Friday, December 14, 2012

Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens: DEN -2.5 (Pinnacle)

Markets

NFL Picks 2012: Broncos vs Ravens
If everybody had access to the Vegas look-ahead lines, beating the point spread on a consistent basis would be a whole lot easier.  For whatever reason, they only had the Broncos as -1.5 point favorites last week, but books re-opened it at -2.5 this week.  Some money has come in on Denver moving the line to -2.75.  If you shop around, you can still get -2.5 with a bit extra juice, but I would still play this at -3.  I really like superior teams when they are short road favorites.  The key matchups favor Denver in this spot, and I don't really care if the Ravens are "more motivated" for this game.  I'll trust the numbers and take a team still hoping for a first round bye.

What Do You Trust?

The obvious mismatch that jumps off the page in this game is at QB.  Peyton Manning is only behind Tom Brady in terms of efficiency this season, which still surprises me given all the challenges he's had to overcome.  Baltimore have been pretty an excellent "bend-but-don't-break" defensive unit this year as they tighten up once opponents get inside their 20.  That said, they've had some tough injuries on that side of the ball and no one really knows how effective a guy like Suggs will be after injuring his bicep.  There's also a chance he joins Ray Lewis on the sidelines and sits out the game entirely.

The Broncos rank near the top in every important statistical category on offense, so whatever the Ravens have been doing right on defense this year needs to be executed brilliantly on Sunday.  That's a tall task, especially since they are only average at disrupting drives.  Making matters worse, Baltimore is only 2-4 ATS at home, while the Broncos are 4-3 ATS on the road.  This is the time of year when handicappers should be giving a little extra to the home teams, but can we do that for the Ravens?  Look for Manning to have more time than he needs in the pocket to pick apart the Ravens on both intermediate and outside routes.

Offensively, things are a big question mark for Baltimore.  Flacco isn't "Mr Elite", despite what he told us earlier in the year.  Now they must find a way to overcome the Denver defense with a new play-caller, Jim Caldwell.  Do I need to point out that he's never done this at this level?  Ray Rice will play, but is he 100%?  Ok, so who is 100% at this time of year, but if he's limited in any kind of way, even more pressure will fall on Flacco and Caldwell.  I don't like the matchups for the Baltimore receivers vs the Broncos cornerbacks, either.  Even if Caldwell goes to more no-huddle, the Broncos defense is familiar with this given they've been practicing vs Manning all year.

Bottom Line

The Ravens are a good team, but they come into this game with too many question marks in all the wrong places for my liking.  Denver is a much more reliable option at this point in the season, and we're getting a pretty favorable number on the point spread as well.

NFL Pick: DEN -2.5.