Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Medium

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

The Ravens are 8-6 and in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot in the AFC, but they are a little overrated. They’ve had the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of opponents strength of schedule and that doesn’t even take into account that they’ve gotten to face a number of backup quarterbacks. Of their 8 wins, only one has come against a team that currently has a winning record, the Detroit Lions, who also have next to no success against quality football teams. Four of those wins have come against teams with backup quarterbacks, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Tom Savage led Texans, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, and the Brett Hundley led Packers. Their other 3 wins have come against the Browns (twice) and the Bengals.

They have an impressive margin of victory and rank 7th in the NFL in point differential at +89, but that’s largely because of a league best +17 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so that’s not something the Ravens are necessarily going to be able to count on going forward, especially as their competition gets harder in the post-season. They rank just 10th in first down rate differential at 1.72%, despite the easy schedule. The Ravens are still a top-6 team in the AFC and a deserving playoff team, but if they were in the much tougher NFC and faced a tougher schedule, they’d probably be the 10th or 11th best team in the conference.

The good news for them is their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week, as the host the 3-11 Indianapolis Colts. As bad as the Colts’ record is, it’s arguable they are even worse than that suggests. Their 3 wins have come against the Browns, 49ers, and Texans, 3 of the worst teams in the league, by a combined 12 points, while their 11 losses have come by a combined 155 points. Their point differential at -143 is 2nd worst in the NFL, despite the fact that they actually have a positive turnover margin at +4. They enter this game dead last in first down rate differential at -6.84% and have a league high 5 losses in which they won the turnover margin. They have also lost safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, and left guard Jack Mewhort in the last couple months, so this team is even worse than they were earlier in the year.

The Ravens are in a good spot to cover because they have another relatively easy game on deck, with the Bengals coming to town next week. Favorites of 6+ are 72-43 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. Unfortunately, this line has strangely shot up from Baltimore -10 on the early line last week to Baltimore -13.5 this week, so we’re not getting any line value with the Ravens.

The Ravens easily could blow out the Colts like they have with several other bad teams, but their offense is mediocre, so I’m not confident that they can do that without winning the turnover battle, which is far from a guarantee. I have this line calculated at -11, so we’re actually getting some line value with the Colts. The Ravens are my pick for pick ‘em purposes because of the good spot they’re in, but I wouldn’t recommend betting either side.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Indianapolis Colts 10

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -13.5

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-13)

Last week, I selected the Browns as 3.5 point home underdogs against the Hundley and I picked them to win straight up. They led by 14 going into the 4th quarter and had a 90% chance of winning with just a few minutes left in the game, but the Packers came back, pushed it to overtime, and then scored a touchdown in overtime when they just needed a field goal, meaning they didn’t just win, but they also covered. I also picked Indianapolis +3.5 in Buffalo, so I lost against the spread in two games where I had a 3.5 point underdog in overtime. Making matters worse, I had the Browns money line in a 50:1 parlay with the money line of the Eagles, Vikings, Falcons, and 49ers, who all won.

This week, I am a lot less confident in the Browns, and not just because of what happened last week. The Browns have been competitive in more games than you’d think this season, despite their record, and could easily cover the 7 here. However, the Ravens have had a lot of success against low level teams this season. They’ve beaten the Bengals, the Browns, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, the Brett Hundley led Packers, and the Tom Savage led Packers by a combined 121 points, with all 6 wins coming by at least a touchdown. Their defense isn’t as good since they lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but their offense has been a lot better in recent weeks thanks to the emergence of lead back Alex Collins

The Ravens are also in a great spot because they have another easy game on deck, as they host the lowly Colts next week. Favorites of 6 or more are 70-42 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6 or more again, as teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions on the schedule. We are getting some line value with the Browns, who are better with receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman back and who have been competitive in most of their recent games, but I can’t take Cleveland with any confidence this week.

Baltimore Ravens 19 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Steelers/Ravens is one of the biggest divisional rivalries in the NFL, but the Steelers could still have one eye on next week’s game this week, as they host the New England Patriots in a game that could easily be for the one-seed in the AFC. The Ravens, meanwhile, should have completely focused for this huge divisional game, as they have one of their easiest games of the season next week in Cleveland, where they are 6.5 point favorites on the early line. The Steelers, by comparison, are 2.5 point home underdogs against the Patriots on the early line.

Underdogs tend to cover before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, going 67-41 ATS in that spot since 2014. On top of that, teams tend to cover before being big road favorites, as they tend to not have any upcoming distractions. Teams are 79-58 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 5 or more. All that being said, we are getting no line value with the Ravens at +5 in this game in Pittsburgh. This line was 7 a week ago on the early line, but has shifted significantly since.

