Baltimore Ravens (3-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
I ranked the Ravens ranked 3rd in my Power Rankings and called them the 2nd best team in the AFC behind Houston because of the head-to-head win over New England and their superior yards per play differential over New England. I think that New England and Baltimore are both going to finish around 12-4 and with Houston likely to win the AFC, that would leave those two tied for the 2nd seed with the tiebreaker going to Baltimore, by virtue of the head-to-head win, making a likely rematch in the AFC divisional round one in which Baltimore would more likely to win
All that being said, this team really needs to kick their inconsistency habit. I came away from their win over Cleveland very unimpressed and disappointed that this team played down to the level of their opponent once again. They’ll have to prove they can avoid doing that this week. Last year, they were just 2-6 ATS outside of the division against non-playoff teams and their one win was in St. Louis after they had been embarrassed the week before in Tennessee. And at home against Arizona, even a loss the week before in Jacksonville wasn’t enough to embarrass them into avoiding a near loss to the Cardinals. They were even worse on the road, not just going 1-4 ATS, but actually 1-4 SU. Losing in Kansas City this week is definitely possible because they lost in similar situations in Jacksonville, Tennessee, Seattle, and San Diego last year.
Kansas City, meanwhile, looked horrendous last week, turning the ball over 6 times en route to a -5 day in turnovers. As a result of this, the odds makers have been able to move the spread 2.5 points (it was -4 last week) and the public is STILL pounding Baltimore, with a very heavy lean. I love betting against the public, especially on heavy leans. What the public doesn’t understand is how inconsistent turnovers are. Teams that lose the turnover differential battle by 5 have a turnover differential of an average of +0.0 in their following game since 2002. That’s essentially true for every turnover differential bracket you can think of. Kansas City is very underrated and undervalued coming off that loss. Their yards per play differential is actually just -0.2, which isn’t terrible.
Speaking of yards per play differential, an old gambling formula says to take the difference, divide by .15 and add 3 points either way for home field. By that logic, this formula should be -5. It’s not a huge difference at all, but you can argue that should be even lower. The reason Baltimore’s yards per play differential is so good is because Joe Flacco has been very good. You can argue though that he’s not actually an improved quarterback over the rest of his career. The jury is still out.
One thing that’s definitely different for the Ravens this year is their defense and that’s not a good thing. Their defensive yards per play allowed is very pedestrian and a 22nd ranked pass defense has a lot to do with it. The biggest reason for this is that they aren’t getting much of a pass rush as they rank 24th in pass rush productivity. They clearly miss Terrell Suggs.
Matt Cassel and company should be able to move the ball this week, so long as they don’t implode with turnovers again and if Baltimore plays down to the level of the competition yet again, Kansas City could definitely win. The only reasons this isn’t my stand alone pick of the week are that perhaps narrowing beating the Browns last week delivered a wakeup call to them and they won’t play down to the level of the competition. Also, the Ravens are extra rested after a Thursday Night game. Teams off of those games are 111-89 ATS on Sundays since 1989. I wish I had touchdown protection. Still, it’s a significant play and a co-pick of the week.
Public lean: Baltimore (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Kansas City covers)
Update: One cool trend, dogs before being favorites are 72-42 ATS since 2011, including 19-8 ATS off a loss as a dog.
Sharps lean: BAL 13 KC 7
Final update: The sharps don’t like Kansas City, but this is one instance I’m not afraid to disagree with the sharps. This is the exact type of game Baltimore has trouble with and the public is pounding Baltimore because of how bad Kansas City was last week, even though their only issue was turnovers.
Kansas City Chiefs 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +235
Pick against spread: Kansas City +6.5 (-110) 4 units