NFL Picks: Sharps Identify Edge in Ravens Lineup vs. Patriots

Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 12:59 PM GMT

Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015 12:59 PM GMT

Sharp bettors love value, and they love proven winners. The Baltimore Ravens qualify on both counts, and according to our consensus reports, they’re a very popular NFL pick among the betting elite.

Jason’s 2014-15 postseason record: 1-1 ATS, 0-1-1 Totals

Remember how we said the Baltimore Ravens had the right formula to beat the New England Patriots? Apparently the sharps agree. Our expanded consensus reports at press time show the Ravens (+7 away) pulling in over 96 percent of the action for Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round playoff (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC). That’s 96 percent of the monies wagered, coming from 58 percent of the betting population.

As we say in the business, big monies is sharp monies. Or something like that. The average bet size on Baltimore in our survey is $1,177, compared to just $59 on New England. Holy macaroon. This is despite the fact that 10 of the 16 pay touts who have weighed in so far have recommended the Patriots. What’s the dealio?

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History Never Repeats
First off, let’s rehash the Ravens-Patriots dynamic for a moment. In a vacuum, a team like the Ravens should be attractive to the sharps, and doubly so when a team like the Patriots is involved. Baltimore, built on defense and running with a game-manager QB in Joe Flacco, plays in a regional market with not all that much fan support: No. 10 on the public money charts. New England, with mega-star QB Tom Brady spearheading a mighty offense in front of a national fanbase, is No. 4 in public support.

Then you have the actual playoff results with this matchup:

Jan. 20, 2010: Ravens 33, Patriots 14 (BAL +4)
Jan. 22, 2012: Ravens 20, Patriots 23 (BAL +7)
Jan. 20, 2013: Ravens 28, Patriots 13 (BAL +8)

There you have it. If you devote even half a brain cell to the very recent history between these two teams, you’re going to end up thinking very strongly about adding the Ravens to your Divisional Round NFL picks. But clearly there are plenty of touts who think otherwise. Since we’ve already laid out New England’s weaknesses like gutted fish parts, let’s give Baltimore the same courtesy.

 

Stewart Saves His Family
The Ravens have pretty much all the same ingredients as the teams that went 3-0 ATS at Foxborough. Some of the names are different; LB Ray Lewis has retired, and RB Justin Forsett (5.4 yards per carry) has mercifully taken over at tailback. But thanks to a series of injuries, the Baltimore secondary is a shell of its former self. Here are the four men who started in the Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

LC Lardarius Webb – established quality player; Buck Buchanan Award finalist at Division I-FCS Nicholls State.
RC Rashaan Melvin – undrafted out of Northern Illinois in 2013; signed from Miami’s practice squad in November.
SS Will Hill – undrafted out of Florida in 2012; suspended multiple times for violating the league’s substance abuse policy; played Arena League football with the Arizona Rattlers.
FS Darian Stewart – undrafted out of South Carolina in 2010; played in the East-West Shrine Game.

Not exactly the Legion of Boom we’re talking about here. But head coach John Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and their assistants had Baltimore’s patchwork secondary fully prepared for Pittsburgh. Stewart and former starting SS Matt Elam each had a pick against Roethlisberger to secure a 30-17 victory as 3-point road dogs.

Presumably, the Patriots will have a better game plan for exploiting what should be Baltimore’s weak spot. However, there isn’t much else wrong with the Ravens lineup, and it looks like they’ll get two more players back this week after LT Eugene Monroe and promising rookie DT Timmy Jernigan returned to practice on Tuesday. Combine that with Flacco playing the best football of his career – he led the league in QBR this year at 85.9 – and Baltimore indeed looks like a very sharp NFL pick this weekend.

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