Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1) at Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

When both are fully healthy, I have the Bengals a little higher than the Ravens, as they rank 14th in first down rate differential and the Ravens rank 21st, but the Bengals are far from fully healthy right now. Not only are they missing wide receiver AJ Green and running back Giovani Bernard, who they’ve been without for a while, but they’ve also lost guard Clint Boling, tight end Tyler Eifert, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict to injury in recent weeks, a trio of key players. The Ravens aren’t fully healthy at this point in the season (no one is), but they’re in much better shape injury wise than the Bengals. I still think we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Bengals as 1.5 point home underdogs, but I couldn’t be confident in them at all.

Baltimore Ravens 17 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +1.5

Confidence: None

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Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Steelers are in a better spot than the Ravens, finishing their season with an easy home game against the Browns on deck. Favorites of 6 or more, like the Steelers are here, tend to take care of business before easy games, going 96-54 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. The Steelers have also been great at home this year, going 4-1 straight up and against the spread in the 5 home games that Ben Roethlisberger started, outscoring opponents by an average of 16.25 points per game in the 4 victories and only losing to the Cowboys in a close 5-point game.

On the other hand, this is the biggest game of either team’s season, so I expect both teams to be completely focused, even if the Steelers have an easier game than the Ravens do next week. The Steelers are barely 6 point favorites any way and it’s arguable they are favored by a point or two too many. They rank 10th in first down rate, but the Ravens rank 16th. These Steelers/Ravens games always tend to be close anyway, with 16 of the last 21 matchups between these two teams being decided by a touchdown or less. On top of that, 10 of the Ravens’ last 17 losses have come by 6 points or fewer, as they have a strong defense and tend to keep games close. I’m taking the Ravens, but this is a no confidence pick. I’d need a full touchdown to take the Ravens with any sort of confidence.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Baltimore Ravens 19

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +6

Confidence: None

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Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) at Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

Much like many Ravens teams in recent memory, this Ravens team has a great defense, but an underwhelming offense. They enter this game 30th in first down rate, but 3rd in first down rate allowed and 15th in first down rate differential. The Eagles enter this game 26th in first down rate differential and very banged up on the offensive line, so the Ravens are definitely the better team here, but, with the line being 6, Philadelphia becomes a very appealing bet here because of the type of team Baltimore is. The Ravens have won just 3 of 12 games by more than 6 points in the past 2 seasons and are also without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, a big blow to this defense. Even though the Ravens are 15th in first down rate differential and the Eagles are 26th, there’s a smaller gap between 15th and 26th than there is between 8th and 15th, so these two teams are closer than that suggests.

The Ravens are also in a tough spot with a huge divisional clash with the Steelers on deck, a game in which the Ravens figure to be at least 6 point underdogs in Pittsburgh. Favorites of 6 or more are just 51-87 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs of 6 or more. With that huge game on deck, the Ravens could easily overlook the Eagles, who could pull off the win in a trap game. Even if they don’t, we’re getting 6 points with them and this should be another close game for the Ravens. If you can get the full 6, it’s worth a bet.

Baltimore Ravens 16 Philadelphia Eagles 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +6

Confidence: Medium

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Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at New England Patriots (10-2)

The Patriots are a very interesting team. Despite being without Tom Brady for the first 4 games of the season, they rank 2nd in first down rate. Since Brady returned, they are 7-1 with 6 of 7 wins by double digits. However, they have had a very easy schedule over those 8 games. Aside from Seattle, who beat them by a touchdown in New England, their toughest game since Brady’s return was in Buffalo. Yes, they can only play the teams that are on their schedule and they’ve done pretty well in doing so, as most of the wins have come by convincing margins, but Jamie Collins is in Cleveland, Rob Gronkowski is on injured reserve, and it’s fair to wonder how good they really are. We’ll find out a lot this week as they host the Baltimore Ravens, who are a step up in class from most of the teams the Patriots have faced in recent weeks.

