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Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens Pick.
Denver Broncos (10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (9-4 SU, 5-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 16th, 2012, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
TV: CBS/DirecTV 709
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Den -2.5/BAL +2.5
Over/Under Total: 48
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Two of the AFC’s best will get together for a playoff-like clash on what some are calling “Showdown Sunday,” when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos travel to M&T Bank Stadium for a date with the Baltimore Ravens in an early game on CBS.
Denver has had a few extra days of rest and preparation following their win over the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders last Thursday, 26-13, a win that was made sweeter on Monday Night. The Broncos like the rest of the league watched as AFC-leading Houston was destroyed on the big stage by New England, opening the door for the Broncos and Manning to have an outside shot at homefield throughout the AFC playoffs if they can keep the pedal floored the final three weeks of the regular season.
With home dates against Cleveland and Kansas City left on the schedule, the Broncos will have a tailor-made route to the top seed if they can just get past the Ravens this Sunday on the road in Baltimore and get some help from the Texans and Patriots.
Despite nine wins and a two-game lead in the AFC North, all is not well in Baltimore. The Ravens have lost two in a row, including a stunner in overtime last week to Washington, 31-28, when they let backup QB Kirk Cousins rally to tie the game in the closing minutes and then gave up a 64-yard punt return to seal their fate in OT.
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Baltimore is pushing panic buttons too, firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron this week even though the Ravens are still the 9th-best scoring team in the league on offense (25.5 ppg). The Ravens have struggled in recent weeks on offense, but Cameron’s firing has raised more red flags than it’s solved problems and how exactly is it his fault that the Ravens are ranked 24th in defense and allowed third-stringer Charlie Batch of Pittsburgh and the rookie Cousins to drive the ball down the field with ease in crunch time the past two weeks?
With Denver and Manning suddenly with something to play for (they clinched the AFC West weeks ago), oddsmakers set the opening point spread for Sunday’s tilt with the Broncos as 3-point road favorites. Even with a large amount of money coming in quickly on the side of Denver, the number has gone in the opposite direction with it dropping to minus -2.5 at some of the offshore sportsbooks and almost all of the books in Las Vegas.
The over/under total opened at 48 and unlike the point spread, it has yet to move in either direction since it opened late on Sunday night.
Former Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell will take over for Cameron on Sunday, but it’s hard to imagine the Ravens offense changing too much. Cameron took some heat for not utilizing running back Ray Rice as much as some thought he should, so maybe Rice will get more touches which could lead to better rushing numbers overall (109 ypg - 17th). Going against the Broncos run defense (6th in the league - 94 ypg) might make that a hard task, but it would make sense since the Broncos also feature one of the league’s top pass rushing tandems with Von Miller (16 sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (8 sacks).
Considering the Broncos offense is second in scoring, with over 28 points a game (28.8), the Ravens might not get the luxury of handing the ball off to Rice and milking the time of possession. Denver has the luxury of having a solid offensive line in front of Manning, and since the loss of Willis McGahee the Broncos have relied on Manning finding big targets Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Joel Dreessen more and more.
Running back Knowshon Moreno is finally showing flashes of why he was a first-round draft pick, but with Manning standing at the line of scrimmage against a Ravens defense that is porous both against the pass (247 ypg - 23rd) and the run (129 ypg - 25th), Manning will make calls and get the Broncos into whatever plays they need to be in to move the ball down the field.
Baltimore has won the previous two meetings against the Broncos, in 2009 and 2010, both by lopsided scores (30-7 and 31-17, respectively) and both of them at M&T Bank Stadium. In fact, the Broncos-Ravens series over the years has been a home team’s paradise, with Baltimore going 5-0 SU at home, while the Broncos are also 4-1 SU in the five games played in Denver.
However, the Ravens have cashed like an ATM when these two meet, going 7-1-1 ATS since 1996 including a perfect 5-0 ATS mark at home in Baltimore.
Both teams have gone over the total in eight of their 13 games this season, and the over is a solid 7-3 in Denver’s last 10 road games and 5-1 in the Ravens last six at home, so the over looks like a strong betting trend play this Sunday if you have a hard time picking a side.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I like Baltimore to win this game straight up. I highly recommend shopping around to get the best number (+3). Good luck!
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