NFL Picks: Ravens vs. Bills in Week 4

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 3:33 PM UTC

Tuesday, Sep. 24, 2013 3:33 PM UTC

Seems our defending Super Bowl champions still have some life left in them. The Baltimore Ravens can soar to 3-1 straight-up and against the NFL lines with a solid performance against the Buffalo Bills.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to September 22 inclusive:

9-6-1 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

0-3 Totals

All right, I’m as guilty as anyone else of overreacting to Week 1 of the NFL betting season. I was ready to bury the Baltimore Ravens after their 49-27 implosion against the Denver Broncos (–7.5 at home), even though Denver happens to be one of the best teams in the league. But the Ravens have recovered with back-to-back wins against the Cleveland Browns (+5.5 away) and the Houston Texans (+1 away). 

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills have played three competitive games to start the year, although they’re 1-2 SU (2-1 ATS), and the future looks much less cloudy with EJ Manuel at quarterback. So who do you take this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) when these two teams meet at Ralph Wilson Stadium? Even the NFL betting public is having trouble deciding. Our early NFL consensus reports  show a 50-50 split with Baltimore laying 3.5 points on the road.


Raven Images

Many of my colleagues expected the Baltimore Ravens to regress this year after going on that Super Bowl run. It made sense looking just at the Pythagorean wins from 2012 and all that, but as I’ve said far too many times already, the Ravens were a much better team last year with LB Terrell Suggs in the lineup – which is where he was during the playoffs. But my optimism dissolved in the Mile High air even before the Broncos mounted their big second-half comeback, and it was because of the friendly-fire injuries to WR Jacoby Jones and RT Michael Oher. 

It seems my fears were unfounded. Oher’s sprained right ankle, an injury he called the worst of his career, turns out not to be so serious after all. And while Jones (30 catches last year) was one of Baltimore’s last viable threats with WR Anquan Boldin (62 catches) gone to San Francisco and TE Dennis Pitta (61 catches) on temporary injured reserve, undrafted rookie WR Marlon Brown and veteran TE Dallas Clark have stepped up with 22 catches and a pair of TDs between them.

Follow our NFL Picks: Week 4 Betting Odds Report for all of the latest changes.

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There’s still a limited amount of talent on Baltimore’s offense, and the running game has just 2.6 yards per carry thus far with Oher a bit gimpy and RB Ray Rice (hip) probably out until Week 5. But as long as QB Joe Flacco (80.0 passer rating) continues his excellent game management and keeps feeding the ball to Bernard Pierce (24 carries against Houston), the Ravens should be all right. As always, it’s because of that defense. Baltimore has allowed zero TDs since giving up seven to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 1. 

This is where most of the naysayers thought Baltimore was in trouble. Yes, LB Ray Lewis retired, safety Ed Reed went to Houston, and LB Paul Kruger signed with Cleveland. But Lewis and Reed were past their “best before” dates, and the Ravens poached three-time Pro Bowl LB Elvis Dumervil from Denver in the offseason. Let’s not forget former Jacksonville Jaguars LB Daryl Smith, who returned an interception to the house against the Texans in Week 3. Baltimore now has 30 pick-sixes since 2003, more than any other club in the NFL.

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How will Manuel respond on Sunday? He’s only thrown one pick in his first 108 NFL pass attempts, and has yet to commit a fumble despite nine sacks, scrambling for 76 yards on 13 carries. However, Manuel and the Bills needed some luck to beat the Carolina Panthers (–3.5 away) 24-23 in Week 2, and I’ll take Baltimore over Carolina just about any day, and with the NFL odds offering a short spread, we would be crazy not to pounce. 

NFL Pick: Take the Ravens –3.5 (+102) at Pinnacle
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