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Thursday, October 17, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 7: Bengals vs Lions

Cincinnati Bengals vs Detroit Lions: DET -2.5 (Bet365)

Market Watch

In the LVH look-ahead line, the Lions were -2.5 point favorites for this matchup.  After the weekend, the line reopened at the same number and it hasn't moved since.


Anytime a team sits at -2.5, and doesn't move to the full field goal, you can be sure that the sharp money likes the underdog. Perhaps they think Cincy is a better team, or maybe they don't trust the healthy of Calvin Johnson yet, but either way the Lions are being disrespected here.

CJ has been at practice all week long, which is a steady improvement over where he was in the previous couple of weeks. I have the Lions graded at -3.5 point favorites, so I'm going to take the value here and grab them below the key number of 3.

61% of the bets this week are on the Lions.

When the Bengals have the ball

Coming into the season there was a lot to like about this Cincy offense. The additions of Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert were supposed to make this unit a nightmare to defend. Through six weeks of the season, that hasn't been the case.

There's no question that those players have brought a new dynamic to the offense, but they haven't collectively taken that leap to that next level.

The reason is due in large part to Andy Dalton. He can run the system, but he does not elevate it. Even with a wealth of options at the skill positions, decent blocking, and a versatile scheme, he can't make this team a contender.

Offensively, they rank average in every meaningful statistical category with the exception of red zone, where they rank near the top of the league. That's encouraging, but the Lions defense is just as good inside the 20.

And speaking of that Lions defense, they not only rank high in red zone defense, but also on third down efficiency. They are solid on all three levels and their defensive front has the ability to change a game on any given down.

I had some concern about the status of Rashean Mathis and Louis Delmas this week, but both returned to practice and appear ready to go.

I don't think the Lions defense will shut Cincy down, but it's a very even matchup that should be complimented by a good home crowd.

When the Lions have the ball

The Bengals offense is very similar when you compare the weapons on Detroit. Multiple pass-catching tight ends, a stud #1 WR, and a running back who can run and catch out of the backfield.

A big difference between these teams is the guy throwing the ball. Matthew Stafford is having a nice year, and there are two primary reasons for it. First, his offensive line is much improved over last year. There were a ton of questions about this group entering the season, but they've been solid week in and week out. Helping matters is the time in which Stafford gets rid of the ball. He's still among the top three in the NFL in release time.

The other big reason is Reggie Bush. Much like CJ, as long as Bush is in the lineup, good things are going to happen.

So how do the Bengals defense matchup?

It's pretty solid group across the board and they are built very much like the Lions defense - a dominant pass-rushing front, active linebackers, and veteran savvy in the secondary.

The big problem for the Cincy defense is their red zone efficiency. They do pretty good between the 20s, but once opponents drive down the field the Bengals haven't been able to keep anybody out.

The wild card that will hold many back is the health of CJ.  Last week he plays 39 of a possible 76 snaps. He was targeted 7 times and had two drops. That's not what you expect from Megatron, but the fact that he's been in practice all week and played the game without any setbacks is a really good sign. Look for his playing time and production to increase this week.

Bottom Line

On paper, this is a very evenly matched game.  Yet, there are three reasons why I think there's value on the Lions - Cincy's poor defensive play inside their red zone, the disparity between quarterbacks, and home field advantage.  I'll lay the points.

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