The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Baltimore for an important AFC North game as the Ravens need Joe Flacco to turn the corner and stop their three-game slide if there is any hope for the playoffs in 2013.
Baltimore is reliably poor this season, as the Ravens are 3-5 against the spread in 2013. They've beaten teams they shouldn't and dropped games they should have won -- losing to Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh while each team was at its low point. Cincinnati is far more even-keeled, holding a 5-3-1 record against the spread.
Losing Geno Atkins changes how the Bengals defense operates and hurts the team's pass rush. He will miss the remainder of the 2013 season with an ACL tear and contributed six sacks in nine games. Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap have the ability to pressure Flacco, but lacking pressure up the middle opens opportunities for Ray Rice -- provided he can capitalize.
Sunday's game is holding even, with a 1.5-point edge to Baltimore being the largest margin currently available. Even on the road it's difficult to look past the Bengals, who are one of the best teams in the NFL when their offense is firing on all cylinders. If Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can get in a rhythm, it will be impossible for the Ravens to stay in step.
The over/under is set at 44, which could be a tall order for two teams not known for their prolific scoring. The Bengals and Ravens combine for an average of 45.1 points per game, but with two solid defenses and unreliable running games, it's unclear whether they can hit the over.
Cincinnati is coming of a tough loss to Miami, but it's hard to see the Bengals succumbing to a trap game on the road. This season they're the better team between the two and until the Ravens find consistency, it's hard to see them stopping the slide now.