Bengals at Ravens

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by - 1/2/2011 9:51 AM Share

This is what the sports betting world expected when the season started. The AFC North title would come down to the last game of the season and it would be the Baltimore Ravens neck in neck with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cincinnati Bengals thought they would be part of this equation, but their role now is only as a spoiler to the Ravens chances of winning the division.

•What: NFL betting
•When: Sunday, January 2nd, 1:00 PM ET
•Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
•Pick: Baltimore Ravens -9.5
What's On The Line
The Ravens (11-4) need to win this game and hope the Steelers lose their week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns in order to win the AFC North and finish second in the AFC. Otherwise the Ravens enter as a wild card and do not get the first round bye. The Bengals (4-11) are starting to wonder why their offense looks so much more effective without wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.

Offensive Matchups: Bengals Ravens Betting
The Ravens offense has improved dramatically over the course of the season. Quarterback Joe Flacco has 3,497 passing yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Running back Ray Rice has 1,143 yards and four touchdowns. But, more importantly for Baltimore, the offense is now able to find the endzone at critical points of the game rather than giving up turnovers on a regular basis.

In week 16, wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens did not play for the Bengals. Quarterback Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati offense went on to have one of the best days they have had all season long. Are Chad and Terrell a distraction that brings the offense down? Yes, they are. Is it about time that the Bengals realized this and moved on to new wide receivers? Yes, it is.

Betting Edge: Ravens

Defensive Matchups: Bengals Ravens Betting
This Baltimore defense is not the solid group that the sportsbook promo crowd is used to seeing. The front seven are able to contain the pass and shut down the run. Linebacker and defensive leader Ray Lewis see to that. But the secondary, even with safety Ed Reed, is just not what it used to be. The Ravens give up long plays on the passing game, and that has caused the Baltimore offense to have to come up big in the final quarter to win games.

The Bengals defense also had a banner day against the San Diego Chargers last week. They caused turnovers, confined the running and passing game and generally disrupted one of the best offenses in the league. But the Bengals defense is still weak on the front line. The Ravens have a big and athletic offensive line that is more than capable of pushing the Bengals defense around.

Betting Edge: Ravens

Notable Injuries: Bengals Ravens Betting
The Bengals are loaded up on significant injuries at offense. Wide receiver Terrell Owens (leg) is gone for the season. Wide receiver Chad Ochocino (ankle), running back Bernard Scott (toe) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee) are all sitting out of practice and it is not known if they will play.

The Ravens have a long list of nagging injuries, but the most significant one is center Matt Birk (knee). They may rest Birk for the playoffs, and that could open up the middle of the Baltimore offensive line.

Betting Edge: Ravens

Outlook and Pick: Bengals Ravens Betting
There are your marquee players, and then there are your media darlings. Both Owens and Ochocinco used to be marquee players, and now they are distractions and media darlings. The Bengals have so many other significant injuries on offense that it is difficult to imagine them putting up as many points against the Ravens as they did the Chargers.

Stan's Pick: Baltimore Ravens

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