Cincinnati Bengals (3-1, 2-2 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-1, 3-1 ATS), M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Sunday, Oct. 11, 1 PM Eastern, CBS
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bengals +8.5/Ravens -8 1/2
AFC North Divisional rivals hook up in what should be a good one when the Baltimore Ravens play host to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon in B-Town.
Sportsbooks across the Internet opened this game with Baltimore favored by from 7 points to nine, with a total of 41 or 42. As of Thursday morning the Ravens are listed at from -8 to -9 at most outlets. And the total has been bumped a bit, to 42.
Baltimore is also listed at right around -380 on most NFL moneylines, with Cincy getting upwards of +320.
Both these teams could be 4-0; Cincy’s only loss came on a fluke play in the last 20 seconds on opening day vs. Denver, and Baltimore’s only setback came last week at New England when WR Mark Clayton dropped what would have been a drive-sustaining first down as the Ravens sought a game-winning score in the final moments.
In week 2, the Bengals outplayed the Packers in Green Bay and won 31-24 as eight-point dogs on the road. In week 3, Cincy overcame an early 14-0 deficit, fought back and got a game-winning TD in the waning seconds for a 23-20 victory over their divisional rival and defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Last week the Bengals blew a 14-0 lead, fell behind 20-14, scored a game-tying TD in the final seconds, had the game-winning PAT blocked, then had to convert on fourth-and-long late in an overtime period before getting a FG from K Shayne Graham for a 23-20 win at Cleveland. But Cincinnati didn’t do its financial backers any favors, failing to cover the pointspread as 6 1/2-point road chalk.
Last Sunday, the Ravens were the victims of some iffy calls by the zebras at New England, and came up short in a 27-21 loss to the Patriots. And getting the respect they probably deserve, Baltimore was only getting two points on the road at the early-season favorites to win the Superbowl.
The Ravens had opened the season with wins and covers over Kansas City, at San Diego and over Cleveland.
Cincy QB Carson Palmer hasn’t been great this season, but he’s done some good things at good times. Overall, Palmer has hit on 58% of his passes for a 6.2 YPA average, six TDs and five INTs, for a 75.2 passing rating.
On the other side of this quarterback match-up, Ravens 2nd-year man Joe Flacco is coming right along. So far this season Flacco has completed 63 % of his passes this season for a 7.3 YPA average, eight TDs and three INTs, for a 94.3 passing rating.
Through the first four games of this season, the Bengals rank 21st in the league in total offense at 319 YPG, 11th in rushing at 123 YPG, 16th in defense at 345 YPG and 14th vs. the run at 103 YPG.
The Ravens, meanwhile, rank 3rd in offense at 414 YPG, 5th in rushing at 147 YPG, 8th in defense at 292 YPG and 1st vs. the run at a stingy 60 YPG.
Cincinnati also ranks 6th in the league in average time-of-possession at 32:08, while Baltimore ranks 10th at 31:13.
Baltimore swept the season series from Cincy last year, winning 17-10 in week 1 and 34-3 in week 13. Palmer played that first game vs. the Ravens, but missed the latter dealing with a bad elbow. The Ravens outrushed the Bengals in those two games together by a 376-122 margin.
On the injury front, Baltimore LT Jared Gaither suffered a serious neck strain last week, and is very questionable for Sunday’s game.
So far this season, NFL home teams are 37-25 straight up, 32-30 against the spreads. Favorites are 45-17 SU and 36-26 ATS. And home favorites are 31-11 straight up, 24-18 vs. the numbers.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rank the Ravens 6th in the league at 25.5, the Bengals 17th at 21.0. Sagarin’s updated NFL home-field advantage factor sits at 3.2.
Z-Man’s Picks I like the Bengals plus the points.