The Cincinnati Bengals might not know who they’re facing at quarterback vs. the Baltimore Ravens ahead of their prime-time Wild Card matchup. With Lamar Jackson still out, Tyler Huntley is a game-time decision while Anthony Brown waits in the wings.
The Ravens are going to struggle to top their team total of 15.5 points, but even a likely positive game script isn't enough for me to take the Over on Joe Mixon’s rushing total vs. a defense that was the fourth-best unit over the final two months of the season.
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Ravens vs Bengals best odds
Ravens vs Bengals picks and predictions
Despite the game script being on his side as more than a touchdown favorite, Joe Mixon will have a tough time gaining yards on the ground and topping his rushing total of 56.5 yards.
Mixon has averaged 3.9 yards per carry this season, and backup running back Samaje Perine has been cutting into his snaps. Baltimore is not an easy team to run against, especially with defensive end Calais Campbell healthy and ready to go.
Baltimore allows 78.3 rushing yards to opposing running backs, which is the fifth-best mark in football. Teams have had more success involving their backs in the passing game vs. Baltimore, which allows 5.9 RB receptions per game (a Top-5 mark). We saw this in Week 18 as Mixon gained just 27 yards on 11 carries vs. the Ravens but had five receptions on five targets.
The Cincinnati RB also struggles to break big runs. As one of the 14 backs who have at least 200 carries this season, he ranks dead last in carries of 10-plus yards (one for every 12.5 carries). Now he has to run against the No. 3 rush defense (EPA/rush) since Week 9 and do so without his starting left tackle (La’el Collins) and left guard (Alex Cappa).
Let’s fade Mixon and his 3.9 yards per carry on Sunday.
My best bet: Joe Mixon Under 56.5 rushing yards (-114)
Ravens vs Bengals
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Ravens vs Bengals spread analysis
This spread has seen more movement than a 1980’s waterbed, but it's also been a decent indicator of what the books value the three Baltimore quarterbacks at.
When it was initially projected that Lamar Jackson was going to make his first start since Week 13, this line was at Bengals -6.5 and then shot up to -10 when there was the expectation that third-stringer Anthony Brown would start. However, following Friday’s full practice, No. 2 quarterback Tyler Huntley was looking more probable than doubtful and drove the line to Cincinnati -8.5.
This marked the first time since Jan.1 that reporters saw Ravens QB Tyler Huntley (right shoulder) extensively throwing pic.twitter.com/LkzwI7EcJr— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 12, 2023
The current +8.5 line is representative of Huntley starting, and if he can’t go, quick bettors could get some solid closing line value as a Brown start would likely close at 10.5.
One thing we know for sure is that Baltimore can't afford to play from behind, as the Ravens don’t have the QB and receiver talent to do so. However, there are some things in the Ravens’ favor if they can keep this game tight.
Joe Burrow has not passed for more than 220 yards against this defense across two meetings this season. Since Week 2, his two worst passer ratings came against this unit.
Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen are also one of the best linebacker tandems in football, and the addition of Calais Campbell makes this a much stronger defensive line that will face the sixth-most sacked QB and an offensive line missing its starting left tackle and left guard.
On the other hand, Burrow should have all his weapons Sunday, as Tee Higgins looks ready to go after dealing with an illness. One thing that also may be lost on bettors is how good this Bengals' defense has played down the stretch.
The Cincinnati defense finished sixth in EPA/play over the last nine weeks and comes into this game healthier than they were just a couple of weeks ago. Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard will be ready to anchor a pass rush that could keep the league’s 30th-ranked red-zone offense off the board.
If the Bengals can build that 10-point lead, I can’t see where the Ravens are going to speed things up, abandon the run, and turn into a passing team. That alone has me reaching for Cincy to cover, as the chance of the backdoor cover is much lower with a banged-up Huntley or an incapable Brown leading this run-first offense.
If Baltimore loses this turnover battle, it's over.
Ravens vs Bengals Over/Under analysis
Jackson would have pushed this total to 42.5. With Brown or Huntley now in, it’s looking like it's going to settle at 40.5.
The weather in Ohio likely won’t affect the passing game, but considering the talent on the Baltimore side of the ball, it won’t matter. The Ravens finished in the bottom five in completions, yards, and yards per attempt per game on the season.
Next to Tampa, this is the lowest-scoring offense in the playoffs at 20.4 points per game, and they will be starting either a less-than-100% backup or a third-stringer. Baltimore finished 30th in red-zone scoring percentage, while the Bengals’ defense finished inside the Top-10 in that metric. It’s not looking good for the Ravens’ team total of 15.5 and the Over, as they haven't scored 18 points since November and have topped that number just twice since Halloween.
Cincinnati turned three turnovers into 21 points in the Week 18 meeting with Brown under center. In his four starts, Huntley has two picks and two fumbles. The Bengals could be seeing some short fields if they can force the QB du jour to beat them in the air and create turnovers. The Bengals finished the season with the eighth most takeaways.
The Bengals’ team total sits at 25, and if the Ravens make things easy for this offense with short fields and turnovers, the Bengals should capitalize just like they did a week ago.
Between Weeks 13 and 17, the Ravens held their opponents to an average of 12.2 points per game but also faced Pittsburgh (x2), Atlanta, Cleveland, and Denver — all scoring offenses ranked 15th or worse.
With both defenses ranking inside the Top-10 in red zone scoring percentage, points will be at a premium. I’d prefer the Ravens’ team total Under 15.5 to the full game, but I still lean toward taking Under 40.5.
Ravens vs Bengals same-game parlay
The Bengals should cover late thanks to turnovers and short fields from a Ravens' offense that struggles on third down. The short fields will reduce the yardage this offense needs to score, and I like Burrow and the Bengals to take a 20-7 win into the next round despite the running game failing to make an impact.
Putting Mixon's Under and the Cincinnati spread gives us a decent multiplier, as usually, a rushing total and a high spread are positively correlated. In this case, thanks to a bad Baltimore offense, it doesn't have to be.
SGP odds: +450 at bet365
Ravens vs Bengals betting trend to know
The Under is 8-0 in the Bengals’ last eight playoff games. Find more NFL betting trends for Ravens vs. Bengals.
Ravens vs Bengals game info
|Location:||Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH|
|Date:||Sunday, January 15, 2023|
|Kickoff:||8:15 p.m. ET|
|Opening odds:||Bengals -6.5, 43.5|