After largely playing close games all season, the Ravens got their biggest win by margin of victory since 2009 last week, with a 38-6 home victory over a capable Miami team. It was out of character for this team, but boosted them to 12nd in first down rate differential and moved this line from 10 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week. As a result, we’re not getting good line value with the Ravens. However, the Ravens are in a good spot with an easy home game against the Eagles on deck, while the Patriots have to go to Denver next week. Underdogs of 6 or more points are 41-31 ATS since 2008 before being favorites of 6 or more the following week, which the Ravens are expected to be, according to the early line. It’s a no confidence pick at 6.5, but the Ravens are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 24 Baltimore Ravens 19

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +6.5

Confidence: None

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Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (7-4) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

This line at 3.5 in favor of the hometown Baltimore Ravens suggests the Ravens are a slightly better team than the Dolphins. I think it’s the opposite. Both teams come into this game relatively healthy compared to most of the season, with the Dolphins getting left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Laremy Tunsil back this week, while the Ravens get cornerback Jimmy Smith back. However, the Dolphins rank 12th on the season in first down rate differential, while the Ravens rank 19th in that metric. This line should be around 2.5, which might not seem like a big difference from 3.5, but it is, considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. The Ravens are certainly no strangers to field goal games, as 4 of their 11 wins in the past 2 seasons have come by exactly a field goal. That makes sense, as the Ravens have a great defense, but a struggling offense. That’s not exactly a recipe for big blowout wins. The Dolphins are a quality opponent, so, if the Ravens win, it’ll likely be by a field goal or less.

The Dolphins are also in a much better spot than the Ravens, as they host the skidding Cardinals next week, while the Ravens have to turn around and go to New England, where the early line has them as 10 point underdogs. The Dolphins will be favored next week at home for the Cardinals and underdogs are 94-61 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponents will next be underdogs. On top of that, teams are 41-63 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, as upcoming big games like that tend to be a distraction for a team. As favorites, teams are 37-62 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs. Combining the two, underdogs are 48-20 ATS since 1989 before being favorites when their opponents will next be double digit underdogs. I like the Dolphins a lot this week.

Baltimore Ravens 17 Miami Dolphins 16

Pick against the spread: Miami +3.5

Confidence: Medium

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Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Already in the middle of a down year, the Bengals suffered two major injuries last week, as running back Giovani Bernard went down for the season with a torn ACL and #1 wide receiver AJ Green went down for an extended period of time with a strained hamstring. In addition, the Bengals will also be without starting safety Shawn Williams this week with injury. On the other side, the Ravens have gotten healthier in recent weeks, as the guys like Marshal Yanda, Steve Smith, CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil, who missed time earlier this year, are all healthy now. They are now without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but, all in all, they’re healthier now than they’ve been for most of the season. All that being said, I don’t have a strong opinion either way. This line, at -4 in favor of the hometown Baltimore Ravens, is pretty reasonable. I’m taking the Ravens, but it’s hard to be confident in them as 4 point favorites because I don’t know just how bad the Bengals will be without Green and Bernard.

Baltimore Ravens 22 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -4

Confidence: None

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Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (5-4) at Dallas Cowboys (8-1)

The Cowboys pulled off a huge upset victory in Pittsburgh last week to improve to 8-1, the only team in the entire NFL with only one loss. Now they are 7.5 point favorites here at home over the Ravens and the early line has them as 6.5 point home favorites for the Redskins next week. Big favorites tend to cover before being big favorites again because they have no upcoming distractions and can take care of business against an inferior opponent. Favorites of 6 or more are 89-50 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. However, it hurts the Cowboys that next week’s game is on Thursday Night, their annual Thanksgiving home game. Favorites are 50-82 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008.

With that in mind, I’m actually going to take the Ravens this week. Not only do the Cowboys have a game upcoming in 4 days, this line is a little bit too high when you consider the Cowboys haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years. The Cowboys are 31-21 ATS on the road since 2010, which is impressive, but just 18-34 ATS at home over the same time period, including 10-26 ATS as home favorites. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.02 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 0.96 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a half point for them in recent years.

That makes sense, as the Cowboys have fans throughout the country and get great support on the road. They’re 3-1 ATS at home this year, but that’s because they’ve been underrated all season. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by this line. They could have easily lost to the Eagles, while their other 2 wins came against the Bears and Bengals (both by 14). The Ravens are a set up from those 2 teams and should be able to keep it close here. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Ravens, but they’re the pick.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Baltimore Ravens 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +7.5

Confidence: Low

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