Free NFL Picks: Uncertainty Surrounds Ravens vs. Bengals in Week 17

Nikki Adams

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 2:17 PM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015 2:17 PM GMT

The Cincinnati Bengals look to bounce back at home when they host the Baltimore Ravens, all while playoff implications ride on the outcome. Find out where we’re lining up our NFL picks.

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NFL Pick: Ravens +7.5 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Cincinnati Bengals (11-4, 5-2 home)
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a gut-wrenching loss to the Denver Broncos at Mile High in MNF which saw them blow a chance at a first round bye in the playoffs and to move ahead of the New England Patriots in the AFC playoff hierarchy. As a result, week 17 is a must-win game for the Bengals if they hope to clinch the AFC top seed.

After blowing a 14-0 lead, the Bengals rallied and knotted up the game at 20 all with the Denver Broncos. A missed field goal by the Broncos to win the game in regulation time gave the Bengals renewed hope and sent the game into overtime, but then things went horribly wrong – from a potential fumble that they were lucky to get called their way to an ensuing McCarron miss that resulted in Broncos recovering the ball…game over.  If we were churlish, we could say so much for being the next Tom Brady…but we’re not so. It was simply tough luck for an unheralded quarterback in a highly charged game with a lot riding on the outcome for his inexperienced shoulders to carry.

In any event, the blunder on MNF hasn’t taken the shine off of their NFL odds. Well, not entirely. They remain considerable favorite to win and they are trading as the hefty home chalk against the spread, but their NFL odds ring in slightly lower than Advanced Lines at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook initially projected last week. That projection was of -10 for the Bengals.

Now, they are trading around the 7.5-point mark at most sportsbooks with only 5Dimes holding the Bengals at - 9.5. This slight downgrade is in part to the defeat to the Broncos in week 16, but, more likely, it’s down to the injury to AJ McCarron. The backup quarterback injured his wrist on the last play of the game and if the injury proves severe enough to keep him out of the line-up for Sunday’s clash with the Ravens, the Bengals’ postseason destiny will rest solely on third-string Keith Wenning’s shoulders. Yikes.

 

Baltimore Ravens (5-10, 2-5)
On a day of multiple upsets, the Ravens weren’t to be left out of the narrative as they upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 20-17 win. Ryan Mallet, recently acquired off of the quarterback scrap heap, actually played a decent game as he led the Ravens to the improbable victory, all while trading as double-digit underdogs. In fact, it marked the first game the Ravens ever won as double-digit underdogs. Who’d have thunk Mallet would earn such an accolade?

Ravens enter week 17 NFL betting with nothing to play for, save pride and an opportunity to stick it to their divisional rivals. The Bengals have already clinched the AFC North but they’re playing for a first round bye in the playoffs. A loss to the Ravens would see that hope which would give Andy Dalton additional time to get fit for the postseason slip through their fingers.

The Ravens are just 4-9-2 ATS this season with a 4.3-point losing margin and a negative 3-point differential against the spread. In the Bengals, they face the best in the league with a 12-2-1 record against the spread and an 8.8-point winning margin and a plus 5.2-point differential against the spread. However, if the quarterback situation in Cincy goes tits up one has to consider the possibility this is going to be a different ball game entirely.

 

NFL Betting Verdict
What started as a banner season for the Bengals has gone from bad to worse in a matter of a few weeks. Losing Andy Dalton at this pivotal juncture was a huge blow. Now, backup AJ McCarron could be out for week 17 NFL betting as well. Talk about bad luck.

As it is, MRI shows it just a sprained wrist and the Bengals are preparing to play McCarron. But that could change before Sunday; not to mention, if he does play who is to say he won’t reinjure his wrist or cause it further damage.

The Ravens have nothing to gain nor do they have anything to lose either in the broad spectrum of the season. One player that has everything to gain and a lot to lose is Ryan Mallet, who was summarily dumped by the Texans earlier this season for his attitude and inability to embrace the team ethos. Most NFL bettors expected the Ravens to come away on the losing end of their encounter with the Steelers last week, but Ryan Mallet effectively put paid on that notion when he lifted the wingless Ravens to the improbable win. He’s got one last chance this season to make an impression on the league that was only too eager to wash its hands off of him.

Second, third, fourth chances…however many he’s had…don’t come too often. With all the chances he’s had, he must realise he can’t continue taking these opportunities for granted. Before him is a second straight AFC heavyweight. It’s a tall order, by any stretch of the imagination. However, if he could defy the NFL odds one more time it would be some sort of personal validation.

Given all the uncertainty surrounding this game, we’re of a mind to go with the Ravens on our NFL picks. Importantly, it’s worth noting that the Ravens, despite all their woes this season, haven’t exactly been blown off the field. Only three games featured heavy defeats. Most of their losses were decided by a handful of points. Hence, we’re taking the points with the Ravens on our NFL picks.

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