Baltimore Ravens (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) at St. Louis Rams (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS), 4:05 p.m. EST, Week 3 NFL, Sunday, September 11, 2011, Edward Jones Dome, (Turf) St. Louis, Mo., TV: FOX
by Jeff Hochman, Pro Football Handicapper, JH-Sportsline
Point Spread: Balt -3.5/STL +3.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5
The St. Louis Rams, looking for their first win of the season host the Baltimore Ravens fresh off its upset loss to the Titans in week two.
The Gmen defeated the Rams last Monday 28-16, as 7-point home favorites. St. Louis out-gained New York by 67 yards but the lack of red-zone scoring really hurt them. Sam Bradford, who was 22 of 46 for 331 yards did throw for a career high, but completing under 50% of his throws will not win many NFL games. The Rams could not get out of their own way. A muffed punt, a blown coverage late in the first half and a crucial pass interference penalty early in the second quarter were key mistakes that led to the Rams handing the Giants a gift win.
Baltimore lost 26-13 to the Titans, as 5.5-point road chalk. The Ravens were out-gained by 203 yards in the ugly loss while committing three costly turnovers. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 358 yards and a touchdown, and the Titans gave new coach Mike Munchak a big win in their home opener. The Titans set the tone from the opening kickoff, deferring to let Baltimore take the ball on offense. Tennessee forced the Ravens to go three-and-out on their first two possessions. Chris Johnson ran for 53 yards on 24 carries against a very good Ravens’ run defense. The pass defense did not show up. The Ravens defense has always bounced back from poor performances, and will now take on the Rams who have a short week to prepare.
One thing is very clear and that is the Ravens defense will need to perform better if they have any hopes of making the playoffs. After forcing a franchise-record seven turnovers against the Steelers, the Ravens’ defense only created one against the Titans while yielding a whopping 432 yards. Baltimore let Matt Hasselbeck throw for 358 yards, and will likely need its secondary to step up in order to slow down Bradford and the Rams.
The status of Rams’ running back Steven Jackson is still up in the air. Jackson sat out Monday after injuring his right quad in a season-opening 31-13 loss to Philadelphia, and head coach Steve Spagnuolo isn’t sure if he’ll be healthy this week. The Rams rushed for 59 yards against the Giants, with backup Carnell Williams finishing with 36 yards on 13 attempts. Baltimore did a solid job against another elite back last week, holding Chris Johnson to 53 yards on 24 carries. But by putting eight men near the line of scrimmage to stop Johnson, Hasselbeck was able to pick apart a Baltimore secondary that was missing cornerbacks Chris Carr (hamstring) and Jimmy Smith (high ankle sprain). Carr is questionable to return this week, while Smith will almost certainly miss at least another game. Look for the Ravens to play more of a Zone look on defense in this game.
I talked about the Ravens bouncing back from poor efforts and here this proof. While the Ravens are nearly unbeatable when Flacco plays well, they are also pretty good at bouncing back from losses, having won eight straight following a defeat since October 2009. The Ravens are 18-2 when Flacco has a passer rating of 100 or higher, and this will be his first game against the Rams. These teams haven’t met since Baltimore forced six turnovers in a 22-3 win on Oct. 14, 2007. The Rams’ track record isn’t as impressive. They’re 0-2 for a fifth straight season and have opened with three consecutive losses three of the last four years.
Both teams are 1-1 ITS (in the stats) this season, but both teams have poor special teams play after the first two weeks. The Ravens are ranked 18th while the Rams check in at No.20 in Special Teams play. It’s early and I expect both teams to improve throughout the year. Both quarterbacks need to step up their games sooner rather than later. Joe Flacco is completing only 52% of his throws while Bradford is completing just 51%. That puts too much pressure on the offensive line and running games and will not win many games in today’s NFL.
The Ravens are just 1-7 SU and 2-5 ATS on Artificial Turf over the last three seasons. The Rams are 10-7 SU and 11-5-1 ATS vs. AFC North foes since 1993.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Baltimore Ravens -3.5.
Most of the trends might suggest to take the home dog in this one but I just don’t see it. The Ravens are pissed about how they played last week and should bounce back in this spot. Baltimore is 22-2 SU and 18-6 ATS when facing losing teams under Jim Harbaugh. The Ravens simply have too much talent on both sides of the ball for this Rams’ team to handle. The injuries to the Ravens secondary are a bit of a concern, but with that said I will like Baltimore in this spot.
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