Both the Patriots and Broncos are both around 9.5 point favorites against the Texans and Ravens respectively. Both teams blew out their current opponent late in the same season. I took the points with the Texans because I thought the line was too big, but I’m not going to do the same thing here for several reasons. The Texans and Patriots play a same site rematch. Non-divisional teams are 26-12 ATS in a same site revenge game since 1989, but 14-20 ATS when the site is different.
Plus, unlike when the Texans and Patriots played the first time, it wasn’t a complete blowout. It might sound counterintuitive, but the bigger the regular season blowout, the more likely a team covers in the rematch, especially in the playoffs. This is because it creates an added motivational edge for the team who got blown and it typically skews the line heavily in favor of the favorite based off just one game.
Going off that, I don’t think the Texans’ play in New England was indicative of the type of team they are. They just had a very bad game. The Ravens, meanwhile, were just as bad as they looked in a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos. They went 10-6 and could have easily gone 8-8 if not for Ben Roethlisberger’s injury (or even Byron Leftwich’s injury) and Ray Rice’s ridiculous 4th and 29 conversion. They had a ridiculous 5 wins by 3 or fewer points. They only outgained opponents by 25 yards this season and, coming into the playoffs, they hadn’t beaten a single playoff team since losing Lardarius Webb early in the season (0-4).
Last week, Ray Lewis returned and they beat Indianapolis, but what Lewis adds to this team at this point in his career is mostly intangible (the Ravens still struggles against the run last week) and Indianapolis was the worst team in the playoffs, with just 3 wins against teams with a .500 or better record and two wins by more than a touchdown. And Indianapolis was still only outgained by 20.
Now they have to go to Denver and play a significantly better team than them who beat them by 17 in a result that should have surprised no one (that’s the difference, the Houston blowout loss was a surprise at the time because they’re a better team than Baltimore). And that was in Baltimore. Now they have to go to Denver and play in the high altitude, where the Broncos lost just once this season.
The Ravens aren’t a very good road team anyway. Despite outscoring teams by an average of 10.9 points per game at home over the last 2 seasons, they are being outscored by -0.7 points per game on the road. Joe Flacco’s statistics are the most noticeable difference. Over the last 2 seasons, he’s completed 59.5% of his passes for an average of 8.0 YPA, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions at home. On the road, he’s completed 57.4% of his passes for an average of 6.2 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. As a result, they average 28.7 points per game at home and 19.0 per game on the road during that time period.
I think Denver is a little overrated. People like to completely dismiss their first 5 games because Peyton Manning was still getting into form, which makes some sense, but if you do that, they’ve only played two .500 teams all season. I don’t think they’re the Super Bowl favorite and I question how they’ll match up with someone like the Patriots or an NFC team in the Super Bowl. However, they should be able to get a blowout here. During their 11 game winning streak, none of the games were really even close and as easy as the schedule was, Baltimore isn’t much better. They’re also overrated and were blown out at home against the Broncos earlier this year. Denver is the pick, however obvious it might seem.
Denver Broncos 31 Baltimore Ravens 17
Pick against spread: Denver -9.5 (-110) 2 units