NFL Picks: Ravens vs. Lions Betting the Total

Jason Lake

Monday, December 16, 2013 1:19 PM UTC

Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 1:19 PM UTC

If it’s Week 15, it must be time to start pounding the UNDER on the football betting lines. Do the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions have what it takes not to score on Monday Night Football?

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 14 inclusive:

35-30-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

8-15-1 Totals

It’s been a wild and crazy 2013 NFL betting season. How have your results been this year? If you look at everyone else who’s betting on football, you’ll find that you’re doing better than some and worse than others, with most people (including Yours Truly) landing right around .500. But if you’re a professional handicapper employing the standard rules of thumb for football betting, it’s a little more likely you’ve had a frustrating season. That’s because NFL favorites are 110-96-3 ATS (53.4 percent) as we go to press. The OVER is even more profitable at 114-93 (55.1 percent).

But we ain’t done yet, folks. It’s Week 15 in the NFL, and this just happens to be when the underdogs – and therefore the UNDER – start having their collective day. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Will those trends hold up in December 2013? More specifically, will they hold up when the Baltimore Ravens (UNDER 7-6) meet the Detroit Lions (UNDER 7-6) on Monday Night Football?

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This Beat is Megatronic

At least the football lines are leaving plenty of room. There’s a total of 50 points on the NFL odds board for Monday’s matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), up from 48.5 points at the open, and our consensus reports show roughly 60 percent support for the OVER. The total could easily grow higher before kick-off. This game is being played in the cozy confines of Ford Field, and the Lions have a reputation for offense.

It’s a reputation that Detroit hasn’t quite lived up to this year. Heading into Week 15, the Lions had the league’s No. 15-ranked offense (No. 11 pass, No. 27 rush) in terms of efficiency, according to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders. They’re still getting plenty of flash from everyone’s favorite wideout, Calvin Johnson (75 catches, 12 TDs), but that’s about where the fun ends in Motown.

I Don’t Wanna Play

So why is Week 15 so important? I’ve been trumpeting the academic work done by Richard Borghesi, who wrote a paper back in 2003 that revealed the betting value in picking large home dogs at this time of year. The idea is that road teams are at a greater disadvantage the deeper into the season you go, thanks to accumulated wear and tear. And the more points the home teams get on the NFL betting lines, the more often they pay out.

Take that one step further, and in games where the underdog has the advantage, the UNDER is also more likely to get paid. Of course, in this particular matchup, the Lions are favored by 6.5 points, so we don’t have that classic situation where a disinterested road team is coming to town to play an undervalued underdog. It would be even better if they were playing outdoors in lousy conditions, and if Baltimore were a warm-weather team travelling all the way across the country.

Everybody Hurts

Having said all that, some of the underlying conditions behind those late-season NFL betting trends are still in place for Monday night’s matchup. Most importantly, everyone’s a wreck as the regular season draws to a close; both the Lions and Ravens have guys playing hurt on offense, or missing the game altogether in the case of Baltimore WR Brandon Stokley. It’s a tough gig, folks.

Also, I happen to be recommending the underdog Ravens in this contest. I’m fairly comfortable with that pick, too, and the standard complementary parlay with the NFL totals would be on the UNDER. Then again, look at where the standard picks have gotten us this year. I’ll stick with the program for now, but good gravy, I’m not interested in getting left behind, clinging to the old ways. Every trend has a shelf life.

NFL Pick: Take UNDER 50 (–102) at Matchbook

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