STAR PREVIEW Sun: Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.
The top two in the AFC North (I didn’t think I’d be writing that this year) clash at M&T Bank Stadium with both protagonists arriving on the back of comprehensive victories. The Ravens taking down the well-fancied Chargers 34-6 and the Bengals trouncing the hapless and winless Lions 34-11 on the road. I doubt either side will find life as easy this week and it’s an intriguing contest to preview.
For those of you who like your statistics the Bengals have covered the spread in five of their last seven trips to Baltimore and come into this contest with a defence that has quietly paid it’s way this year. Sitting at 4-2 the Cincinnati defence have managed to limit every side they have faced this year 25 points or less, the Packers being the side to have scored the most against them, they have in fact conceded just 111 points all season.
Some may say that having lost the last three games to the Ravens by a combined score of 114-19 that the only way is up and the last time these two sides met Baltimore ran all over them recording 404 yards on the ground with 97 of those attributed to Ravens dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This is a rather different Bengals team and defence now though and one that I don’t expect to get crushed 38-3 as they did in that game that brought down the curtain on the last regular season. They are still a team in transition though and this will be a litmus test for how far the Bengals have come this season and finding a way to stop the potent Ravens offence will be a key to the game.
Offensively Cincinnati are starting to look better also with quarterback Joe Burrow returning from injury and establishing a real chemistry with his old LSU wide receiver teammate Ja’Marr Chase. The rookie receiver has in terms of yards only three other wide receivers in front of him and they are Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp and Tyreek Hill and that triumvirate are receiving royalty. In his first six NFL games Chase is averaging 92.2 yards per game and has 5 touchdowns to his name; once again he’ll be a dangerman for the Bengals.
Burrow who has thrown 14 TD passes this year will face a difficult challenge against the Ravens defence who as the Chargers Justin Herbert found out last week love to blitz and bring pressure. Burrow failed to cope with that challenge last year being pressured on a career-high 48.7% of his dropbacks and sacked seven times in his only meeting with the Ravens. With that facet of the game in mind it will be vital that the Bengals get running back Joe Mixon going. Mixon turned 23 touches into 153 yards and a third TD in as many games last week against the Lions, he’ll be very important in keeping the Cincinnati offence balanced and the Ravens defence honest.
If there is one area where the Ravens have been vulnerable it’s to tight ends, giving up an average of 74.83 yards to that position through six games this year, the third-worst number in the league. It’s not an area where the Bengals are over blessed with talent but it may well be worth taking a look at any player props on C.J. Uzomah. Not a major force by any means Uzomah has done well this season when playing teams that struggle with tight ends his 95 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars being a good example.
Earlier in the season the Ravens were losing running backs at will to injury but they have overcome those handicaps in fine style although having a quarterback with the rushing ability of Lamar Jackson has clearly helped. The NFL’s only player with 1,500-plus passing yards and 300-plus rushing yards this season, Jackson is 5-0 in his career against the Bengals, with an average margin of victory of 20.8 points per game.
How the Bengals deal with Jackson is one of the keys to the game and if you let him run free outside the numbers then they will be in trouble. Jackson has been throwing touchdown passes, rushing for more, and generally looking as good as any other QB in the league and is certainly amongst the leaders for the MVP title once again.
The tight end position looks to be important for the Bengals and their chance within this game and the same can be said for the Ravens. Whilst Jackson offers an all round threat no NFL player at the tight end position is hotter than Mark Andrews who has averaged 89.6 receiving yards over the last five weeks off the back of an average of 6.2 receptions per game.
This will be a test of how far the Bengals have come and a measure of their progress but facing the Ravens on the road is a far stiffer test than dismissing the wretched Lions. I think the Bengals will stay within striking distance, skill players like Burrow, Mixon and Chase give them every chance of doing that as do their underrated defence. In what could be an entertaining game there is some scoring potential and although the trends suggest siding with the unders I’m going to go against the crowd and look to the +5.5 touchdown mark to provide some value.
BACK Mark Andrews +59.5 receiving yards 2pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Joe Mixon +57.5 rushing yards 2pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Over +5.5 match touchdowns 2pts at 6/5 (Latest Star Price CLICK TO BET NOW)
PROFIT/LOSS (OCTOBER 2021): PROFIT 10.81 points
(Excluding ante-post recommendations CLICK HERE)