Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Monday Night’s nationally televised showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions should definitely have a playoff feel to it, even if it’s an interconference battle. Both teams desperately need a victory as they try to qualify for the playoffs. A loss for either will cause headaches with only two games left in the regular season.
Baltimore is the defending Super Bowl champion, who’s looking at the embarrassment of completely missing the playoffs if they can’t close strong against Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati. What a brutal finishing slate considering how easy so many other contenders have it! The nature of the AFC this year suggests that Baltimore would have a puncher’s chance of a return trip to the big game even as the #6 seed. Nobody’s unbeatable, as Denver proved this past Thursday at home vs. San Diego.
Detroit, at its best, could be a legitimate spoiler in the NFC. They would have to play without turnovers offensively, which is not something they’ve come close to mastering. And, the defense will have to actually stop people instead of mouthing off all the time. It’s very hard to see them doing that three games in a row as a divisional winner without a bye. But, one or two wins is certainly possible if they can clean up their act.
Monday Night’s game will offer up a great litmus test for both teams. Let’s run the numbers to see how things might play out…
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
Baltimore: 7-6 (#32 schedule in USA Today)
Detroit: 7-6 (#25 schedule in USA Today)
Those poor schedule strengths really jump out. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today now has Baltimore’s schedule rated as the easiest in the league, surpassing Kansas City temporarily before this tough finishing slate. If you’re 7-6 vs. a crappy schedule…it’s going to be hard to win three in a row vs. quality! Detroit’s in the same boat to a lesser degree. One could are that neither of these teams is truly playoff caliber at the moment.
Baltimore: 4.5 on offense, 5.1 on defense
Detroit: 5.9 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Wow…that’s a horrible differential for the Ravens. They’re -0.6 against the league’s easiest schedule! They do play solid defense, which gives them a chance every time they take the field. Can Joe Flacco keep up with Matthew Stafford if the game turns into a shootout? The collapse of Baltimore’s offense is one of the biggest underreported stories of the 2013 season.
More bad news. Weren’t we just saying a few seconds ago that this would have the feel of a playoff game? It should be competitive between teams of similar caliber. But, when you factor in what we’ve seen so far, we’re looking at two teams who probably would have gone 6-7 or 5-8 against representative schedules. Detroit’s exciting big play offense would be trumped by turnover issues and a softer than realized defense. Baltimore wouldn’t be able to score enough points to compete.
Baltimore: 6-7 ATS
Detroit: 6-7 ATS
Money burners, but not by much. Remember that the 10% vigorish makes that 6 and 7.7 in realistic betting terms.
Current Line: Detroit by 5.5, total 48.5
The line has hopped between Detroit -5.5 and Baltimore +6 through the week. There have generally been more sharps on the underdog than the favorite. The public is expected to bet Detroit through the day on Monday. Sharps will come in at +6 or better any time they see it. The Over/Under has risen from an opener of 46. In recent hours, we’ve seen a lot of hopping here too. Sharps are betting Over 48.5 but Under 49…with the first strong Under interest of the week showing up at 49.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with all elements of NETWORK’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach. He believes he’s got found the best way to bet this game in Las Vegas…and believe he’s going to cover the spread by at least a TD!
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Back with you in the NOTEBOOK Tuesday to look at the high profile Memphis/Florida matchup in college basketball that will be played at Madison Square Garden (our New York sources are the best!) football previews return later in the week for USC/Fresno State in the bowls and more great NFL.
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