In probably the most exciting Thursday Night Football matchup we’ve had all year, the Bengals and Ravens will do battle in Baltimore. Both teams are fighting for positioning in the NFL’s best division, where somehow the 5-4 Bengals sit dead last. Both teams are also coming off losses, which means we should see two very motivated clubs tonight. The Ravens are currently 3.5-point favorites and the over/under is set at 46.5.
After starting the season 1-3, the Bengals came into last week on a four-game winning streak looking like they may not lose again this season. Then, C.J. Stroud and the Texans walked into Cincy and simply outplayed them all afternoon. Now, the team is 5-4 and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They’ll also have to leapfrog all three divisional rivals to capture the AFC North, something that’ll get a lot more difficult to do if they lose tonight.
On the field, this team goes how Joe Burrow goes. When Burrow is healthy and on his A-game, Cincinnati as a whole is very tough to beat. If he’s a little off, the defence usually isn’t good enough to make up for it against better teams like Baltimore. They did a good job against Seattle when the offence was stalling, but this Ravens team dominated those same Seahawks less than two weeks ago. The defence won’t necessarily lose them games, but they’re 30th in yards allowed, so they won’t be winning many games either.
Tonight, expect to see a lot of Burrow. The Ravens have one of the best run defenses in the league, so the Bengals may be forced to throw the ball a lot. That’s certainly something they should be OK with doing, though. If the pass game is humming, you’ll see a lot of Ja’Maar Chase as well. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd can sometimes be forgotten about, but that’s only because all of the focus is deservedly on Ja’Maar. If Burrow is in rhythm, Chase is almost always a big part of the game.
Much like the Bengals, the Ravens were looking like a team that couldn’t be stopped until a shocking, last-minute loss last Sunday. They’re still 7-3 and at the top of the North for now, but with another loss, they’ll be right back in the middle of things. Losing a home game after being up 14 points in the fourth always stings, but the fact that it happened against the divisional rival Browns was even worse. I expect to see them come out of the gates extremely motivated to get one back this week.
Lamar Jackson is coming off arguably his worst game of the season and it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back from that on a short week tonight. He’s looked great for most of the season, but he is vulnerable when it comes to turning the ball over. No quarterback has lost more fumbles this year, and his eleven total turnovers are tied for fourth most in the NFL. If the Bengals can rush him and force quick decisions, they’ll have a chance to make some big plays. To counter that, we should once again expect to see a lot of running the ball from Baltimore. Keaton Mitchell has been impressive with his minimal usage so far, and I’d love to see more of him if Gus Edwards starts slow.
Bengals and Ravens: The Pick
This Bengals and Ravens game has us more excited for Thursday Night Football than we’ve been in a while. Both teams come into tonight hungry to bounce back from a loss, and the playoff implications are massive. AFC North tilts always make for great television, and we should expect nothing to change tonight. The Ravens are great, but the 3.5 points feels a little aggressive against the equally hungry Bengals. I’ll take Cincy to cover the spread and keep it close.
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