Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:30 PM EST odds are subject to change.
Baltimore -1½ -108 over New Orleans
6:20 PM EST. When this line opened with the Saints taking back three points, our first inclination was to continue to ride New Orleans as the pooch for another week. The Saints were coming off a 24-0 win over the Raiders in Week 8, and that result has resonated with the market. Pitching a shutout in the NFL is not easy to do. Hell, the Raiders scored 20 points yesterday in just one half of football in Jacksonville. In Week 7, on a Thursday night in Arizona, that same Saints defense gave up 42 points. That’s quite the contrast from one week to the next. A look back on the Saints season shows that zero is a big outlier, as this D has given up at least 20 points in every game this season. Scoring has been down this year unless you’re playing the Saints (sorry, Raiders).
One of the reasons this number is coming down is a response from the “injury chasers” attacking the Ravens, who will be without their two best pass catchers. Number one is tight end Mark Andrews, quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favorite target, especially in the end zone. Also out is speedster and deep threat, Rashod Bateman, who was enjoying a breakout year. Bateman will now miss the rest of the season after undergoing foot surgery. Finally, Gus Edwards, who just came back (after a season-ending injury last year), and had a great game last week v Cleveland did not practice all week. He’s a game-time decision, but the general consensus is that even if he does suit up, Edwards will be limited at best.
With those three starters either not playing or unlikely to play, the top of the Ravens' offensive depth chart looks pretty rough. Journeyman Kenyon Drake will get another chance to make an impact with another new team, while Jackson’s #1 WR tonight will be 2020 third-round pick, Devin Duvernay. Filling Andrews’ big shoes will be Isaiah Likely. Likely was a fourth-round pick this past April, and has some potential. He’s a big body at 6' 4", 235 lbs.
We trust in the “next man up” philosophy coined by the Ravens back in the Brian Billick era and written about by the great John Feinstein in his book of the same name. That book is 16 years old, but so much of it still rings true today.
We started this write-up discussing the Saints' defense, so let’s give the Ravens unit their due. Baltimore made one of the more shrewd trades in advance of last week’s deadline, bringing in Roquan Smith from Chicago. Smith leads the league in tackles and is one of the best linebackers in the league. Reports from the ground in Baltimore say that Smith was eager to dive right into the Ravens' playbook and has spent every waking hour at the facility getting acquainted with his new team and its culture. Smith is all class (he wrote a letter of thanks to the Bears and their fans), and he is already emerging as a team leader with fellow linebacker Patrick Queen calling him, "a huge piece for us”. Queen noted that bringing in a player the quality of Smith shows everyone in the locker room that the Ravens’ brass is committed to winning and making a run at the Lombardi Trophy.
We often discuss playing “bad numbers”. It’s one of those cardinal sins of gambling. If you liked the Saints, the best number is gone and the value, if there was any, has dried up. There are many moving parts here, enough that we are not keen to get involved in this game. We want to like the Ravens and if forced to make a play, that would be it. However, Baltimore will go on its bye next week, which is a prime lookahead spot at this time of the season. The Ravens are banged up and they’ve not performed to their high preseason expectations.
Remember when the media and market were slobbering all over this team after another undefeated run in the preseason? Those meaningless games boosted the Ravens' stock in the market, but now it’s tanking. We don’t want to get caught holding a ticket on a team that might be running on fumes and limping into their break. We trust there may be some great value on the Ravens in the second half, so we’re going to be patient and sit this one out. Our recommendation is Baltimore. No bets.
Baltimore -1½ -108 (Risking 2.16 units - To Win: 2.00)