Injuries Make Ravens the Pick Over Panthers in Week 4

Jason Lake

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1:38 PM GMT

Wednesday, Sep. 24, 2014 1:38 PM GMT

Picking between the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens is like picking between oatmeal and Cream of Wheat. Only one of these cereals can beat the football odds when they meet Sunday in Baltimore.

Jason’s Record After Week 3: 6-13 ATS, 3-3-1 Totals

Profit: minus-13.6 units

 

Looking for a breakfast that’ll stick to your ribs? How about three yards and a cloud of dust? That used to be the modus operandi for the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens, but that was back when they had, you know, running backs. Injuries and suspensions have flipped the script somewhat, and thus far, each team has won two out of three straight-up. Carolina is 2-1 ATS, while Baltimore is break-even at 1-1-1 ATS.

As fate would have it, the Panthers visit the Ravens this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS), and it should be a close one: Baltimore opened as a 2.5-point chalk (–125) before making the big leap to –3 (–125) on the Week 4 NFL odds board. That’s still basically an even matchup on neutral ground. Fitting, because it’s also an even matchup on paper.

 

Middle of the Road
The paper in this case is virtual: Football Outsiders has released their DVOA rankings through Week 3, and Baltimore finds itself in the middle of the table at No. 14 overall, one spot ahead of Carolina. There isn’t much separating the two teams when you break them down into categories, either:

Ravens: No. 15 offense, No. 15 defense, No. 14 special teams

Panthers: No. 13 offense, No. 13 defense, No. 24 special teams

That is a whole mouthful of beige right there. The only glaring difference is on special teams, where the Ravens have provided better punting (courtesy of Sam Koch) and punt coverage. Otherwise, there’s not much to choose from. You get regular Ovaltine, or you get chocolate Ovaltine.

 

We Run
Take a closer look at the efficiency stats, though, and you’ll see these teams are made up of different ingredients. With so many injuries at running back, the Carolina offense is heavily weighted toward air mail at this point (No. 6 pass, No. 30 rush). Meanwhile, Baltimore may have cut ties with Ray Rice, but third-string RB Justin Forsett (6.3 yards per carry) has been a godsend, allowing the Ravens to keep things moving on the ground (No. 19 pass, No. 11 rush).

This is a vital distinction to make when you’re betting on the NFL this week. It just so happens that Carolina’s otherwise stout defense is having some trouble with run blocking, falling to No. 29 in efficiency compared to No. 5 on passing downs. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens defense is spread out fairly evenly at No. 11 against the run and No. 15 against the pass.

Find Out What NFL Bettors Have Learned Heading into Week 4!

I Don’t Need Your Pitta
It’s all those injuries that have us leaning toward the Ravens in Sunday’s contest. DeAngelo Williams, who was expected to start Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, was made inactive instead with a lingering thigh issue. Then both Jonathan Stewart (knee) and Mike Tolbert (leg) had to leave the Steelers game, and Pittsburgh (+3 away) handed Carolina its first loss of the year in a 37-19 final. Tolbert is definitely out until at least Week 13; reports suggest Stewart could miss a month, so the onus is on Williams to get ready for Week 4.

The Ravens also lost TE Dennis Pitta (16 catches this year) for the season with a dislocated hip, which is definitely a blow to their offense, but we’re a lot more concerned for Carolina. Load us up for the usual 1.4 units for our NFL picks and we’ll see what happens.

 

The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: BAL

Defense/Special Teams: BAL

Coaching: BAL

Market Bias: CAR

Betting Line Value: CAR

Verdict: 1-star bet on BAL

Free NFL Pick: Put 1.4 units on the Ravens –3 (–119) at Intertops

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