Cincinnati Bengals (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Monday September 10th, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cin +6/BAL -6
Over/Under Total: 41
The Baltimore Ravens were a shanked field goal away from a birth in the Super Bowl last year, so watching to see how they respond with a crucial AFC North divisional tilt with the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium for a regular-season opener will be a game worth watching on ESPNs early version of the Monday Night Football opening week doubleheader.
The Ravens were so close last year they could taste it, but with 2012 brings the even bigger challenge of getting back on top. With virtually the entire cast back this season, now the challenge for the Ravens will be to stay at the peak of the mountain while their stars on defense like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed get another year older.
Cincinnati was one of the biggest surprises and best stories of 2011, so the Bengals also have a lot of ground to earn back this season if they hope to get back into the AFC playoffs. With QB Andy Dalton and exciting young receiver A.J. Green both another year deeper into the playbook, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis over from the Patriots to run the ball in place of Cedric Benson, optimism is high in Cincy for another strong run even though most people are overlooking them again this year.
Oddsmakers originally opened the important divisional Bengals-Ravens clash with Baltimore as 5-point favorites, but over the course of the four-week preseason the number has climbed a full point to Ravens minus -6 as most sportsbooks with most of the early money coming in on the Ravens.
The over/under total has moved a little since it opened as well, originally getting released at 40 to what is now listed on most boards at 41. If you shop around you might find a few 40.5 at some of the offshore sportsbooks, but you may have to pay extra juice for the half-point.
Offensively, both teams should be ready to roll come Monday Night. Cincinnatis offense under Dalton didnt exactly set the world on fire in the preseason, so they will have a lot more to prove to everyone including the oddsmakers. Baltimore will have the steady hand of Joe at QB and a steady dose of Ray Rice running the ball, but with both Ed Dickson (shoulder) and WR Torrey Smith (ankle) dinged up the Ravens offense will be at less than full strength in the opener.
Defensively is where all of the red flags and question marks pop up when handicapping this MNF opener. The Ravens still have solid veterans Haloti Ngata, Lewis and Reed along all three levels of the defense, but this year without the game-changing presence of Terrell Suggs on the edge its hard to imagine a complete return to form. The Bengals defense is solid but unspectacular, and playing without rookie CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) all preseason, a player they counted on to help solve some of the coverage issues, it looks like the unit has yet to gel together for a long season.
While the Bengals-Ravens series has been even on the field (5-5 SU in last 10 back to 2007), Cincinnati has been a great wager of late going 4-1-1 ATS in the last six head-to-heads (6-3-1 ATS L10). The Bengals are a lousy 0-4-1 ATS vs. the AFC North, but somehow have found a way to be 3-1-1 ATS in their last five trips to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Ravens are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games under the lights of Monday Night Football though.
The over/under betting trends are either up or down depending on which team youre looking at for the trend. Cincy is the over team, with the over going 5-1 in their last six vs. AFC North and 10-4 in their last 14 overall. But the Ravens are all about the under, including a 4-1 mark on MNF, a 5-2 mark vs. the AFC North and a 4-1 mark in the last five head-to-head meetings with the Bengals in Baltimore.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I expect the Ravens to come out of the gates ready, just like a veteran team should play in the opener. Cincinnati may have a slower start, but I think they keep this game closer than the number a la a late backdoor cover. Im taking Cincinnati plus the +6 points.
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