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Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens,
9-23-2018 - Expert Prediction

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Game Snapshot with Current Line

#469 Denver
Broncos 44
#470 Baltimore
Ravens -6

Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 1:00pm

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

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Denver faces Baltimore on Sunday from M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens are coming off a loss on Thursday to Cincinnati on the road, while the Broncos have opened the season at 2-0. The Ravens opened as a 3.5-point favorite and are now favored by 5-points. The total opened at 43 and has jumped to 44. This is Denver’s first road game of the season, while Baltimore will be playing their second home game.

Local hero leads the Broncos to a 2-0 start

Phillip Lindsay was an undrafted rookie out of Colorado and a 5-8, 190-pounds, there weren’t a lot of suitors for the running back when he came out of school. But Denver is awfully glad the speedster was not draft. Lindsay gained nearly 5,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring 39 touchdowns at the University of Colorado. In his first two games, Lindsay has eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage in his first two games to become the first undrafted player in NFL history to do so.

Lindsay rushed for 107 yards on 14 carries against Oakland this past Sunday, including a 53-yard run, leading the Broncos to a 20-19 win. This was a game that Denver trailed throughout, but came back from nine points down in the fourth quarter to score a touchdown on a Case Keenum run and a 36-yard field goal from Brandon McManus to win it.

Now against Baltimore, Lindsay will attempt to run against a team that is allowing just 95.5 yards per game on the ground. He teams with another rookie in Royce Freeman to give them a thunder/lightning combination. That’s worked out as the Broncos rank second in the NFL in rushing. However, against Baltimore’s tough interior defense, the Broncos may have to rely more on Case Keenum, because the Ravens’ secondary is suspect with CB Jimmy Smith suspended. The Ravens are allowing 167.5 yards per game in the air but in their last game against the Bengals, Andy Dalton shredded their defense for 265 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns went to A.J. Green and while the Broncos don’t have a receiver with that kind of size and speed, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are more than capable receivers.

Keenum is the key for the Broncos and while hasn’t played great, he has directed the Broncos to wins over Seattle and Oakland at home. The issue for Keenum right now is turning the ball over as he’s been picked off four times in the first two games with a 73.6 qb rating. Last season, Keenum faced Baltimore when he played for Minnesota, completing 20 of 31 for 188 yards with a pick, but led the Vikings to a 24-16 home win.

Defensively, it’s all about the pass rush for Denver. They held Oakland to just 92 rushing yards but allowed Derek Carr to complete 29 of 32 for 288 yards with a TD, while sacking him just once. All-Pro DE Von Miller has four sacks in the first two games and is going up against an offensive line that gave up four sacks against the Bengals.

Ravens need to run the football

In their first two games, Baltimore is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry to rank third-worst in the NFL. Last season, Alex Collins, after being released by Seattle, went on to rank 11th in the NFL with 973 yards rushing for the Ravens. Against Cincinnati, Collins had just nine attempts for 35 yards, while backup Buck Allen had six for eight yards and five catches for 36 yards. So Allen touched the ball 11 times, while Collins had 12. That’s not the ratio Baltimore needs, though when you get behind 21-0 to start the game, the running attack becomes secondary.

“We’re not in any way pleased with the numbers,” Harbaugh said. “We are very determined to run the ball well because we think it fits our offense, and it’s something that opens everything else up. We have to get that going.”

Green caught all three touchdown passes to give the Bengals that 21-0 lead and not having Jimmy Smith certainly contributed last Thursday. However, Baltimore’s defense rarely breathed on Dalton, who was not sacked. The Ravens also lost inside linebacker C.J. Mosely to a bruised knee early in the game and communication issues followed because Mosley calls the plays for the defense. The loss of Mosley was devastating for the Ravens in the first half, as they allowed 28 points. But in the second half, when Baltimore cut the lead to 28-23, they ended up giving up just six points all half.

Veteran safety Eric Weddle took the reigns as the playcaller with the headset. Veteran linebacker Albert McClellan was re-signed and could end up calling the signals until Mosley returns.

A positive for the Ravens has been the play of John “Smoky” Brown, the former Arizona speedster who has seven catches for 136 yards with two touchdowns in the first two games. He had just 21 catches for 299 yards last season with Cardinals.

Ultimately, it comes down to blocking up front for Joe Flacco. The veteran quarterback completed 32 of 55 for 376 yards with two TDs, two picks and a lost fumble against the Bengals. He’s completing 64 percent of his passes for 612 yards with two interceptions. The Ravens are producing 397 yards per game thus far and 305.5 passing yards. But if the Ravens can protect Flacco, they are in trouble. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley will have his hands full with either Miller or rookie Bradley Chubb. Stanley left the Bengals game late due to an undisclosed injury and is considered day-to-day.

The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet
Rating:

Wish the spread was a little lower but have to go with the Ravens here. They have the extra rest coming off a Thursday night game and this game becomes extremely important after the loss to the Bengals. Denver also has to travel two times zones and they are playing an early game. Baltimore was a no-show in that first half and Flacco has always had issues against the Bengals’ defense, throwing 25 interceptions against them in his career and 21 TDs.

With the being said, he can take advantage of a Broncos’ secondary that was shredded against the Raiders. The Broncos have had the comfort of playing at home but haven’t played against really explosive offenses yet. The Ravens aren’t Kansas City or Pittsburgh but with Brown, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and Collins, they are more explosive than they’ve been since the Super Bowl season of 2012.

Prediction: Baltimore -5

Full-Game Total Pick
Rating:

There’s a reason this total jumped to 44. Teams are just not able to play aggressive defense anymore so offenses are able to put up 24-28 points per game if they have quality quarterbacks. Neither of these guys would be what you call elite, but Keenum and Flacco can put points on the board. They can also put up points for the other team with errant throws. If the Ravens get pressure on Keenum, who will put several up for grabs. After a terrible effort last Thursday, expect the Ravens to put a lot of pressure on Keenum, which should also help the over.

Prediction: Over 44

Full-Game Prop Bet
Rating:

The conditions are going to be ugly in this game. It’s expected to rain from start to finish and that’s gives the Ravens a slight edge as Joe Flacco performs well in the rain. There should be a turnover or two in the first quarter under these conditions and that will help it go over 7.5 early.

Prediction: Over 7.5 first quarter

Half-Time Side Pick
Rating:

The Ravens have some issues on the offensive line with LT Ronnie Stanley banged up. If they go max protect, they won’t have many receivers open. If they don’t, they’ll leave Flacco susceptible to pass rush all day. In that case, I’m going with Denver’s defense to help make this a very close game early on and to have a lead at the half. On the other side, the Broncos should be able to run a bit against the Ravens with Michael Pierce (toe) likely not to play.

Prediction: Denver +3 first half

Half-Time Total Bet
Rating:

Both teams have strong pass rushers. Terrell Suggs should be energized by playing at home and having extra rest. QB Case Keenum is a bit gimpy after missing practice last week. Take the under in the first half.

Prediction: Under 21.5 first half

Half-Time Prop Prediction
Rating:

Not only do I favor the Ravens to win this game but they should be most prepared to take the lead in the first quarter. Once again, conditions favor the Ravens and Flacco, who thrived in the first game against Buffalo in the rain.

Prediction: Ravens -1/2+ev first quarter

Benjamin Hayes

Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!

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