Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens (-5.5, 44)
Update: CJ Mosley has practiced and is questionable, but I am having a hard time seeing him play with a bone bruise just ten days later.
Line: The total wasn’t on my radar at the beginning of the week, but I did my research and came up with a play on the over because it is a brilliant setup. Without CJ Mosley and Michael Pierce, my model comes up with a total of 46, but I think Mosley is even more valuable than that. He’s the head of the defense.
Situation: If this game was played in week 8, I wouldn’t touch the over. But this time, the Ravens are without their two most important defensive players and they are coming off extra rest which has been favorable for the over in the past: Games with teams coming off TNF with extra rest are 240-185-15 (56.5%) to the over with 45.7 PPG scored – 46.9 PPG since 2010. Last week, both overs in the Falcons & Eagles game hit with 48 and 55 points scored.
Matchup: The Broncos defense isn’t what it used to be. Not only did they lose players like Malik Jackson, Aqib Talib and TJ Wart, they also lost DC Wade Philips before the 2017 season. Head coach Vance Joseph switched that defense from a man-heavy scheme to a scheme that is zone heavier and that didn’t work out. Their big weakness is over the middle of the field, especially over the short middle: The linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis struggle in coverage and SS Justin Simmons is much more a run defender than a coverage guy. Through two weeks, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr have combined for 23/27, 319 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs against this Denver defense over the middle, a passer rating of 128.3 and 11.8 YPA!
And now guess who is very good throwing over the middle, especially in the short/medium range? Joe Flacco. This was his best area last season and he continued this season. Through two games, Flacco is 32/42 for 363 yards and two touchdowns targeting the middle of the field. The middle of the field is generally easier to attack, but the Ravens put a high emphasis on it and try to scheme the MOF open on purpose. With ten days to prepare, I expect Marty Mornhinweg and Joe Flacco to come out with a great game plan and attack the Broncos’ weaknesses early and often because they know their defense is banged up. Ravens should be able to score at least into the 20s, maybe even high 20s.
This brings us to the Ravens defense – Jimmy Smith and CJ Mosley are the two most important players on that defense. Last week, the Bengals shredded the Ravens secondary and consistently picked on Tavon Young in the slot. The Broncos put Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas in the slot which is another terrible matchup for the young cornerback. When the Ravens tried to put Marlon Humphrey on AJ Green in the slot, it didn’t work out either. I truly expect the Broncos – even though I believe their offense isn’t really good with Keenum – to benefit from the Ravens injuries here and be able to score in the low 20s, which will be enough to put this game over the total. 31-24 or 28-24 kind of score wouldn’t surprise me.
The pick: Broncos/Ravens Over 44 -107 (Pinnacle, 09/20 09.15 AM EST)