that same point range. Denver is 5-2 ATS versus the AFC North over the years, where the Ravens are 23-12 ATS when playing the AFC West. About the only one-sided betting trend was the fact Baltimore is just 1-4 ATS on Thursdays and thats reaching all the way back to 1993.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Denver will win, but I dont think it will be as lopsided as everyone thinks it will be on Thursday. Ill take +10-points and the defending champion Ravens on the road in this one.
Extra: NFL sharp Jeff Hochman adds:
5* Baltimore Ravens
The Broncos will be without their three best defensive players against the
pass in this game. The Ravens are extremely motivated as they are getting
no respect. This is the largest spread ever for a defending Super Bowl Champion
in their opening game. The Ravens pass rush will be much improved and former
Bronco Elvis Dumervil will be pumped up going against his former team. They
should get to Manning and cause enough distress to keep this game close.