This article is part of our NFL Picks series.
NFL Wild Card Bets: Expert Picks for Bengals vs Ravens
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The Ravens (10-7) head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals (12-4) at Paycor Stadium in an AFC Wild Card Game on Sunday night.
The two teams just met in Week 18, a game that culminated in a 27-16 win for Cincinnati. Baltimore started rookie Anthony Brown at quarterback in that contest in place of the ailing Lamar Jackson (knee) and Tyler Huntley (shoulder), while key offensive players such as J.K. Dobbins and Mark Andrews sat out for rest.
When the two teams met back in Week 5, the Ravens emerged with a 19-17 win, a game in which Jackson, Dobbins and Andrews were all available.
Baltimore won't have Jackson for this wild-card battle, however, while Huntley's status is expected to come down to how he looks in pregame warmups.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals for AFC Wild Card Game
*Best lines at time of writing listed
Moneyline: Ravens +360 (DraftKings Sportsbook)/ Bengals -435 (PointsBet Sportsbook)
Point spread: Ravens +8.5 (DraftKings Sportsbook)/ Bengals -8.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Total: Over 40.5 points (DraftKings Sportsbook)/ Under 40.5 points (DraftKings Sportsbook)
The Bengals were 6.5-point home favorites to open the week and got as high as 9.5 by Thursday before tumbling slightly down to 8.5 as of Saturday night. The fact Jackson himself confirmed his upcoming absence naturally helped the rise in Baltimore's projected disadvantage.
The total has been heading in the opposite direction of the spread after starting the week at an already modest 43.5. It reached a high point of 44 soon thereafter, but it then began a dip that sees it as low as 40.5 points as of Saturday night. As with the spread, the Ravens' shaky quarterback situation certainly has a large role to play in the movement.
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Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Betting Picks This Week
Postseason games between division rivals are always interesting, and when those confrontations come just a week after the most recent encounter between the teams, they hold an even higher level of intrigue.
The Ravens and Bengals naturally know each other extremely well at this point, and given the fact the two clubs knew they'd face each other again Sunday night when they met last Sunday, it's likely each held something back in its game planning and play calling.
However, familiarity rarely can trump a talent gap, especially on the road. That's the reality staring Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh and his charges in the face as they prepare to try and keep up with a fully healthy Bengals offense with either Huntley or Brown under center.
Brown showed some big-play ability in the regular-season finale by throwing for 286 yards on only 19 completions. However, he connected on just 43.2 percent of his throws and would almost certainly have some jitters making his first career playoff start. Cincinnati was also a tough defense to crack all season and especially at home, allowing only 216.6 passing yards per contest in that split on an NFL-low 55.6 percent completion rate.
On the other side, Joe Burrow and his explosive array of weapons will be looking to exploit the weak spot of the Ravens defense, the secondary. Baltimore yielded 239.3 passing yards per road contest on a 66.1 percent completion rate. However, it's worth noting Burrow was only average in the two regular-season meetings against the Ravens while throwing for 432 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey are both healthy on the corners for Baltimore, which should make a significant impact in at least slowing down Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. However, ultimately, Cincy simply has more firepower – especially considering the difference in quarterbacks and the decimated nature of the Ravens' receiving corps – plus the home crowd behind it to boot.
Those factors should lead to a lower-scoring victory for the defending AFC champs, one that leads to a parlay play at a nice price.
Ravens at Bengals Best Bet: Bengals moneyline and Under 40.5 points (+135 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Prediction
Bengals 23, Ravens 16
As already discussed, these two teams have an intimate knowledge of the other, which should lead to a lower-scoring affair. So, too, should the fact either Huntley or Brown will be at quarterback for Baltimore. The Ravens defense should come to play, however, and its ability to shut down the run and get after the passer should lead to some truncated drives for Cincinnati. However, the talent advantage will eventually prevail, leading to a solid win for the hosts.