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Thursday, November 21, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 12: Jets vs Ravens

New York Jets vs Baltimore Ravens: BAL -3 (-120) (Bet365)

Market Watch

When it comes to predicting a Jets game you might as well try betting on what the weather will be for the Super Bowl too. All year long they've looked great for one week, only to follow it up with an egg. Theoretically, that means they should be in line to win and cover this week.

So why am I betting on the Ravens? Well, the easy answer is what the numbers suggest. The line on this game shouldn't be anywhere near a field goal if the first 11 weeks have taught us anything.

Last week the look-ahead line was -3.5. It reopened at -3, but was quickly bet back up to -3.5. Today, we're seeing some movement back the other way. You can grab -3 for a bit of extra juice. I see this as a bargain because if anything, I'd expect this line to move even further in favor of Baltimore.

As it stands now, 73% of the bets are on the home team.

Keep an eye on

On the surface, this isn't a game that I would normally get involved with. I've avoided Jets games all season and the Ravens are a complete mess offensively. That said, they do hold enough advantages to warrant a play this weekend.

To start with, Baltimore have a distinct home-road dichotomy this year. They are 3-1 at home, but only 1-5 on the road. The same could be said for the Jets who are 4-1 at home, but 1-4 on the road. These kinds of trends are hard to explain, but for whatever reason it's a strong factor for this matchup.

The question I need to ask myself is whether or not the Ravens can put up enough points?  Their running game has been downright awful. Ray Rice isn't what we expected, the offensive line has been average at best, and Joe Flacco doesn't win too many games on his own anymore. He has lost important weapons this year, but when you're the reigning Super Bowl MVP and being paid as one of the tops QBs in the league, we expect more production.

The thing we can be optimistic about is some of the troubles the Jets are having. Thus far their corners have not been playing up to par and their pass defense as a whole is mediocre. In the last few games they've trended downwards in the make-or-break moments - both on third down and in the red zone. Finally, the Jets have the league's worst turnover differential in the NFL, so Flacco and company could have one or two short fields to work with.

And speaking of turnovers, that brings me to the biggest reason why I like the Ravens this week - the NY QB situation.

Just how bad is Geno Smith? Granted, he's had a few nice games this year, but for the most part he has been a disaster. Last week he was so bad that he got benched in the fourth quarter for Matt Simms. The areas that are the most alarming are not even the turnovers. All young quarterbacks are going to make mistakes and throw some ill-advised passes, but he was just 3 for 17 on intermediate passes last week. When he faced pressure he went 1 for 7. On those plays he was intercepted once and sacked four times.

The Ravens defense might not be as fearsome as they were earlier in the year, but do they have to be? Ngata hasn't been practicing and Smith and Webb have been limited, but there are still enough pieces on this unit to make life miserable for New York's offense.  Baltimore's D rank near the top in stopping the run, sacking the QB, getting off the field on third down, and forcing teams to settle for field goals inside the 20.

The problems don't stop there for the Jets offense. Not only do they have problems driving the field for points, but they can't block very well and they take far too many offensive penalties. This makes life much easier on a defense that doesn't need any. Nick Mangold was one guy who was supposed to keep things stable on this side of the ball, but he's gone from one of the better centers in the league to one of the worst this season.

Bottom Line

I'm surprised that this number is as low as it is. It's always a big risk betting Jets games, whether it's for or against them, but I feel pretty good about fading them in this spot at this number.

I don't have much faith in the Baltimore offense either, but at least they have some guys who know how to play in this league. They should be able to do enough with the help of the home crowd and a strong defense.
I would even lay the -3.5 if I was forced to, but it's nice that -3's are available. Gimme the home team.

NFL Pick: BAL -3.
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