The Cincinnati Bengals get right down to the nasty business of defending their AFC North title when they open their season Sunday afternoon with a tough divisional road game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens.
Cincy has had a tough time on the divisional road recently, going 1-7 SU and 1-6-1 ATS over its past eight games in that spot. But the Ravens have had certain problems of their own, going 3-5 SU and 2-6 ATS over their last eight AFC North contests.
Point spread: The Ravens opened as one-point favorites; the total was 43. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 26.1-18.4 Bengals
Why the Bengals can cover the spread
The Bengals have made the playoffs three seasons in a row, winning the division last year, and while they've struck out in the postseason, they stand a nice chance of making it back this year. Cincy ranked 10th in total offense last year and third in total defense, holding opponents to 19 points per game.
QB Andy Dalton catches some flak, and he did throw 20 interceptions last year, but the Bengals are 30-18 SU, 27-17-4 ATS with him as their starter. And wide receiver AJ Green is one of the best in the business. Cincy split its two games with the Ravens last year but out-gained them by 175 yards per contest.
They have also been dominant as small underdogs, according to the NFL database at Odds Shark.
Why the Ravens can cover the spread
The Ravens will be itching to get this season off to a good start after missing the playoffs last year. Baltimore started poorly last season, winning just four of its first 10 games, but then won four in a row to jump back into playoff contention.
However, the Ravens lost their last two games, sending them into the offseason with a terrible taste in their mouths.
Statistically speaking, Baltimore doesn't always impress, but it seems to be one of those outfits that wins games it sometimes shouldn't. Like last November, when the Ravens got out-gained by Cincinnati 344-209 but beat the Bengals in overtime 20-17.
The Ravens will be without suspended RB Ray Rice, and don't think they won't miss him. Even in an off season last year, Rice accounted for 1,000 yards from scrimmage on 270 touches. But the question has to be asked: Is the door closing on this Baltimore team?
The Ravens averaged just 83 yards per game on the ground last year, and QB Joe Flacco threw 22 interceptions.
While the defense kept them in several games, it let them down a few times, too. The smart money on this one looks like it's with the visiting Bengals.
- Ravens 5-1 ATS past six season openers
- Bengals 11-1-2 ATS past 14 games since 2006 when dog of three or less
- Ravens are 28-2 SU as home chalk since 2010