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The AFC North, typically a strong division, could find itself one step closer to being over if the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3, 2-3 away) deliver a loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (3-5, 2-1 home) at 1 PM ET on Sunday. The Bengals enter this contest with a two game lead over Baltimore and Cleveland who are tied in second. They enter this game with a little extra rest after playing on Thursday night last week when they were defeated by the Dolphins 22-20 in OT. The Ravens are also entering this game after a loss as they fell 24-18 on the road against the Browns.
The Bengals are currently -1.5 point road favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 44. The betting trends at sportsbook.com show us that 66% of the action as of this writing has come in on the Bengals.
While the Bengals are riding high, they are also reeling from injuries. They lost DT Geno Atkins (knee) last week and that is a loss that will be very hard to replace. Atkins was a ferocious defender that required a double team which opened up blitz packages for DC Mike Zimmer. Sacks will be hard to make up for as well; Atkins had six of them. LB Rey Maualuga is out with a sprained MCL.
WR Brandon Stokley could return for the Ravens and is currently labeled as questionable. TE Dennis Pitta is on his way back, but won't be ready in time for the Bengals. Both players are needed to supply some life to an offense that is toiling.
QB Joe Flacco got paid like one of the NFL's best after leading his team to a Super Bowl win last year, but isn't playing like one of the best in the league in 2013. He has completed 184 of 310 passes (59.4%) for 2,167 YDS, 10 TDs and 9 INTs. However, he has played well at home and is riding three strong performances into this game. Young WRs Marlon Brown and Torrey Smith are Flacco's favorite targets.
RB Ray Rice hasn't been the same this year either. He is exiting one of the worst showings of his life after picking up only 17 YDS on 11 carries against the Browns. Rice has 259 YDS and 3 TDs on 97 carries this year and runs into a Bengals defense that hasn't allowed a rushing TD since Week 3. When he's on his game Ray Rice is a special player, but we haven't seen that in 2013.
Third year QB Andy Dalton has been strong this year, but played terribly against Miami (0 TD, 3 INTs). Obviously, he must get back on track for the Bengals to win. He plays behind a strong offensive line and has too many weapons to name. The best of them is NFL leading WR A.J. Green (862 YDS, 5 TDs). WR Marvin Jones (435 YDS, 7 TDs) has been a pleasant surprise. Dalton is also getting big help from his TEs Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. They have combined for 628 YDS and 3 TDs this season. All of these pieces combine to form the 7th best passing attack in the NFL.
The Bengals have a two pronged running attack thanks to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. The latter has been getting more carries thanks to his breakaway speed. Together, they have gained 785 YDS and 7 TDs.
These two teams are evenly matched, hence the -1.5 point line. Our model likes the Bengals by 3 using full season stats and the Bengals by 6 when using data from only the last 4 weeks. So we'll go with the model on this one and lay the small spot with the Bengals. Bengals -1.5
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