Baltimore Ravens (8-8 SU, 7-9 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS)
When and Where: Sunday, Sept. 10, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Oh., 1pmET
Line: Cincinnati -3
Two teams coming off disappointing seasons will try and get the 2017 season off on the right track on Sunday from Cincinnati. Baltimore, coming off an 8-8 season, went 4-0 in the preseason. But they also played without starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who injured his back before training camp began. He finally returned to practice on Saturday, Sept. 2nd. The Bengals have their own issues as CB Adam Jones (suspension) and LB Vontaze Burfict (suspension) will both be out in the opener. Last year, the Bengals handled Baltimore at home, 27-10 in the season finale. The Ravens won the earlier game at home, 19-14.
The offense has been offensive
Joe Flacco has been through five offensive coordinators and has had the most of any NFL QB since 2012. Marty Mornhinweg will get the duties this season after taking over last season for the fired Marc Trestman. The Ravens ranked 17th on offense last season with 347.7 yards per game and 21st in points per game (21.4ppg). The real culprit was the running game, which averaged just 91.4 yards per game (28th) last season. However, there was very little emphasis placed on the running game last season as Flacco threw 672 passes for 4,317 yards and 20 TDs with 15 picks. While Flacco was certainly not “elite” coming back off of knee surgery, a stronger running game would help. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they lack a dominant back or a strong line. Terrance West (774 yards, 5 TDs) will get the nod as the starter with Kenneth Dixon (knee/4-game suspension) out for the season.
One thing that should help Flacco this season are the additions of RB Danny Woodhead and WR Jeremy Maclin. Both are coming off injury-plagued seasons, but can help if healthy. Maclin will take pressure off of Mike Wallace (72 catches for 1,017 yards) and young speedster Breshard Perriman. But for the Ravens to achieve success, they’ll have to rely on their strength and that’s their defense. Last season, Baltimore ranked seventh in overall defense (322.1ypg) and ninth in points allowed per game (20.1ppg). The additions of safety Tony Jefferson (Arizona) and cornerback Brandon Carr (Dallas) improve their biggest weakness, which was the secondary. OLB Terrell Suggs (8 sacks) leads a younger and more explosive front seven.
Will the Bengals ever win a playoff game?
Marvin Lewis has done a fantastic job of getting the Bengals into the playoffs-until 2016. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009, so Lewis wasn’t going to hear questions about how he can’t win a playoff game. Lewis enters his 15th season with an 0-7 lifetime postseason mark and likely his last year since his contract wasn’t extended.
It’s tough to get excited about Cincinnati this season with the addition of linebacker Kevin Minter as their only big addition. The loss of left tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency to the Rams was a difficult one. That means young Cedric Ogbeuehi will need to step up at left tackle. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked 41 times last season and the ground game averaged 110.6 yards per game but lacked consistency. They certainly don’t lack weapons on offense led by running back Jeremy Hill (839 yards, 3.8ypc) and Giovani Bernard (39 catches for 336 yds, 337yds rushing). Wide receiver A.J. Green was having a career season with 66 catches for 964 yards before injuring his hamstring in Week 11. Rookie John Ross is one of the fastest players in the NFL but injured his knee in the preseason finale against the Colts and could miss 2-3 games.
Defensively, the Bengals were average last season, allowing 350.8ypg (17th) and finished 21st against the run (113.2ypg). Their strength is up front led by DT Geno Atkins (9 sacks) and DE Carlos Dunlap (8 sacks).
- 1-6 ATS last 7 road games.
- 4-1 ATS last 5 overall.
- 18-6-2 ATS last 26 in September.
Flacco normally has trouble against Lewis-coached defenses. Baltimore hasn’t won in Cincinnati since 2010 and in fact, last season’s win at home, halted a five-game Bengals’ winning streak. The Ravens and Flacco have not had their full group on offense save for a few days of practice. That will be a tough task for them against a veteran defense.
Since I’m picking Cincinnati, I should go over, right? Their defense isn’t great and they are playing without Burfict and Pac-man. However, the last three games in this series have gone under and the Ravens have to play a low-scoring game if they have any chance of winning. The Bengals are 20-8 Under last 28 vs. AFC North and Baltimore is 13-6 Under last 19 in Week 1.