Ravens vs Bengals Week 18 Picks and Predictions: Sticking to Script in Weird Matchup

External factors are clouding this Week 18 matchup between the Bengals and Ravens, but counting on Joe Burrow to rough up a Ravens D that hasn't faced his level of competition might be safest. See why our NFL picks like Cincy to show its stripes Sunday.

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2023 8:27 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

The situation and circumstances around Sunday’s AFC North showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals seem to be changing by the minute as we closed in on kickoff for NFL Week 18.

Following the suspension (and eventual cancellation) of Cincinnati’s home game with Buffalo last Monday, the league bumped this game to a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on Wednesday and then canceled the Bengals’ pending Week 17 outing, which made Cincy the AFC North champ based on winning percentage — even if Baltimore beats the Bengals in Week 18.

What we do know for sure is that both teams are playing to win, as they can improve their playoff positioning in the final game of the regular season — a game in which Baltimore will once again be without starting QB Lamar Jackson.

I try to make betting on this Week 18 finale a little more straightforward, breaking down the spread and total as well as giving my best NFL picks and predictions for Ravens at Bengals below.

Ravens vs Bengals best odds

Ravens vs Bengals picks and predictions

There are an unprecedented number of outside factors influencing this Week 18 game, especially as it pertains to the Bengals.

Cincinnati was preparing for its game of the year versus Buffalo last Monday, but with that contest halted in the first quarter and players on both sides incredibly shook by the Hamlin incident, it’s difficult to grasp the focus of the Bengals coming into this Week 18 finale. 

Quarterback Joe Burrow told the media that many Cincinnati players don’t feel like playing in Sunday’s matchup with the Ravens.

“I’m sure if you polled the locker room there would be mixed votes on that,” Burrow told reporters Thursday. “Personally, I think playing is going to be tough, but there’s people that want to play, too, and there’s people that don’t.”

Add in the scheduling changes, AFC playoff amendments, the lackluster way Cincy was awarded the division title, and Baltimore’s QB carousel, and this is a very tough game to handicap. 

Laying the big spread with Cincinnati is worrisome, with mixed motivations for players and coaches as well as looking ahead to the start of the postseason and perhaps pulling and protecting top players in the second half.

Taking Cincinnati to win outright would keep it simple, but the Bengals’ moneyline is a big pill to swallow in the -500 range. So, we take some of the bite out of that market by playing the double results on Cincinnati — also known as the first half/full game odds — needing the Bengals to be up at the break and win the game outright.

The Bengals are in a different class right now, specifically when we measure this offense against the Ravens' recent foes. Baltimore has taken on passing games such as Russell Wilson and the broken Broncos, the combo of Kenny Pickett/Mitchell Trubisky with the Steelers, Deshaun Watson and the Browns, and rookie QB Desmond Ridder of the Falcons.

And with Baltimore marching out a busted-up Tyler Huntley or third-stringer Anthony Brown at QB, the Bengals defense gets a major break considering the quarterback competition Cincinnati has had to prepare for in recent outings, with names like Josh Allen, Tom Brady, and Patrick Mahomes popping up in film study. Stopping the Ravens will be entirely about stopping the run, something the Bengals have been good at during their winning streak.

Cincinnati is still pushing for a better playoff spot and will likely be scoreboard-watching the Bills-Patriots game. Kansas City can claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win in Las Vegas on Saturday, but should Buffalo lose to New England and the Bengals win over Baltimore, Cincy slides into the No. 2 spot in the conference.

The spread is climbing on this contest, as is the price on the double-result so shop around for the best first half/full game price on the Bengals and keep it simple.

My best bet: Cincinnati double result (-164 at bet365)

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Ravens vs Bengals spread analysis

This line was off the board until Wednesday afternoon following the scary events of last Monday’s game in Cincinnati. 

Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field in the first quarter and the game was initially suspended, with the NFL eventually stating that it would not be resumed before Week 18. The league officially cancelled the Week 17 contest on Thursday.

This spread had a lookahead line of Bengals -7 before the events of last Monday and reopened at that number late Wednesday afternoon. Some books took early play on Cincinnati and with Jackson not practicing with a knee injury all week, this spread crept to -7.5. As of Friday morning, this spread has climbed as high as Bengals -9 while some are still offering a -7.5 spread.

Cincinnati entered Week 17 as the hottest team in the league, winning seven straight contests while covering the spread in each of those games. The Bengals offense was the driving force behind those paydays, ranked No. 1 in EPA per play since Week 9 with the passing attack getting to full strength over the past few weeks.

The Ravens offense has been on the opposite end of those metrics since Jackson went down in Week 13. Baltimore is 22nd in EPA per play in that span, running the offense through backups Huntley and Brown. Huntley is also dealing with wrist and shoulder injuries and was limited in practice Thursday, not able to throw.

Despite the game of musical chairs at QB and that offensive ineptitude, Baltimore has battled hard on defense to keep contests competitive and has gone 3-2 SU (2-3 ATS) in those last five games. However, the Ravens have played opposition well below Cincy’s class, beating the likes of Pittsburgh, Denver, and Atlanta.

These divisional rivals last met back in Week 5 with the Ravens edging the Bengals 19-17 on a last-second Justin Tucker field goal as time expired, winning but just missing out on covering as 3-point home favorites.

According to DraftKings sportsbooks, 69% of bets and 62% of money are riding on Cincinnati while PointsBet sportsbooks are reporting 62% of ticket count on the home team but just 52% of the handle backing the Bengals.

Ravens vs Bengals Over/Under analysis

When the line was eventually posted, the Over/Under total opened as high as 42 points and has since slipped to 39 in the past three days.

Jackson’s inactivity and Huntley’s practice status are pushing this number down, as the Ravens may have QB3 Brown under center. Baltimore has been a perfect Under bet in the past five games, but those efforts have also come against struggling offenses and rookie QBs.

Burrow is playing some of the best football of his young career and is a massive step up in competition for Baltimore’s defense when measured against recent rival QBs. The Ravens also have bodies missing in the secondary and could be without starting corner Marcus Peters, who was limited in practice.

If Baltimore is going to have a shot at stunning Cincinnati, it will need to play defense on offense — a game of keep-away from Burrow & Co. The Ravens do have the running game and plodding playbook to do so, sitting No. 9 in EPA per handoff since Week 13 even without Jackson and rolling out an attack that sits 27th in seconds per play on the season. 

The Bengals defense is no pushover, however. Cincinnati has complemented the offensive efforts with some stellar play of its own, especially locking down rival running games. The Bengals are 10th in EPA allowed per handoff during this winning streak and have limited foes to less than a 40% success rate on the ground.

The perfect situation for Cincinnati would be to jump out to a commanding lead early on and then start to pull starters in the second half, leading to a run-heavy game script from the Bengals as they kill the clock and protect their premier passing game in the final two quarters.

The total for the Week 5 matchup between these AFC North opponents opened at 47.5 and climbed to 48.5 before eventually settling at a closing number as low as 47. The 19-17 final score played well below that total.

According to PointsBet books, the Under has drawn 81% of bet count and 92% of the handle. DraftKings is reporting different splits on the total, with 56% of bets on the Over but just 51% of money leaning to the Under.

Ravens vs Bengals betting trend to know

The AFC North has been an Under factory in 2022-23, with the division producing a 2-7-1 Over/Under record heading into Week 18. Baltimore has played below the total in all five of its divisional games while Cincinnati is 1-3-1 O/U against AFC North rivals. Find more NFL betting trends for Ravens vs. Bengals.

Ravens vs Bengals game info

Location: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Date: Sunday, January 8, 2023
Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. ET
Opening odds: Bengals -7, 42

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