New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
The Giants stunk it up last week in Atlanta, getting shut out, losing 34-0. I generally like taking teams off a blowout loss. Teams in this situation tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed. The most recent case of this was the Cardinals’ blowing out the Lions as huge home dogs last week after that 52-0 loss in Arizona the week before. I was especially looking forward to doing this with the Giants, a team that tends to have their best games when nobody believes in them.
However, I only like doing this when the team is a dog. Here as a favorite, it’s a different dynamic for the Giants. They’re supposed to bounce back and win. They’re not going to be overlooked and they certainly aren’t undervalued, especially as publicly backed favorites and anyone who reads these picks frequently knows I love to fade the public because they always lose money in the long run.
I really wish that the Giants were dogs here. Not only do they always thrive when people doubt them and not only do dogs tend to cover off a blowout loss, but road dogs off a road loss also tend to cover, going 86-51 ATS since 2008. However, with Baltimore in freefall after their 3rd straight loss, that couldn’t happen here. This line opened at even and now it’s moved to the point where the Giants are actually favored by 2.5 and not just favored, but heavily publicly backed favorites.
Given that, I actually like the Ravens here a little bit, albeit in a game that’s a bit of a tossup for me. Not only do I love to fade the public, as the public always loses money in the long run, but the Giants frequently fall flat when they’re expected to win and with the Ravens in freefall even more than they are, that’s the case here. Instead, it’s the Ravens who are the doubted ones and I like their chances of avoiding their first 4-game losing streak in the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era. Harbaugh is 6-1 ATS off of a double digit loss.
Besides, every year in the Tom Coughlin era, the Giants have a 2nd half slide. Since he took over in 2004, they are 53-19 in the first 8 games of the season and 29-41 in the second 8 games of the season. This year has been no different as they started 6-2, but thanks to a 2-4 stretch, they are now 8-6, not bad, but not as good as it once looked.
It’s not all Eli Manning’s fault, but there is a noticeable dip in his 2nd half production as compared to his 1st half production. He completes 57% of his passes for an average of 6.7 YPA and 94 touchdowns to 83 interceptions in the 2nd half, as opposed to 60% of his passes for an average of 7.4 YPA and 111 touchdowns to 61 interceptions in the first half.
Net points per drive also says this game is a bit of a tossup and that we’re getting line value with the Ravens now for that reason. The Ravens are 11th in net points per drive at 0.21, while the Giants rank 8th at 0.42. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per game per team), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that this line should be a true pick em. DVOA supports this as the Giants rank 7th in regular DVOA and 8th in weighted, while the Ravens rank 10th and 13th respectively.
It’s definitely not a huge play, but I like the Ravens more than I like the Giants this week, though I’d rather have the Ravens +120 on the money line than anything spread wise because this game is a real tossup. On one hand, the Giants frequently collapse in the 2nd half and frequently struggle in games they’re supposed to win, while the Ravens are the doubted ones attempting to avoid their first 4 game losing streak in 5 seasons.
On the other hand, the Giants do well on the road under Tom Coughlin (50-28 ATS, including 24-16 ATS in the 2nd half of the season). This is also a bigger game for the Giants than the Ravens, as they are fighting for the playoffs and I do like Eli Manning in big games. The Ravens clinch the division before this game even starts if the Steelers beat the Bengals, which I think will happen, though I do expect them to still give 100% with a huge need for momentum before the playoffs. Obviously, you don’t want to go into the playoffs on a 5 game losing streak. There was also a point when the Ravens won 16 straight at home, though they’ve now lost 2 straight and that 16 game stretch featured few blowouts and a weak schedule. Rank this one near the bottom in confidence pools, but the Ravens are the pick.
Public lean: NY Giants (80% range)
Sharps lean: NYG 24 BAL 6
Final thoughts: I’m still uncertain. I thought about switching my uncertainty to the other side, but I still like +120 more than anything. The Giants frequently disappointed when they’re expected to win, especially in the 2nd half of the season.
Baltimore Ravens 24 New York Giants 23 Upset Pick +120
Pick against spread: Baltimore +2.5 (-110) 0 units