Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
These two teams met way back in week 1, when the Ravens shut out the Bengals in a 20-0 victory. A lot has changed since then. After failing to score an offensive touchdown in either of their first two games of the season, the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and replaced him with Bill Lazor. Lazor has done a better job with this offense, but only by default, as the Bengals have struggled on the offensive line all season and have been without guys like John Ross, Tyler Boyd, and Tyler Eifert for most of the year, leaving Andy Dalton without a capable 2nd option in the passing game after AJ Green.
On the season, they rank just 23rd in first down rate at 32.04%, but their defense has been pretty solid all season, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 33.04% rate, 11th in the NFL, giving them a first down rate differential of -1.00%, 21st in the NFL. The Ravens, meanwhile, have continued their strong defensive play since week 1, allowing opponents to move the chains at a mere 31.03% rate, 3rd lowest in the league. That’s largely the result of a weak schedule of quarterbacks though, as 5 of their 9 wins have come against teams starting backup quarterbacks, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, the Tom Savage led Texans, the Brett Hundley led Packers, and the Jacoby Brissett led Colts.
Baltimore has also had issues on offense, like the Bengals have, moving the chains at a 32.96% rate, 20th in the NFL. Their first down rate differential is +1.93%, 10th best in the NFL, solid, but unspectacular when you consider the schedule they’ve faced. I have this line calculated at Baltimore -6.5. Given their issues on offense and the Bengals’ solid defense, they could have a tough time scoring enough points to cover this 10-point line without winning the turnover battle, which is far from a guarantee.
In the previous matchup, the Ravens won the turnover battle by 4, a huge part of the reason why they won the game by 20. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis though. For example, teams that lose the turnover battle by 4 or more in a divisional game, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.1 in a same season rematch and, as a result, they are 47-37 ATS in that rematch as underdogs. If we assume turnover neutral football in this game, the Bengals have a very strong chance of covering as 10-point underdogs.
Teams tend to cover in same season revenge games anyway, as road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Ravens were in Cincinnati. This was going to be my Pick of the Week, but the Bengals are without stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict and their defense is not the same without him out there, so I will limit this to a medium confidence pick. I still think it’s worth a bet though, as this line is way too high. Even with Burfict out, the Ravens are unlikely to score a bunch of points in this one.
Baltimore Ravens 20 Cincinnati Bengals 13
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +10