Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
The apparent disrespect of legitimate MVP candidate Lamar Jackson continues.
Well, not based on the spread, with Baltimore being a solid 7-point favorite at home. That number is pretty fair. But based on the total, the linesmakers could be giving Jackson a wee bit more credit.
After all, since the former Louisville Cardinal’s first full season as QB1 two years ago, the Ravens are routinely scoring nearly 30 points per game. Their weekly scoring output actually bumps up to above that mark when he’s taken the field at M&T Bank Stadium from 2019 on.
This sample size consists of 18 outings and there’s been more than enough to see Jackson is a real menace for any opposing defense. He’s been consistently effective here, too, as the Ravens have scored at least 20 points in every regular season bout started by Jackson at home.
Based on this, we have to assume the AFC North division leaders will churn out 20 or more — especially while coming in hot, having won five in a row. Given how the Ravens averaged 32.2 points in Jackson’s five previous career meetings opposite the Bengals, figure their final point tally will be closer to the average.
Now we just have to decipher if Cincy can at least hang around, and if you’ve seen them even once this year, the answer appears to be yes. They are a revelation.
Of course, much of the transformation from “bottom feeder” to “genuine contender” is due to drafting franchise quarterback Joe Burrow last year. Despite suffering a torn ACL more than midway through his freshman season, Burrow hasn’t skipped a beat and — get this — is actually tied with Tom Brady (!) for the league’s sixth-best passer rating (107.9).
The 24-year-old wields an impressive cast of weapons that can help sustain his illuminating numbers. Rookie (and former college teammate of Burrow’s) Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins compose one of the NFL’s most dangerous wide-receiver trios, while Joe Mixon is a quality running back to lean on.
Above all, let’s factor in that this week’s date against Baltimore is the franchise’s most important in damn well more than a decade and I don’t see Burrow laying an egg. His trademark confidence and swagger is one trait that made him so appealing when he was just a prospect.
So long as the Ravens maintain their hot run and bring the points like they usually do anyway, all we need is for the Bengals to stick in this and that’s a favorable scenario to anticipate. Additionally, if they pull off the upset, that would be because they had to score in bunches, pointing to an over as well. In case of a 24-21/28-17 outcome, I’m buying a full point to be sure.
Pick: OVER 45 (-130)