FreE NFL Pick: Cincinnati at Baltimore 01-02-2011

January 2, 2011

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Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday January 2nd, 2011 1:00 PM EST

Line: Baltimore -10

Overview:

The Bengals are in complete disarray. Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat, Chad Ocho Cinco, Jermaine Gresham, and Terrell Owens are out, and the entire season has launched what will surely be a long rebuilding process for Cincinnati going forward. Even so, they have posted back-to-back wins and blew the Chargers out last week at home. Maybe the team is trying to save Marvin Lewis’ job. Maybe the ten game losing streak isn’t going to carry over into next season.

The Baltimore Ravens have a chance to take the division title this week. It’s a long shot, as the Steelers would have to lose to Cleveland, but it could still happen. The Ravens have only lost four games this season and the Bengals have only won four. Ironically, the Bengals beat the Ravens in their last battle. Anything can happen in division games, but giving the way the two teams are trending, can the lowly Bengals compete against a team that is gunning for Dallas?

Keys to the Game:

  • Ray Rice has had an increased role the past two weeks. The Ravens have reestablished themselves as a run first team and Rice has had two big games in a row. The Bengals are not threatening in their front seven and Rice shouldn’t see much resistance. While he is effective between the tackles, he is one of the best pass catching backs in the NFL. Look for him to sneak out of the backfield and have a big day, both on the ground and catching the ball.
  • Carson Palmer has noone to throw the ball to. Everyone is hurt and Palmer struggled even with a star studded repertoire of targets to distribute the ball to. This week, Cedric Benson will need to pick up the slack. Benson has had three monster games, but has been quiet throughout the 2010 season. He has over 1,000 yards this season, but he is the feature back and given that he has 300 carries this season, that figure is less than impressive. If Benson was saving one of his games where he puts out maximum effort, this would be the time to bring it out.

Key Matchup:

Terrell Suggs Vs. Carson Palmer

  • When Terrell Suggs is on the field, the quarterback takes notice. Suggs has 11 sacks this season, including 3.5 in his last four starts. He is explosive and relentless for four quarters. Suggs is a monster threat off the edge, which is problematic for quarterbacks who like to stay in the pocket. Between Suggs coming off the edge and Haloti Ngata getting pressure up the middle, it is going to be a long day for carson Palmer.
  • Palmer could be on his way out of Cincinnati. He has had a terrible year and it is unclear what his future may hold, should the opportunity to gain value for him arise. Palmer has been consistent during his reign as the field general in Cincinnati, so Cincinnati may be able to write this season off as an aberration. He is unlikely to have open receivers down the field and his pocket is unlikely to stay in tact for the time he would need for things to develop. He could be in for another long day.

Wrap Up:

I picked the Bengals to cover last week, and they didn’t disappoint. The Ravens have been winning, but rarely winning with any sort of conviction. Baltimore isn’t going to leave their starters in if they blow the lid off this game, which is an even bigger reason the Bengals should have some hope of keeping this game under control. If Cedric Benson sees even slightly positive results, the Bengals should cover.

Free NFL Pick: Cincinnati +10


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