Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
The Ravens went 9-7 last season, finished 10th in first down rate, and had the best point differential (+92) of any team that missed the post-season and they’ve gotten their 2018 season off to a strong start with a 47-3 victory over the Bills, but they’ve had a pretty easy schedule. Last season, they had the benefit of facing 6 backup quarterbacks (Jacoby Brissett, Brett Hundley, Matt Moore, Tom Savage, EJ Manuel, Case Keenum), all of whom except Keenum played terribly last season, and that doesn’t even count two games against the winless Browns. This season, they opened against a Bills team that is arguably the worst in the league and who was starting a backup caliber quarterback (if you can even call him that) in Nathan Peterman, who was benched in the second half for rookie Josh Allen.
Other than their games against backup quarterbacks and against the Browns, the Ravens went just 2-6 in 2018. One of those wins was against these Bengals, but the Ravens also lost to the Bengals later in the season. The Bengals are also significantly improved offensively from 2017 to 2018, thanks to an improved offensive line and healthier skill position players. They are missing top linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first 4 games of the season due to a suspension, but the Ravens are in the same boat, missing top cornerback Jimmy Smith until week 5.
I have these two teams about even in my rankings, suggesting this line should be -3 in favor of the hometown Bengals. I was hoping the Ravens’ big win over the Bills would shift this line and get us even more line value with Cincinnati, but the Bengals looked good in their road win over the Colts last week too, so the line stayed put at a pick ‘em. There’s still enough here for the Bengals to be worth a wager though.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 Baltimore Ravens 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati PK