Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-8) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

First round rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson will make his second straight start for the Ravens in this one, with Joe Flacco still sidelined with a hip injury. Jackson won his debut, but the jury is still very much out on him as a passer. He barely beat a Cincinnati team that has not played well lately due to injuries and he carried the ball a ridiculous 26 times (most in NFL history by a quarterback), as opposed to just 19 pass attempts, which isn’t something he’s going to be able to do every week.

Fortunately, Jackson gets another easy game this week with the Raiders coming to town. The Raiders pulled off the upset in Arizona last week, but they’ve had a miserable season at 2-8. They rank just 27th in first down rate differential at -5.08% and are arguably even worse than that due to all of their personnel losses since the start of the season. The Ravens should be able to execute a conservative, run heavy offense again this week, knowing that the Raiders’ offense has little chance of consistently putting together drives against Baltimore’s talented stop unit.

I think this line is about right at Baltimore -10.5, but I’m giving the Ravens the edge in this one because the Raiders might not bring their best effort. In a lost season, they could easily be looking forward to next week’s home clash with the Chiefs, a game in which they are a ridiculous 14-point home underdogs. Teams are just 39-85 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs of 7.5 points or more, as upcoming big home games tend to be a distraction to teams. On top of that, double digit underdogs are just 26-51 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs again. We’re not getting enough line value with the Ravens to bet on them, but they should be the right side this week.

Baltimore Ravens 23 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -10.5

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: None

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

When I saw the Ravens open as mere 2.5-point home favorites against the Steelers, I expected to bet them this week. They were 3-point home favorites on the early line last week, but their blowout loss in Carolina shifted this line off the key number of 3 down to 2.5, a significant line movement when you consider about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal. The Ravens didn’t look good in Carolina last week, but they could have easily been caught looking forward to this game. The previous week they were 3-point home favorites a strong New Orleans team and were competitive in that game, coming within a missed extra point of sending it to overtime.

That Saints team is better than this Steelers team, so it’s a bit of an overreaction for this line to be lower. As favorites of less than 3, the Ravens basically just need to win to cover. The Steelers got off to a slow start, but are now an overrated team again after ripping off three straight wins against a banged up Falcons team, a banged up Bengals team, and a struggling Browns team. They’re considered top level contenders because of their history, but their defense is still not the same as when they had a healthy Ryan Shazier. They have just 3 wins by more than a touchdown since he went down, a span of 13 games in which they’ve allowed 24.8 points per game.

We should be getting significant line value with the Ravens, but the problem is left tackle Ronnie Stanley, arguably the Ravens most important offensive player other than the quarterback, will be out with an ankle injury and this line did not move to compensate. The Ravens could be getting left guard Alex Lewis and cornerback Marlon Humphrey back from two game absences after they made their returns to practice this week, but they’ll still be without right tackle James Hurst for the 3rd straight game and his bookend Stanley will join him on the sidelines this week, creating a tough situation for the Ravens upfront even if Lewis can play.

The Steelers have a key injury with right tackle Marcus Gilbert out for the second straight week, but they’re overall in a much better injury situation and could easily take advantage of that like they did against the Falcons and Bengals. I’m still taking the Ravens because I think even without Stanley these two teams are about even, meaning this line should still be at 3, but without Stanley I can’t be confident betting on them.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -2.5

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (4-2)

The Ravens are a solid team and could easily win the AFC North, but they’re a little bit overrated. Last week, they were 3-point home favorites against the Saints, suggesting they were equal to a New Orleans team that is one of the best in the league, in a game the Ravens ultimately ended up losing. This week, they are 2.5-point road favorites in Carolina. That’s not that many points, but I have these two teams about even, so the Panthers should be favored by at least a field goal. That’s a good amount of line value.

If the Ravens were at full strength, I might give them a point or two over the Panthers, but they are missing top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and a pair of starting offensive linemen, Alex Lewis and James Hurst. All three of those players were missed against the Saints and will be missed again this week. The Panthers, meanwhile, are at close to full strength and should be able to win this game outright. I’d need a full field goal to bet the spread in this one, but the money line at +130 is a great play.

Carolina Panthers 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Carolina +2.5

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2)

The Ravens are probably the team I was most wrong on coming into the season, as they’ve proven to be much improved on both sides of the ball. Their defense put up good numbers in 2017, but they also played 6 backup quarterbacks, which made their numbers look better than how they actually played. In 2018, the Ravens already have wins against the Broncos, Steelers, and Titans, all capable opponents, with their two losses coming on the road in Cleveland and Cincinnati in games in which they were competitive in the first down rate battle.

