BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens and teammates look on after the Cincinnati Bengals score in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Baltimore gives 7 points to division-rival Cincinnati Monday Night, a spread that has encouraged many NFL Week 1 bettors to side with the Bengals. But while Cincy has been a moneymaker at Baltimore, they have struggled lately as an underdog.
Cincinnati has caused more trouble for Baltimore bettors than for Ravens fans in recent years and Monday Night Football bettors are wary of the Bengals tonight.
In eight visits to Baltimore since 2004, the Bengals are 5-2-1 ATS, but their reputation as a nasty underdog took a hit late in 2011. They lost their final five games as a dog and were 0-4-1 ATS in the process and they sat as 7-point underdogs early Monday at most shops tracked by SBNation.
Interestingly, in nine games as an underdogs, the OVER is 7-1-1 in Bengal games.
In a testament to how strong the AFC North is, both of last year's AFC Wild Card spots were awarded to AFC North teams (Pittsburgh and Cincinnati).
Every division rivalry game counts in this division, making the Week 1 Monday night matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium a big one. The Ravens are 10-2 SU in 12 recent division games, while the Bengals have limped to a 3-8 SU mark, according to the NFL database at OddsShark.com.
Baltimore finally trumped Pittsburgh for the AFC North Title last season, finishing with a 12-4 straight up (8-7-1 ATS) record. The Ravens made it to the AFC Championship Game and had a valiant effort against the New England Patriots, but they couldn't get the job done.
Coming off of a 4-12 season and losing Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, not many people were expecting much from the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals. But rookie quarterback Andy Dalton along with rookie wideout A.J. Green and a talented defense led Cincinnati to a 9-7 SU (8-6-2 ATS) record and a playoff berth.
Cincinnati has been a consistent thorn in Baltimore's side over the last few years. Since 2007, these two teams have gone 5-5 against each other with Cincinnati holding the 6-3-1 ATS edge, including a 4-1-1 ATS edge over the last six games.
On the other hand, Baltimore did take care of business against Cincinnati in 2011, beating the Bengals twice by at least a touchdown in each meeting.
This is a tough one to call. Both teams will be revved up to face a division rival on Monday Night Football, and they tend to play close games. The points are tempting, but at home the Ravens should be able to win this one by a touchdown and their 9-3 ATS in 12 recent season openers gives some comfort to Raven backers.
PICK: Baltimore -6 (courtesy of Pick Shark)