It’s no surprise why, given the brutal season ending spine injury stud middle linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered in last week’s win over the Bengals, as well as the one-game suspension given to talented Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a late hit on Vontaze Burfict, but the Ravens lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a torn achilles in their win over the Lions last week and he’s more important to the Ravens than Shazier or Smith-Schuster is to the Steelers. Prior to going down, Smith was one of the top cornerbacks in the entire NFL and a huge part of a Baltimore defense that ranks 2nd in first down rate allowed.

The Steelers are also missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with suspension and injury respectively and have not played as well in recent weeks as a result. However, they are still a step up in class from the teams the Ravens usually beat, especially at home. Four of Baltimore’s seven victories this season have come against backup quarterbacks (Tom Savage, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley) and another came against the Deshone Kizer led Browns.

Their only two remotely impressive victories came against the Bengals week 1 and last week against the Lions, neither of whom compare to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, even as banged up as they are. They could still keep this within 5 points, as about 33% of games are decided by 5 points or less, but I can’t be confident in them at +5 because we aren’t getting any line value with them at all. I still have this line calculated at -7, before situational trends are factored in. I’d need at least 6 to consider placing a bet on the Ravens this week

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 16

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +5

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Both of these teams are 6-5 and in the playoff race in their respective conferences, but I think both teams aren’t quite as good as their records. The Lions made the postseason last year, but they won just one game by more than a touchdown, didn’t win any games against playoff teams, and finished with a first down rate differential of -1.90%. This year, they are winning by bigger margins, but their first down rate differential is even lower at -3.27% and they are 1-5 against teams with winning records. Five of their wins have come against the Cardinals, Giants, Packers, Bears, and Browns and they lost the first down rate battle in 3 of those games. They’ve been overly dependent on getting big plays and winning the turnover margin, which are tough to consistently do every week, especially against tougher competition.

The Ravens have also faced a very easy schedule though, with their last 4 wins coming against teams starting backup quarterbacks. Their 6 wins have come against teams quarterbacked by Andy Dalton, Deshone Kizer, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley, and Tom Savage. Matt Stafford is definitely a step up in class, but he doesn’t have a good running game or defense supporting him and the Ravens are a step in in class from the caliber teams the Lions usually beat. I give the Ravens a slight talent edge and they’re at home, but I am not confident in them as 3 point home favorites.

Baltimore Ravens 23 Detroit Lions 19

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

After last week’s 23-0 win over the Brett Hundley led Packers in Green Bay, the Ravens have remarkably posted 3 shutouts this season in just 10 games. In fact, outside of that weird London game against the Jaguars where they didn’t have stud defensive tackle Brandon Williams, the Ravens have been statistically as good as any team in the league this season on defense. They’ve benefitted from an easy schedule of offenses, with their shutouts coming against the Bengals, Dolphins, and Packers, but that schedule doesn’t get any harder this week with the Houston Texans coming to town.

Without quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Will Fuller, the Texans offense is as bad as any offense in the league, while their defense isn’t much better without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. The Ravens have offensive issues as well, but they are as healthy as they’ve been in weeks on offense, with passing down back Danny Woodhead and left tackle Ronnie Stanley back to 100% and wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace rounding into form on the outside after early season injuries. They don’t nearly have the problems that the Texans do with immobile Tom Savage behind the league’s worst offensive line.

I have this line calculated at -10, so we’re getting significant line value with the Ravens at -7. The Texans are also in a tough spot with another tough game in Tennessee on deck after this one. Underdogs of 6+ are 56-93 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again, which the Texans likely will be next week (they are -7 on the early line). The Ravens are worth a bet at 7 and would become a high confidence pick if this line were to move to 6.5 before game time, as about 10% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown. They should win this game by double digits.

Baltimore Ravens 17 Houston Texans 6

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -7

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-4)

This line was Green Bay +3 a week ago, but the Packers’ upset victory in Chicago caused this line to move to +2. That’s unfortunate because I would have had some interest in the Packers at +3. The Packers are obviously banged up, losing their top-2 running backs last week after already being without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, and defensive back Morgan Burnett for an extended period of time. However, they still have a strong receiving corps and are above average on both the offensive and defensive lines and new quarterback Brett Hundley is coming off of his best start of the season.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are a mediocre team with major offensive issues, especially with talented left tackle Ronnie Stanley injured. In fact, I have the Ravens just a couple spots ahead of the Packers in my roster rankings and I have this line calculated at -3. Unfortunately, the Packers are in a tough spot with a much tougher game in Pittsburgh on deck. Teams are 48-78 ATS since 2002 before being 10+ point underdogs, as Tough upcoming games tend to present a distraction for teams. Given that, I’d need the full field goal to bet the Packers confidently. This is a low confidence pick, although the money line makes some sense at +110.

Green Bay Packers 19 Baltimore Ravens 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +2

Confidence: Low