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Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals Point Spread - Pick

Baltimore Ravens (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
Week 1 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 1PM EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
TV: CBS

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Betting Odds: BAL +3/CIN -3
Over/Under Total: 42.5

The Baltimore Ravens come to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday to face the Cincinnati Bengals in week one AFC north action. Neither team made the playoffs last season. For the Bengals, that broke a streak of five straight postseason appearances and their 6-9-1 record was a sign of regression they hope to reverse this season. Baltimore went 8-8 last season, losing their last 6 road games and winning their last five at home. This is a put-up-or-shut-up season for the Ravens and it starts with a tough division road spot against a team that also has an axe to grind.

Baltimore looked good starting 3-0 last season. There were a lot of close games in the mix, with 12 being one-score games. It was a strange season in many ways for the Ravens. They split their season-series with the Bengals in 2016, winning at home and losing on the road. They are hoping for a better season from a healthier Joe Flacco. The offense has a lot to prove this season, among veterans, but especially with young guys who need to see their potential manifest into something real.

With a QB that needs to stay healthy and a cast of playmakers that can use all the help they can get, the offensive line will be key for Baltimore. There are some pieces in place, LT Ronnie Stanley and RG Marshal Vanda are good, but there is some uncertainty around them. Some good personnel exists, but finding the right chemistry is something we'll need to see on the field. They are thin at tight end with Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gilmore injured, leaving them with Benjamin Watson. WR Mike Wallace has been born anew in this offense and adding Jeremy Maclin is a nice pickup, but guys like Chris Moore and especially Breshad Perriman need to produce. The addition of running back Danny Woodhead could help, and Terrance West is useful, but all in all, it's not an offense brimming with game-changing playmakers.

A lot of effort was put into upgrading the Ravens' defense, with that usually the calling-card of a top Baltimore product. The secondary received a lot of attention with the additions of Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr, along with Marlon Humphrey in the draft. Eric Weddle is still a handful at safety and a healthy Jimmy Smith would help make this one of the better groups in the conference. The pass-rush could also be improved and there's a nice mix of veterans and youngsters in the front seven. Terrell Suggs is back and even at his age, maybe he can still get after quarterbacks. CJ Mosley greets former college teammate Tim Williams in the middle. Add in Tyus Bowser, Bronson Kaufasi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Kamalei Correa and you can see it's a matter of time before this unit forms into a good one.

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Cincinnati is really eager to make last season an aberration and not a sign of a true regression. Key injuries and being on the wrong side of a lot of close games cost them last year. Their last 5 losses were all by five or fewer points so maybe the influx of youth will help them get over the hump. The offense looks to get a big boost from the drafting of receiver John Ross (doubtful for week one) and RB Joe Mixon. These are two potential game-changers Andy Dalton can use right away in 2017.

A Cincy offense that languished in 2016 almost has to better in 2017. Along with the additions of Mixon and Ross, AJ Green returns from a 2016 season where he was huge until going down with a hamstring injury. A healthy Tyler Eifert could bring the aerial attack to a point where it's a real force. Mixon now should get a lot of touches. It's a pretty deep group of playmakers. Other than injuries, the real killer would be an offensive line that never gets up to speed. They lost a great tackle in Andrew Whitworth and guard in Andrew Zeitler. They added tackle Cedric Ogbuechi, which is hardly sufficient in light of what they lost. Jake Fisher is OK at right tackle, as is Clint Boling at left guard, but Russell Bodine at center is a bit of an issue and the options just aren't all that great.

The Cincy D-line is still a handful with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. The pass-rush was lacking and they hope to have addressed that with rookies Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson. On the inside, Marcus Hardison and Andrew Billings remain and the front could get a boost. Linebacker is undergoing a youth movement and might get even younger with Vontaze Burfict suspended for three games. He's obviously a huge talent, but he can't stay out of trouble after laying someone else out in a preseason game. The secondary is in capable hands with Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard. If first-rounder William Jackson III., a first rounder who missed all of 2016 with an injury, can produce, it would be a big help.

We see both teams having a combination of factors that could result in any number of different results. All in all, we see them as teams that are somewhat comparable overall, with the changes made on Cincinnati's offense giving them maybe a little more upside. We just see this game as having a toss-up feel to it and in cases like those, we're inclined to take the points.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Baltimore Ravens plus 3 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the BAltimore vs. Cincinnati game from the comfort of your home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!

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