By Eric Misotti
The Cincinnati Bengals play host to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North showdown featuring two teams on completely different trajectories. The Ravens are coming off their biggest win of the season, knocking off the undefeated Patriots. The Bengals are coming off their bye week and will hand the reins over to rookie quarterback Ryan Finley who will be making his professional debut.
The Ravens open as 10.5-point road favorites with a projected total score of 44.5. The forecast in Cincinnati calls for partly cloudy skies and a high of 57 degrees as rain doesn’t appear to be a factor.
ATS (Against the spread)
Ravens -10.5 (-105)
This is my lock of the week, and I don’t believe a 10-point spread does justice to how this game could go. The Bengals are a complete mess, from their injury-riddled offensive line to their defense which has given up 460-plus yards in each of the last four games. Not to mention, rookie QB Ryan Finley will be making his professional debut against a Ravens defense that has been trending up each week.
We just saw the Ravens dismantle the Patriots, who had the top-ranked defense entering Week 9. Now, Baltimore is going for their fifth consecutive victory. The last time these two teams played, the scoreboard indicated a close game but if you take a closer look, you will see the Ravens dominated in all aspects. The Bengals scored both of their touchdowns on a kick return and a garbage-time drive when the game was all but decided. They had no answer for Lamar Jackson, who ran all over the defense on his way to a historic day. Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to pass for 200-plus yards and rush for more than 150-plus yards in a regular season game.
Pundits will look at this game as a potential “trap game” but I’m just not seeing it. There is a lot of energy surrounding this team, led by Jackson who has firmly placed himself in the MVP conversation. In the past under Joe Flacco, the Ravens were ripe to come out flat in these situations, but Jackson has a different aura to him and teammates are ready to back up his MVP claim. The Bengals will try to get Joe Mixon going, who posted a measly 1.5 yards per carry in their last matchup. If the Ravens can key in on stopping the run, Finley will be forced to throw them to victory which will be a recipe for disaster. This has all the feel of the Week 1 thrashing against the Dolphins and I’m taking the Ravens in a blowout.
Prediction: Ravens 34 Bengals 0
The Ravens may eclipse this point total by themselves, but I don’t see the Bengals threatening to find the end zone, making the under an attractive bet. Greg Roman’s offense is the No. 1 scoring unit in the league at 31.4 points per game and I believe that is where they will end up in this game. The Bengals defense is historically bad and matches up terribly with the Ravens run-heavy attack. Time of possession should be firmly in Baltimore’s favor, as they will demoralize the Bengals defense with long, sustained drives. The Ravens defense now looks to be one of the better units in the NFL and the revamped secondary will have a field day against Finley who is in for a rough debut. The Ravens will score but the incompetence of the Bengals will keep this projection from going over.
Mark Andrews total receptions: Over 3.5 (-146)
Mark Andrews total receiving yards: Over 49.5 (-112)
The last time Andrews went up against the Bengals, he posted 99 yards on eight targets. Although he has recently been out-snapped by both Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle, he remains the primary passing target for Jackson. Andrews is due for a bounce back performance after posting less than 40 yards in each of the past two games and also being held out of the end zone. The Bengals are the perfect opponent to get on track against, as their defense has allowed 460-plus yards in each of the last four games. The Ravens will be able to run the ball, but expect them to lean heavily on the tight ends to move the chains and extend drives.
Mark Ingram total rush attempts- Over 13.5 (-102)
In the last meeting, the Bengals keyed-in on stopping Ingram and in turn, got gashed by Jackson for 150-plus yards. I doubt they make the same mistake again which should open up some more opportunities for Ingram to eat. He has carried the ball at least 13 times in six of eight games and is primed for a big role on Sunday against a porous Bengals defense. The Ravens will aim to have long sustained drives to wear down the defense and Ingram will be the key figure in accomplishing that goal. I’m projecting a big day for Ingram and he will get plenty of looks to comfortably surpass this projected total.