Week 1 MNF
September 10, 2012
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CINCINNATI BENGALS (0-0) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (0-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Baltimore -7.5 & 41.5
Opening Line & Total: Ravens -6.5 & 41
Division rivals trying to repeat their playoff seasons from a year ago square off in the first Monday night game of the season when the Ravens host the Bengals.
Cincinnati went 9-0 SU against non-playoff teams last year, and 0-8 versus the league's best. WR A.J. Green is an exceptional talent and QB Andy Dalton was better than expected as rookie. Dalton threw three interceptions in Baltimore last year, but nearly led a late comeback in the Bengals 31-24 loss. Ravens QB Joe Flacco will get to run a more aggressive, up-tempo offense. WR Torrey Smith may emerge as the game-breaking deep threat they've always lacked, while RB Ray Rice's versatility keeps drives moving. OLB Terrell Suggs (Achilles) will be missed though, as the Ravens will struggle to replace his pass-rushing prowess.
Baltimore is simply the better team in all facets here, and the Bengals have no answer for Rice who has 423 total yards and 5 TD during his team's three-game win streak in this series. Also, John Harbaugh is 10-2 ATS (83%) as a home favorite of seven points or less as the Ravens head coach.
Cincy's offensive line provided great protection for Dalton last year, as he was sacked just 24 times all year. However, the Ravens have a daunting pass rush with 48 sacks in 2011, which tied them for third-most in the NFL. The Bengals still figure to be a run-oriented offense with newcomer BenJarvus Green-Ellis carrying the majority of the workload. Bernard Scott also figures to play a prominent role in the ground game, but he will not play on Monday as he continues to recover from hand surgery performed last month. Defensively, Cincinnati sported a top-10 defense in terms of both scoring defense (20.2 PPG, 9th in NFL) and total defense (316 YPG, 7th in league) last year. The front seven provided constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks last year with 45 sacks (5th in NFL), but the secondary does not play the ball very often, picking off just 10 passes in the entire 2011 season.
Despite a 5-3 record against the Bengals, Flacco has not played particularly well in this series, averaging just 184 passing YPG with 7 TD and 10 INT. The maturation of the speedy Torrey Smith allows reliable WR Anquan Boldin to run his routes underneath. Although both TEs Dennis Pitta (hand surgery) and Ed Dickson (shoulder) have been limited in the preseason, both are expected to suit up on Monday night and both will play a major role in the passing game. Rice is a three-down back, but when he needs a rest, rookie Bernard Pierce will replace him in the backfield. This defense will miss the injured Suggs, but DT Haloti Ngata, LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed are veterans still performing at a high level. This trio helped the Ravens finish third in the NFL in both scoring defense (16.6 PPG) and total defense (289 YPG) last year.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (0-0) at OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Oakland -1 & 46.5
Opening Line & Total: Pick 'em & 48
AFC West rivals play the back-end of the Monday Night doubleheader when San Diego visits Oakland.
The perennially underachieving Chargers haven't covered a Week 1 spread since 2007. QB Philip Rivers suffered through a mistake-laden 2011, lost top WR Vincent Jackson, and will be without blindside pass protector Jared Gaither (back). Top RB Ryan Mathews is also out with a shoulder injury. Raiders QB Carson Palmer could be better with a full preseason in Oakland, but his declining arm strength and poor decision-making often spell disaster in the turnover category. The Raiders D will improve with DE Matt Shaughnessy returning healthy, but their porous secondary could leave them open to big plays from San Diego wideouts Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd. Oakland has won three of the past four meetings SU and is 5-1 ATS against San Diego in the past three seasons. However, the Chargers have historically been a great wager on the road in this series, going 15-5 ATS (13-7 SU) in the past 20 visits to O.co Coliseum.
While Oakland is 11-3 ATS (79%) since the start of the 2010 season when the total is between 42.5 and 49 points, San Diego is 1-9 ATS in road games in that same range and time frame. Consider also that Norv Turner is 5-14 ATS (26%) in road games in the first half of the season since becoming the Chargers' head coach.
Rivers is 9-3 all-time versus the Raiders and has thrived in Oakland in his career, winning five of six visits and amassing 236 passing YPG, 10 TD and 4 INT in these six meetings. He will miss his favorite target Jackson, but newcomers Meachem and WR Eddie Royal are both solid veterans to rely upon. TE Antonio Gates has been riddled with injuries in the past few years, but he's still one of the three best at his position in the NFL. Without Mathews to run the football, the Chargers will turn to newcomer Ronnie Brown to carry the workload on Monday night. The defense also added some heady veterans on the defensive side of the ball in LB Demorrio Williams, LB Jarret Johnson and S Atari Bigby, and drafted DE Melvin Ingram in the first round. But they are still an average unit at best, coming off a season in which they allowed 23.6 PPG (22nd in NFL) and 347 total YPG (16th in NFL).
Dennis Allen takes over this Raiders team with major focus of trimming the its NFL record 1,358 penalty yards in 2011. RB Darren McFadden will be the key to this Raiders offense, as the team let go of Michael Bush in the offseason with the confidence that the oft-injured McFadden will be an every-down back. Palmer has some promising young receivers to work with in Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, who will be a game-time decision due to his hamstring injury. Oakland's offensive line is certainly a strength of this team, allowing just 25 sacks last year (tied for 4th in NFL). The defensive line will be significantly better with Shaughnessy, who will line up alongside DT Richard Seymour on the right side of the team's base 4-3 defense. Oakland needs to improve its run-stop unit after allowing 136 YPG (27th in NFL), but Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff comprise one of the better young safety duos in all of football.