The long-term trends suggest tomorrow night’s AFC North battle between the Baltimore Ravens (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) and Cincinnati Bengals (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) at Paul Brown Stadium (September 13th at 8:20pm EST) is going to be a low-scoring affair. But don’t bank on the UNDER cashing just yet, as more recent history indicates we may be in for a shootout on Thursday Night Football in Week 2.
The Ravens opened as 1.5-point favorites with the total at 44.0. Check the table above for the current spread, moneylines, and over/under.
Ravens vs Bengals Head-to-Head History
Cincinnati and Baltimore’s last five head-to-head meetings have averaged just 37.6 PPG, and the Bengal offense was dead-last in yards per game last year (280.5) with Baltimore not far ahead (305.4, 27th overall).
Last 5 Meetings
|Jan 3, 2016||24-16 Bengals (in Cincinnati)|
|Nov 27, 2016||19-14 Ravens (in Baltimore)|
|Jan 1, 2017||27-10 Bengals (in Cincinnati)|
|Sep 10, 2017||20-0 Ravens (in Cincinnati)|
|Dec 31, 2017||31-27 Bengals (in Baltimore)|
Much of that looks like ancient history, though. Last season’s Week 17 meeting was a relative point-fest as Andy Dalton led Cincy to a 31-27 comeback on the road.
These offenses also combined to score 81 points in Week 1 as Baltimore ran over Buffalo 47-3 at home and the Bengals upset the Colts 34-23 in Indianapolis.
Ravens vs Bengals Statistical Comparison
|24.7||Points per game in 2017||18.1|
|47||Points in Week 1, 2018||34|
|305.4||Yards per game in 2017||280.5|
|369||Total yards in Week 1, 2018||330|
|80.4||Joe Flacco/Andy Dalton passer rating in 2017||86.6|
|121.7||Joe Flacco/Andy Dalton passer rating in Week 1, 2018||109.7|
One week is a miniscule sample size, but there’s reason to think the apparent improvements on offense are not a mirage.
First, both first-team offenses looked markedly better in the preseason.
Second, both units made significant improvements at areas of need in the offseason. The Ravens finally gave Joe Flacco some weapons, signing WRs Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. The Bengals beefed up arguably the league’s worst offensive line by signing OT Cordy Glenn from Buffalo and drafting C Billy Price in the first round.
Those additions are paying immediate dividends. Flacco was 25/34 for 236 yards and 3 TDs in Week 1 and connected with all three of his new receivers. Snead, Brown, and Crabtree combined for 10 catches, 131 yards, and all three of Baltimore’s passing touchdowns.
Powered by second-year back Joe Mixon (95 yards, 1 TD on 17 carries), the Cincinnati run game averaged over 5.1 yards per carry, up from 3.6 YPC in 2017.
The obvious caveat is that most offenses are going to look dynamic against the Bills and Colts this year. The Ravens and Bengals defenses are much better than what either offense faced in Week 1.
Will the Defenses Rule the Day?
Both Cincy and Baltimore entered 2018 thinking their defense would be the backbone of the team. Baltimore finished sixth in the NFL in scoring defense in 2017 (18.9 PP), while the Bengals were 16th (21.8 PPG) despite the offense routinely putting them in terrible spots.
The Ravens D lived up to expectations in Week 1, holding Buffalo to a league-low three points and 153 total yards, while piling up six sacks. The Bengals defense was a little more generous, giving up 24 points and 380 total yards to the Colts. But they also generated two takeaways, including a game-sealing fumble late in the fourth quarter, and they had the much more onerous task of facing Andrew Luck, whereas the Ravens were going against a Nathan Peterman-led Buffalo.
ATS Betting Trends (2017-18 Combined)
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals|
|BAL is 10-7 ATS overall||CIN is 10-7 ATS overall|
|BAL is 5-3 ATS away||CIN is 4-4 ATS at home|
|BAL is 1-0 ATS as away favorite||CIN is 2-0 as a home underdog|
|BAL is 4-2 ATS in division games||CIN is 4-2 ATS in division games|
|BAL is 3-5-1 ATS after a win||CIN is 5-2 ATS after a win|
Prediction: Ravens’ Pass Rush Will Be the Difference
Again, one game is a small sample, but there’s a certain Week 1 takeaway that looks vitally important in this matchup. The Bengals’ offensive line is still vulnerable when in comes to pass protection. Andy Dalton was sacked twice and routinely pressured by a feeble Indy pass rush. Baltimore’s pass rush had 41 sacks last year, another six in Week 1, and will give Cordy Glenn and company all kinds of problems on Thursday.
That’s bad news for Dalton, who is significantly worse under pressure than in a clean pocket, and it should help Baltimore mask the absence of top cornerback Jimmy Smith (four-game PED suspension).
Take the Ravens in a near pick’em game.