Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
The Bengals picked up their first win of the season last week and I think they’re an underrated team going forward. They were better than their 2-14 record last season, ranking 24th in first down rate differential, and I expected them to be noticeably better than that this season, with the Bengals adding quarterback Joe Burrow atop the draft and getting their left tackle Jonah Williams and top wide receiver AJ Green back from injuries than cost them all of 2019. So far, the Bengals rank 18th at -0.25%. They have just one win, but they’ve been competitive in all four games and they should be better going forward, with stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins set to make his season debut after missing 4 games due to injury.
Unfortunately, that probably won’t translate to the win column right away, as Atkins’ first game back is probably the toughest game of the Bengals’ season, in Baltimore against the Ravens. In addition to the Ravens being a really tough opponent, this is also a really tough spot for the Bengals. While the Ravens have an easy game in Philadelphia on deck, the Bengals have another tough game in Indianapolis next week. Favorites of 6+ are 124-75 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again, while underdogs of 6+ are 74-107 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again.
Combining the two, favorites of 6+ are 39-11 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again when their opponent will be underdogs of 6+ again the following week. Good teams tend to take care of business against bad teams without upcoming distractions on their schedule, while bad teams tend to struggle to keep it close against good teams with another tough game on deck. All of those conditions should be true this week, which hurts the Bengals’ chances of keeping this competitive. I’m still taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes as 13-point underdogs because they typically keep their games close and my calculated line is just 8.5, so we’re getting significantly line value with the visitor, but I wouldn’t recommend putting money on this one.
Baltimore Ravens 28 Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +13