Kansas City Chiefs (8-5 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (4-9 SU, 3-8-2 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: MT&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
By Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: KC -7.5/BAL +7.5
Over/Under Total: 41.5
The Kansas City Chiefs come into MT&T Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens in AFC action on Sunday. This is a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions. The Chiefs are on the heels of a 7-game winning streak, which has allowed them to remarkably come back from a hopeless-looking 1-5 start to now be holding one of the two AFC wild card spots at 8-5. On Sunday, they narrowly beat the Chargers, 10-7. The Ravens, meanwhile, lost at home to the Seahawks, 35-6, a defeat that sent them to 4-9 on the season.
Even when the Ravens had Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, Sr., and Justin Forsett in there, they werent exactly firing this season. But the injury bug has robbed them of their menace. On Sunday in the collapse to Seattle, they were working with their third-string quarterback in Jimmy Clausen, with a stripped cast of playmakers. They scored a measly two field goals at home. The week before, they scored 5 field goals against Miami. They havent scored a TD in December.
Its safe to say that Baltimores season hasnt really worked out well. At the same time, not a lot of teams would be thriving in these conditions, with so many injuries across all areas of the team. The defense has lost key playmakers, the offensive line has been hit hard, and the skill-positions stripped dry. Now even productive tight end Crockett Gilmore is questionable. Theres still some doubt late in the week as to who will start at quarterback for the Ravens. Matt Schaub may be ready to return after a concussion, Clausen is an option, and they also signed Ryan Mallett. Whoever it is will be working with a thin cast. The run-game is led by Terrance West and Javorius Allen, while the aerial attack consists of Kamar Aiken and a bunch of anonymous names who have never made a big contribution in an NFL game.
Despite their innumerable issues, the Ravens had been managing to remain somewhat competitive. They were the first team to go its first 12 games with no game being decided by more than an 8-point margin. In winning or losing, all their games were one-score affairs. But against a peaking Seattle team on Sunday, that all fell apart. And they face another red-hot team this week and you cant help but think that whatever was keeping Baltimore competitive may be starting to wane as they dig deeper into their barrel of personnel. One of the reasons they had been competitive was their defense, which has played admirably despite the conditions. Theyve managed to remain tough against the run and steadfast despite being hung out to dry lately by a reeling offense.
Kansas Citys turnaround this season really speaks to quality of their players and coaches. You cant underestimate the mental wherewithal of a team that is flat on their backs at 1-5 and then manages to peel off a winning streak like this. The Chiefs last lost on October 18 and have done so without their best offensive player in Jamaal Charles.
The Chiefs have gotten standout play by QB Alex Smith. He didnt have the best game on Sunday, throwing his first interception in ten games. They have been using Chancandrick West and Spencer Ware (questionable) to fill in the void left by Charles and the pair have been doing fairly well. Jeremy Maclin, TE Travis Kelce, and Albert Wilson have allowed Smith go over 3000 yards passing. They average nearly 26 points a game, which is good for 8th in the league. They labored some on Sunday against the Chargers with ten points, but in their 5 games before that, they scored a combined 171 points and look to get back to that kind of production this week. The line has done well in helping open holes for the run-game, but in allowing an absurd 41 sacks, they will need to tighten up at some point.
Key to the Chiefs rise in the past few months is a defense that found its legs and starting playing like the KC defense of old. Only twice during this 7-game win streak have the Chiefs allowed in excess of 13 points in a game. Theyve been awfully-stout against the run and they can make a ton of plays, with Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, others applying a consistent pass-rush. The Chiefs have thrown only 4 picks on the season, while picking off 18 from opposing quarterbacks. The D has scored four touchdowns this season and is one of the more impactful units in the AFC.
You have to wonder about teams that put together huge midseason win-streaks when they come to the end part of the season. Can KC follow through? Did they leave all their fight on the field with it taking a Herculean effort to get things turned around?. They looked a bit ragged at home on Sunday, relying on a goal-line stand against a San Diego team that has been battered by injuries to win. It was a win, but it made one wonder if the Chiefs have perhaps cooled down a tad.
And if the Chiefs have cooled off a bit or are just taking their feet off the gas a bit, covering big numbers on the road isnt an easy thing to do. And for all the Ravens issues, they are still tough in the right spots. If their defense can perform capably, they could conceivably keep this one close, with the KC offense having some question marks and not always terribly prolific. The Chiefs can sometimes play down to the level of their opponent. I see this one being a little tough for the Chiefs, with Baltimore covering the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Baltimore Ravens plus 7.5 points.
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