Baltimore Ravens (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5 SU, 2-4 ATS), 8:30 p.m. EST, Week 7 NFL, MNF, October 24, 2011, Everbank Field, Jacksonville, Fla., TV: ESPN
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Balt -7.5/Jax +7.5
Over/Under Total: 39
Two teams that are heading in the proverbial opposite directions in the AFC will clash at Everbank Field in primetime on Monday Night Football this week when the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Baltimore Ravens in week seven NFL action in Florida.
The Ravens are one of three teams sitting atop the AFC North standings with four wins, with their last one coming in the form of a, 29-14, victory over the Houston Texans last weekend. It took Baltimore a few quarters to get rolling, but once they did they took advantage of the banged-up Texans fade in the late quarters to score 16 unanswered points in the final 18 minutes to pull away for the 15 point win.
With their early bye week already behind them, the Ravens will head into the primetime affair in Jacksonville with a three-game winning streak and a head of steam that they hope they can somehow carry throughout the rest of the regular season and into the AFC playoffs.
Meanwhile the Jaguars have already decided to turn the page and look toward the future, inserting rookie Blaine Gabbert at quarterback to try and get him some learn on the fly experience in the NFL.
Like most rookie quarterbacks in the league Gabbert has had his moments, but they came pretty few and far between in last weeks 17-13 loss to the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers on the road at Heinz Field. Gabbert and the Jags offense were barely able to reach 200 total yards in the game as the Steelers scored 17 first half points and then flipped it into cruise control the rest of the game to drop Jacksonville to 1-5 on the season.
With Monday Night Football traveling to Jacksonville for their showcase game the time is certainly ripe for the Jaguars to spring the upset, the big question is whether or not they have enough firepower on both sides of the ball to accomplish the feat.
The oddsmakers opening point spread for this game also reflects the fact that Jacksonville has flipped the page toward the future, as they listed the opening number with Baltimore as rather large 9-point favorites on the road. However, the early money at the window is not in agreement with oddsmakers, as most of the early wagering has come in on Jacksonville to drop the number to minus -8 or -7.5 at most sports books in Las Vegas and offshore.
The over/under total opened at 39 to start the week and it has held firm at most sportsbooks, but there are a few that have dropped it the hook to list it at 38.5.
On paper, this game is a total mismatch when the Jaguars have to play offense. Ranked last in the NFL in multiple categories and with a rookie QB at the helm, the Jaguars will have to somehow find a way to put it all together this week against the Ravens top-ranked defense in points allowed.
On the field, you and I both know that the Ravens defense with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and others are going to have fun with Gabbert on Monday Night Football. If the Ravens contain Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars running game (122.7 ypg 10th) on early downs, the bait-n-switch game that Lewis and Co. will play on passing downs with Gabbert could get ugly.
While the Jaguars offense has struggled, the defense has been forced to play a lot of downs and its sort of taken away from how well theyve played so far this season. Ranked 8th in the NFL in yards allowed, the Jaguars defense will have to focus their attention at stopping the Ravens running game and Ray Rice. The Jags have done a decent job of stopping the run this year (115 ypg 13th), so it will likely be a pivotal factor the Ravens attack this week.
Joe Flacco and the Ravens passing offense seem to be clicking right now, including the Flacco-to-Anquan Bolden combo that connected for big yardage on play action last week against the Texans. But the secondary is the strongest part of the Jaguars defense, so it wont be easy pickings for Flacco if they dont control the game on the ground.
The last time these two met on the gridiron was back in 2008, a 27-7 Ravens victory at home as 10-point favorites. In fact, the Ravens have beaten the Jaguars in seven of their last meetings dating back to 2000.
Of course the last game that was played in Jacksonville (2005) was the lone Jaguars victory in that seven-of-eight, a 30-3 victory by the Jags back in the Byron Leftwich era. That game was also the lone cover by the Jags in the head-to-head series since 2001 (1-3-1- ATS).
Most of the betting trends favor the Ravens too, including their stellar 5-1 ATS record in their last six Monday Night Football games while the Jaguars are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine in primetime. The Ravens are 5-1 ATS in their last six as a road favorite, theyre 15-6 ATS against bad teams (i.e. losing record), the Jaguars are 3-10 ATS vs. winning teams the trends just point toward the Ravens.
The over is 12-5-1 in the last 18 meetings between these two teams, but its actually the under that is 3-1-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings in Jacksonville.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Frankly, Im very surprised by the point spread dropping in this game, which makes me gun shy because I think I smell a trap game. I guess maybe the bright lights of Monday Night will bring out the best in the Jaguars, but I just dont see how it could happen really. The Ravens roll in this one easily, so Im taking Baltimore minus the 7.5-points.
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