Despite a decent schedule, the Ravens have statistically been the top defense in the league through 6 weeks, allowing a 27.52% first down rate, and it hasn’t been close, as 2nd ranked Jacksonville allows a 31.28% first down rate. In 6 games, they’ve allowed just 93 first downs and 8 offensive touchdowns. Offensively, they haven’t been great, but they still rank 17th in first down rate, a big improvement over last year’s stagnant unit, and more than good enough to win games the way their defense is playing.

That being said, I think we’re still getting some line value with the visiting Saints this week, as 3 point underdogs. This line suggests these two teams are about equal, but the Saints are one of the top few teams in the league and I don’t quite put the Ravens in their class, especially with top cornerback Marlon Humphrey questionable after getting hurt in practice this week. This line shifted from Baltimore -1 on the early line to Baltimore -3 this week, a big line movement considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, as a result of the Ravens’ shutout win in Tennessee last week, but the Saints are a much tougher test, even if this one is back in Baltimore. The Saints, who have been on a roll since getting off to one of their trademark slow starts, are worth a bet this week.

New Orleans Saints 24 Baltimore Ravens 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)

After pulling an upset at home against the defending champion Eagles week 4, the Titans turned around and lost in upset fashion in Buffalo last week. That seems surprising at first glance, but both games were close and easily could have gone the other way. On top of that the Titans were in a much better spot against Philadelphia than they were against Buffalo and understandably played a better game as a result. While they were completely focused at home for the Eagles with an easy game on deck, their game in Buffalo was a trap game, sandwiched between that tough overtime win and another big home game, this game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Even after last week’s overtime loss in Cleveland, the Ravens come in with a solid record at 3-2. They’re a little overrated though. Their offense is improved over last season, but largely by default and, while their defense continues to dominate statistically, their stats have been buoyed by an easy schedule, as they’ve faced 7 backup quarterbacks over the past 2 seasons are just 4-9 in their other 13 games. None of this is to say they are a bad team. With an improved offense, the Ravens have wins over a pair of decent teams in the Broncos and Steelers this season, but they also have road losses in Cincinnati and Cleveland and are not as good as this line suggests, as they are favored by 2.5 points in Tennessee.

I have these two teams about equal. Both teams have underwhelming offenses, but strong defenses. That would suggest this line should be 3 points in favor of the Titans, so we’re getting good line value with the host. The Titans probably won’t be a popular bet this week because of their loss last week, which is probably a big part of why this line is where it is, but, again, that was a terrible spot and they could have easily won, especially if they didn’t lose Taylor Lewan to a foot injury early in the game (he was listed not on the injury report this week). With wins over the Jaguars and Eagles already on their resume, I don’t think that loss should hurt them that much. This would be a bigger bet if this line creeps back up to 3, but even as 2.5 point underdogs the Titans are worth a bet.

Tennessee Titans 20 Baltimore Ravens 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +2.5

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2-1)

This line was Baltimore -1 a week ago, but it has since shifted to Baltimore -3, a fairly significant line movement, considering about 1 out of 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. That’s because the Ravens won in Pittsburgh last week, but the Steelers have been an underwhelming team all year and were not nearly as good as their record last season either. Just 5 of their 14 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by more than 7 points, including just 2 since the midpoint of last season, a span of 13 games.

The Ravens are overrated coming off of that win, as many now regard them as a contender in the AFC. They are 3-1, but have yet to beat a top level team and most of their wins last season came against backup quarterbacks. They get cornerback Jimmy Smith back from suspension this week, but key defensive lineman Michael Pierce is highly questionable as he continues to deal with a foot injury he suffered a few weeks ago.

The Ravens a solid team, but they shouldn’t be favored by a field goal on the road against a quality Browns team. The Browns lost last week in Oakland, but they basically had a win taken off the board by an overturned first down that did not look conclusive. If not for that and some blunders in the kicking game early in the season, the Browns could actually be 4-0 right now or at least 3-1. They continue to be underrated because they’re the Browns, but they’re much better quarterbacked this season and have a good chance to win this one straight up at home.

Cleveland Browns 19 Baltimore Ravens 17 Upset Pick +145

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3

Confidence: Medium