Not the full house I’d have liked, but a profit nonetheless for Eastbridge last week. This week will be tough to call as a lot of teams have nothing to play for, but I think I’ve found some good angles for my betting previews:
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
I’ll start in Pittsburgh where the Browns, fresh off their first win of the season, travel to face the Steelers. Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin appears to be leaning towards resting his key players for this one and with the general ineptitude of Cleveland’s offense, I think looking at the points total is the way to go here.
Given that in last couple of seasons, the Steelers have entered the playoffs without one or more of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown I do think it’s the right call to rest some or all of them in this situation. Pittsburgh certainly has some depth on offense, but I don’t think how much less potent the offense can be without them should be overlooked – all three players are in the top five of their respective positions in my view.
Whilst the Steelers playing backups will be beneficial to our cause, the Browns offense have not been troubling the scoreboard all season and I can’t find a reason why that should change this week. They are sitting at 31st in the league for both yards per game (302.6) and points per game (16). On the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh are ranked 9th for these categories so even without some starters, I can’t see Cleveland posing them too many problems.
It’s the Browns’ tendency to struggle to put up points that give me confidence that even if the Steelers play their starters for a half I think we’ll be in for a low scoring game.
Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 43 points at 1.89
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos
The defending champion Broncos were annihilated by the Chiefs last week and eliminated from the playoffs in the process. The Raiders however, despite winning the game, suffered an even worse loss – QB Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula and is out indefinitely and with backup Matt McGloin now at the helm, I think they’ll struggle to replicate the offense they had been running with Carr. This feels like one of those games that Denver’s defence can win on their own.
Denver possess the best pass defence in the league, giving up just 187.2 yards a game through the air, and have stifled top passers like Tom Brady throughout the season. McGloin may be one of the better backups in the league, but I can’t see him having much success on the road against this secondary. If he doesn’t, the Broncos can focus on stopping the run, which has been their Achilles heel this season.
Even with their struggles against the run, it’s been Denver’s offense that has been the main reason they haven’t made the playoffs, but they should be able to have some success against an Oakland defence that gives up 24.1 points a game (19th) and 376.8 yards a game (27th). The key to this will be a pretty poor OL protecting against DEs Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack. Being at home should help and I would think that Denver’s coaches will dial up some quick passes, draws and screens to keep the rush at bay.
It’s a shame to see the Raiders limp into the playoffs, but I think the Broncos will have too much for McGloin to deal with in Denver.
Handicap Betting Recommendation: Denver Broncos -1 at 1.87
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Last week I wrote about Houston’s upper tier defence being able to keep tabs on a Cincinnati team missing their top playmakers just enough for their mediocre offense to steal the win. I have a feeling something similar will be happening this week as once again WR A.J Green and TE Tyler Eifert will not be playing on Sunday. A good Ravens defence should be able to limit the Bengals much like the Texans did, so I think the Ravens will take this game.
I’m really not a fan of what Baltimore does on offense as they seem to show complete disregard for any kind of balance and have had QB Joe Flacco throw it just over 65% of the time this season – that’s the largest percent in the league. This confuses me immensely as every time I watch the Ravens play, RBs Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon look good!
Still, Baltimore’s offense is not the reason I like them in this game. I think their defence has a big advantage against a depleted Cincinnati offense. They struggled to move the ball against Houston without Green and Eifert, and I think this could happen again against a Ravens unit that gives up the 5th least yards per game.
Without their pass catching playmakers, look for the Bengals to try to run the ball more with RB Jeremy Hill, but against a Ravens team that is ranked 2nd against the run I can’t see them finding too much success.
Despite their penchant for unbalanced play on offense, Baltimore should still be able to put up enough points against an injury-ridden Cincinnati team and take the victory.
Handicap Betting Recommendation: Baltimore Ravens at 1.95
Prices correct at the time of writing.