The San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens go head to head Sunday Night. What are the sportsbook odds makers offering bettors, and which way should you look when making your NFL picks?
Throughout the week I'll be publishing
articles handicapping this game. Let's start by taking a look at the opening NFL odds and
some of the key factors that will affect how the NFL betting shops move the numbers leading up to game time.
Week 14 happenings
Starting with the home team this Sunday, the Chargers have
seemingly busted out of their terrible slump, as they have won two straight
after losing six in a row. San Diego has scored 38 and 37 points in their last
two wins. The most recent one was very convincing. The Chargers took control
early with an Antonio Gates touchdown and never looked back. Their defense
didn't give up a touchdown and the only scores for Buffalo were a field goal
and a recovered fumble in the end zone. San Diego also forced three turnovers
including two interceptions; one of which was a pick six.
For a guy who has been one of the biggest player
disappointments this season, Philip Rivers has put up some solid numbers over
his last two starts. Rivers has thrown for 534 yards, six touchdowns and no
picks in those two wins. At 6-7 the Chargers would need a miracle to make the
playoffs after their 4-7 start, but beating a playoff team for the first time
this season would do wonders for their psyche, (The Broncos had Kyle Orton
starting when San Diego beat them in week 5, even though Tebow replaced him in
the second half).
The Ravens had the task of taking care of the Colts in
Baltimore in week 14. Even though, that's been getting tougher every week. At
this point in the season, if you're the team who loses to the Colts, kiss your
street cred goodbye. Baltimore won 24-10 and only allowed 167 total yards (the
equivalent of 280 to a real team; still pretty good). The one touchdown the
Colts did score was in garbage time as the clock ran out in the fourth quarter. If
you subtract the 76 yards Indianapolis got from that meaningless drive, you
have one hell of a defensive performance (and some mad Ravens backers that
missed the cover because of the late score).
After sportsbooks opened this game as a pick em' the Ravens have quickly moved to
being -2 ½ favorites on the road. I'm not sure if beating the Colts was grounds
for the early line movement, but I do know that the public has liked the Ravens
all year and have lost almost all faith in the Chargers. San Diego has been a hot
spot for inconsistent play and an angry mob mentality towards head coach Norv
Turner. Turner has been on the hot seat all season and it looks like he will
not be retained at the end of the year. I believe this unknown has hurt the
Chargers and their ability to cover the spread.
For the Ravens, this season and their respective numbers ATS
have been marked by some impressive wins and some head scratching losses. Some
people write these losses to Jacksonville and Seattle off as just bumps in the
road. This could be true, but I think that the Ravens' losses this season could be
contributed to lack of focus. This team is good enough to win a title and has
the veterans needed to keep the focus, but the puzzling losses have caused Vegas to be very
conservative lines. If the Ravens were
12-1, I could see this line being -5 or maybe higher. The stretch run for
Baltimore will be very telling if this team is ready to take the next step.
Injuries and other factors
This wasn't confirmed by anyone this past Sunday, but I
believe that Ravens linebacker and captain Ray Lewis could have played against
the Colts but the training staff and coaches seemed to think that sitting out
one more game against the worst team in the league won't hurt anything. It was
a smart move, and having Lewis healthy for this game, the rest of the season and
the playoffs is key for this team. Most thought he would start slowing down
this year as a 36 year-old, but Lewis was still having another fantastic year
before he went down with turf toe. Though we won't know anything until practice
starts; I could see Lewis making his return this week.
One other note from the Ravens, is that starting cornerback
Lardarius Webb left the Ravens' game against the Colts with a toe injury of his
own. Early reports claimed he would have to miss game time, but yesterday coach John Harbaugh refuted those claims saying “We've got bumps and bruises.”
I'm assuming that Webb will be questionable to start the week, so we'll track
his status carefully.
The Chargers are pretty healthy heading into this Sunday
night's game, with their loan injury on defensive end Jacques
Cesaire. Cesaire had to be carted off of Sunday's win against the Bills with an
ankle injury. No reports have been released on the severity of the injury, but
it doesn't look good for the Chargers' depth on the line for this Sunday.
Stay glued to your computer throughout the week so you won't
miss my further handicapping and analysis on this contest. Later in the week
I'll be releasing my picks on betting the total and the spread. Until then,
take a trip over to the thread for this game in the NFL Betting forum. Let us
know who you like Sunday night and any other thoughts you might have on the
Ravens or Chargers.