Ravens seem set for rebound


A hot seat was reserved for Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis this season. In August it appeared he was overseeing one of the NFL's worst teams.

The Bengals finished 4-12 in 2010 and seemed to do little during an abbreviated offseason to improve the roster. Adding a rookie quarterback to a four-win team is not a proven winning formula.

MGM Resorts sports books opened Cincinnati's regular-season win total at 7½, and bettors hammered it under to drop the number as low as 5½. So, in what could be considered the season's biggest surprise, Andy Dalton has 14 touchdown passes for a 6-3 team.

The Bengals, who are 4-1 straight up and 5-0 against the spread on the road, go to Baltimore today as 7-point underdogs.

Dalton could catch a break, too, because Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis might be sidelined because of a toe injury.

Despite some signs pointing to Cincinnati, VegasInsider.com handicapper Micah Roberts said Baltimore will be the right side.

"The Bengals have a lot going for them coming into this game. They have covered every road game this season, as well as their past four against the Ravens," Roberts said. "The Ravens also have shown to be vulnerable in straight-up losses to Seattle, Jacksonville and Tennessee, losses that should never happen to a perceived elite team like Baltimore.

"But somehow, the situation looks perfect for Baltimore to bounce back. In two similar situations, the Ravens responded to road losses with wins at home."

Marvin Lewis, a former Baltimore defensive coordinator, has had success against the Ravens, going 10-6 and sweeping the AFC North rivalry series in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

But Roberts said he expects Baltimore (6-3) to follow quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and its strong defense to a double-digit victory.

"In their first four wins, the Ravens beat teams by an average margin of 22.5 points. Since then, their average margin of victory was only three points in two wins," Roberts said. "I think the team from earlier this season is still within the locker room, but the Ravens needed a slap in the face from Seattle last week to wake them up. Look for Baltimore to win quite easily, 27-14."

Roberts offers analysis and predicted scores for the rest of today's Week 11 schedule:

■ Tennessee at Atlanta (-6): As the playoffs near, we'll be looking back at Falcons coach Mike Smith's blown fourth-down call last week. The overtime loss to New Orleans could be a big factor in whether Atlanta makes the playoffs. The urgency to make up for a game given away will help the Falcons go back to basics and pound running back Michael Turner en route to a win at home, where Atlanta is 18-5 in its past 23 games. Falcons, 28-16.

■ Buffalo at Miami (-2): The Bills have lost three of their past four games, while the Dolphins are riding a two-game winning streak. When factoring in the Dolphins' two games before their win streak started -- an 18-15 loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos and a 20-17 road loss to the Giants -- it could be argued they are playing better than half the teams in the league right now. One of those teams currently on the bottom half of the list is Buffalo. Dolphins, 19-13.

■ Jacksonville at Cleveland (-1): The Browns have lost five of their past six, while the Jaguars have won two of three. I could not play the game with real money, but I would lean to the team with the superstar running back who can move the chains, Maurice Jones-Drew. Jaguars, 20-10.

■ Oakland at Minnesota (-1): The Raiders looked outstanding in a win at San Diego on Nov. 10, but they will have a tougher time setting up the pass with the run in this game against a much better Minnesota defensive front. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings' Adrian Peterson will be in store for a big day against Oakland's porous run defense, and he should be able to control the game and tempo. Vikings, 30-21.

■ Carolina at Detroit (-7): This should be the week's highest-scoring game, with Panthers rookie Cam Newton keeping pace with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. I can't lay the points against Newton, but over the total of 47 looks attractive. Lions, 37-33.

■ Tampa Bay at Green Bay (-14): The Buccaneers failed to win or cover their past three games against opponents that are playoff caliber, and you can make it four in a row this week. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on a big-time roll, completing 72.9 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions. Green Bay is the league's hottest team, and the swagger and confidence that comes with that carries over to the scoreboard with blowouts. Packers, 41-17.

■ Dallas (-7) at Washington: Throw out all the records when these teams meet -- even a five-game losing streak by the Redskins -- because it's always a battle. The Cowboys have won four of the past five meetings, but the Redskins covered four of the games. Washington will play spirited and come close to a win, and we might be looking at a repeat of the Week 3 game won 18-16 by Dallas. Following the trend in four of the past five meetings, under 41½ also appears to be a solid play. Cowboys, 17-16.

■ Arizona at San Francisco (-10): Cardinals quarterback John Skelton has looked better than Kevin Kolb in the starting role by going 2-0. But even when Mike Singletary was coach of the 49ers, they handled Arizona easily. San Francisco has won the past four meetings. Under the total of 40½ looks like the strongest play. 49ers, 20-9.

■ Seattle at St. Louis (-3): Since miraculously beating the Giants on Oct. 9, the Seahawks have lost two in a row on the road. Meanwhile, the Rams have regained a little zip, winning two of their past three with quarterback Sam Bradford returning and Steven Jackson running well. Rams, 24-13.

■ San Diego at Chicago (-3½): The Bears have won four in a row and look to be the closest threat to Green Bay in the NFC. The Chargers have lost four straight and could miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. But out of pure desperation, again, I'm taking San Diego to win. Chargers, 26-23.

■ Philadelphia at New York Giants (-5½): In Week 3, the Eagles were 9-point home favorites over the Giants, and they were considered the favorites to come out of the NFC. The Giants' 29-16 win was kind of the origin of exposing Philadelphia as phony, and it was only a few weeks after Michael Vick got comfy with his $100 million contract. Whether it's Vick's complacency or the Eagles not responding to his leadership, I find myself intrigued with backing the Eagles behind backup Vince Young. Repetitive handoffs and dump-offs to running back LeSean McCoy will be the key. It also would be nice if DeSean Jackson shows up, which I think he will for at least one game-breaking play. Eagles, 27-24.

 

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