Bengals vs Ravens Picks: How to Bet Thursday Night Football
Getty Images. Pictured: Zac Taylor (left) and John Harbaugh.
Bengals vs Ravens Picks | Thursday Night Football
NFL Week 11 brings us our best Thursday Night Football game since the season opener.
The Baltimore Ravens (7-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) in a matchup of MVP-caliber quarterbacks and teams with real Super Bowl hopes. But those dreams took a hit on each side on Sunday when the Bengals and Ravens lost winnable home games on the final play, suddenly making this a very important TNF matchup. Win and you're back on track; lose and you're on a poorly timed two-game losing streak.
Regular readers are familiar with my weekly column — How to Bet Every Game & Every Team — so let's run the format back for this marquee Thursday Night Football game and find a pick for each side. Be sure to come back every Saturday for picks for the full slate each week.
For now, let's get into my Bengals vs. Ravens picks on Thursday night.
What you need to know:
- Four key names will be missing (two from each side). The Ravens will be without LT Ronnie Stanley and CB Marlon Humphrey, though it does appear the star corner avoided a season-ending injury. The Bengals will be without WR Tee Higgins and EDGE Sam Hubbard, but it looks like counterparts Ja'Marr Chase and Trey Hendrickson will play through injury. The key matchup takeaway is the red-hot Chase against Baltimore's remaining corners.
- The Bengals have won four of the last six matchups — including last year's playoff game — but Lamar Jackson missed that one and two of the other losses. The Ravens beat the Bengals 27-24 in Week 2 in a game that wasn't as close as the final scoreline, but Joe Burrow was playing with a bad calf. History may not help us much here.
- You've heard all about the primetime unders trend. Primetime games are 62% to the under since 2019; they're 25-7 this season (78%) and have hit the last 11 in a row. Be careful before you bet the trend blindly though. Historically, Thursday night games with a total between 42 and 49, like this one, actually go over 56% of the time.
Both offenses are playing elite ball right now, but the Bengals defense is the clear weakest unit on the field. Lou Anarumo's defense hasn't quite been itself this season — ranking 15th in DVOA — and it's been particularly poor against the run (29th).
This is the wrong opponent for a bad run defense. The Ravens aren't just No. 1 in run DVOA — over the last six weeks, Baltimore's run DVOA has doubled to No. 2 and nearly quadrupled to No. 3. Baltimore is quite literally running laps around the league. Gus Edwards has run for seven touchdowns over the last four games alone, and a smash-mouth rushing attack is the perfect way to keep Burrow off the field.
Much has been made about Todd Monken's scheme, but the old-school Ravens offense might be the perfect way to attack Cincinnati's defense. The Bengals have been poor defending the middle of the field on passes and rank bottom five against opposing tight ends, with George Kittle, Dalton Kincaid and Dalton Schultz racking up 23 catches for 301 yards combined over the last three weeks. Mark Andrews should eat and his overs look like a smart angle.
If the Ravens play their brand of football, that means running the football, attacking the middle of the field and playing on the front foot. It means getting an early lead — the Ravens continue to be an excellent first-half team. Baltimore's offense ranks third in first-half DVOA versus 10th in the second half, and the Bengals defense has been worse in the first half at 20th in DVOA versus 10th in the second half.
Jackson is 45-24-2 against the spread (ATS) in the first half for his career, covering 65% of the time. That's almost two out of every three games for his career, and it includes 8-2 ATS in the first half this season.
It felt like the Bengals had gotten their season back on track after surviving Burrow's calf injury and notching huge wins over the 49ers and Bills coming out of the bye week, but the unexpected loss to the Texans has this team right back on the brink at 5-4.
If the playoffs started today, the Bengals would be out. This game holds particular significance because Cincinnati is 0-2 in the division from the first two weeks of the season, when Burrow was at his worst, along with 1-4 in the AFC. Both of those marks are key tiebreakers and Cincinnati can't afford to lose any more ground.
This is a must-have game for the Bengals, and if it's a must-win game with your backs against the wall, would you rather have anyone more than Burrow?
Nobody on the planet has been better in an underdog role. When Burrow is an underdog of three or more points, he's 15-2 ATS as a professional, covering 88% of the time — and that includes the playoffs, too. Since his rookie season, Burrow is a perfect 10-0 ATS as a 'dog of more than three. He's 8-2 straight-up in those games, with bettors seeing a ridiculous 126% ROI on the moneyline.
If the Bengals are going to hang and potentially win this game, it'll have to be Joe Cool. As strong as Baltimore's defense has been, the corners are the weak spot, and that's only intensified with the absence of Marlon Humphrey.
Check out some of the WR lines allowed by Baltimore this season: Nico Collins 6/80/0, Tee Higgins 8/89/2, George Pickens 6/130/1, Amon-Ra St. Brown 13/102/0, Amari Cooper 6/98/0. Star receivers can eat against Baltimore, and few pass-catchers have shined brighter this season than Ja'Marr Chase. Expect Burrow to target Chase early and often for a big game.
The Bengals can hang and win this game if Burrow and Chase are the best players on the field, and that's exactly what they've been in Cincinnati's biggest wins.
Burrow is 13-5 (72%) ATS after a loss and 5-2 (71%) ATS as a division underdog, in case you need any more reason to trust him. Jackson has also been shockingly bad as a favorite of between three and 10 points, a miserable 5-16 ATS (24%).
The Ravens have their matchup advantages, but the Bengals have Joe Burrow. Trust in Joe Cool.
My Bengals vs. Ravens Picks
I lean Ravens to win because of the matchup advantages. Baltimore should run the ball well, and the Ravens can attack the middle of the field against an inferior defense. But it's not always about the matchups. Bettors have to play the number as well, and this is just too many points to give Joe Burrow.
Go back and look at those trends again when Burrow is an underdog of more than a field goal. Since his rookie season, his teams have never lost by more than a field goal in that spot and never failed to cover the spread. Never!!
Even if the matchup leans Baltimore's way early, all that does is put Baltimore ahead and force the Bengals to attack more aggressively, and that's where Burrow can take advantage of the biggest mismatch in the game — throwing to Chase against those Ravens corners. Joe Mixon hasn't been great in recent games against Baltimore. If the Bengals are going to hang in a game they absolutely gotta have, it's Burrow or bust.
I'd play this at +3.5 if necessary but get +4 if you can, especially with the line still juiced in that direction.
And if this thing is close late, I'm inclined to bet the Bengals moneyline, too.
The Ravens have lost seven times with Lamar Jackson over the last two seasons. They've led in the fourth quarter all seven times with at least a 75% win expectancy in all seven, per ESPN, and over 90% in five of them. Even if Baltimore is up late, Burrow and the Bengals will push for a backdoor cover and a potential win. If this game is close, as expected, recent history says to doubt the Ravens and trust Joe Cool.
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The Bengals have covered 27 of their last 37 second halves (73%), and an early Ravens lead only fuels the Burrow comeback narrative. Don't forget: Cincinnati came back from a halftime deficit to win last year's playoff game.
In Joe we trust.