Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) at Baltimore Ravens (4-5)
I had the Ravens on my underrated list during their bye last week and was expecting to bet them in the second half of the season. They lost three in a row going into their bye, but they looked like one of the better teams in the league to start the season and those three losses were against the Saints, Panthers, and Steelers, so it was a tough stretch of games. They were also without top cornerback Marlon Humphrey for the first two and then left tackle Ronnie Stanley for the final game, both of whom are healthy and in the lineup this week.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of quarterback Joe Flacco, who did not practice all week with a hip injury and is listed as doubtful on the injury report. That creates a lot of uncertainty. Head coach John Harbaugh said he could play without practicing, so we can’t even be 100% sure he’ll miss this game and we don’t know what kind of shape he’d be in if he played. There’s also some dispute about who would play in his absence, as multiple reports have suggested we could see both RG3 and Lamar Jackson at quarterback in this one. Jackson and Griffin both have upside under center, but Griffin hasn’t started since 2016 and Jackson has never made a start, so both players have pretty low floors as well. All that uncertainty under center makes it hard to be confident with them.
We’re also not getting a good line with the Ravens because the Bengals were blown out at home last week by the Saints. This line was Baltimore -5.5 on the early line last week with Flacco expected to play, but it’s only moved down to -4 for the Flacco injury because of how bad the Bengals looked last week. That’s a pretty insignificant line movement, as it doesn’t cross any key numbers.
Teams tend to bounce back from being blown out, going 56-35 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35 points or more. The Bengals will also be a little healthier on defense this week with linebacker Vontaze Burfict and slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard expected to return. With that in mind, I’m actually going to take the Bengals in this one, but it’s hard to be confident in either side given Baltimore’s quarterback situation. I will have an update on this tomorrow morning if the line changes or the quarterback situation changes.
Sunday update: Joe Flacco is officially expected to not play in this one and, while RG3 may see a few snaps in the 2-quarterback sets they like running, Lamar Jackson is expected to start and play the whole game. The line has shifted to 5.5 after opening at 4, so we’re getting a little more line value with the Bengals now, but the Ravens still have too high variance of a quarterback situation for me to bet either side in this one. This is probably too many points for Jackson to be favored by in his debut against a defense that should be healthier than last week, but Jackson could definitely exceed expectations. It’s tough to know what to expect from him. He’s got a ton of talent, but did not look good in limited action in the pre-season and was very much considered a work in progress as a passer coming out of college.
Baltimore Ravens 20 Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +5.5