Week 11 NFL Picks: Division Clash Awaits Cincinnati Bengals In Baltimore

by Aengus Moorehead

Week 11 NFL Picks: Division Clash Awaits Cincinnati Bengals In Baltimore

The Bengals failed to really shake up the AFC North last weekend. Fortunately for Marvin Lewis' club, Cincinnati's schedule quickly offers up a second chance.

That is what the Baltimore Ravens are looking for again after another subpar effort against an inferior opponent.

Sunday's winner at M&T Bank Stadium won't just have bragging rights between the 6-3 clubs: a share of first place with idle Pittsburgh in the ultra-tight division is also on the line.

The Ravens continue to be one of the more baffling teams in the NFL. On one hand, Baltimore has already bested 7-3 Pittsburgh twice this season. However, the Ravens' three losses have come against the Titans, Jaguars and most recently, the Seahawks.

The combined record of those clubs? 11-16 and all three teams were under .500 when they beat the Ravens.

Baltimore gutted out a 23-20 victory in Pittsburgh on Nov. 6 to record its second straight victory, but came away from its cross-country trip to Seattle with a disappointing 22-17 defeat. The loss dropped the Ravens into a second- place tie with the Bengals after the Steelers picked up a win over Cincinnati on Sunday as well.

Joe Flacco attempted a career-high 52 passes versus Seattle and his final one was an 11-yard touchdown strike to tight end Ed Dickson with 5:52 left in the game to cut Baltimore's deficit to five. However, Seattle went 72 yards on 12 plays afterwards to run out the clock.

The Ravens do have several trends working in their favor for this matchup. They have won six straight and 14 of their last 15 games at home and are 14-4 in games following a loss under head coach John Harbaugh. That includes a victory in 11 straight after a defeat, the longest active streak in the NFL.

That should matter little to the Bengals, who will only be concerned with rebounding from their 24-17 setback to Pittsburgh. Cincinnati trailed by two touchdowns with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter before going on a 17-3 run. However, the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall scored a nine-yard touchdown with 1:55 to go in the third and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was picked off twice in the fourth quarter, including once in Pittsburgh territory with 2:27 to play.

Cincinnati had won five in a row before the loss, its longest winning streak since it opened its 1988 Super Bowl season 6-0, and saw top cover corner Leon Hall exit the game with a torn Achilles injury that will end his season. Hall had never missed a game, playing in all 73 contests over his five-year career.

Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green also missed a large portion of Sunday's loss with a knee injury and will be a game-time decision after an MRI revealed a bone bruise.

Cincinnati is 4-1 on the road this season, putting it in position to challenge its best season road record in franchise history of 6-2, set in 1981 and matched in 2005.

Time & Venue:
- 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, November 20, 2011. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Last Week's results:
- Cincinnati Bengals (+3) loses to visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17.
- Baltimore Ravens (-6.5) loses to host Seattle Seahawks 22-17.

Last week's ATS:
- Underdog Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) loses and does not cover.
- Favourite Baltimore Ravens (6-3) loses outright.

NFL Football Odds: Ravens -7, O/U 40.5

Next up:
- Cincinnati home to Cleveland, Sunday, November 27
- Baltimore home to San Francisco, Thursday, November 24

The Bengals lost more than a game and the division lead against the Steelers, as CB Leon Hall was lost for the season to an Achilles injury and rookie WR A.J. Green (knee) and TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) suffered injuries that could keep them out Sunday. Green leads NFL rookies in receptions (41), receiving yards (635) and touchdown catches (6), and Gresham has three touchdown catches in the past four games. Losing two top targets would put a damper on rookie QB Andy Dalton's surprising season. Dalton has passed for 1,866 yards – a franchise rookie record – and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Baltimore's offense sputtered for most of its loss to Seattle, as the Ravens fell in love with the pass. QB Joe Flacco was 29 of 52 for 255 yards, while RB Ray Rice had only five carries. The lone bright spot for the offense was the continued emergence of TE Ed Dickson, who set career highs with 10 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens' defense has feasted on Cincinnati quarterbacks over the years – S Ed Reed has eight career interceptions against the Bengals and LB Ray Lewis ( who is doubtful for Sunday's game)has five, his most against any opponent.

The first team to blink could be the one that losses. Lewis cut his teeth with Baltimore and since taking over as Cincinnati's head coach in 2003, the Bengals and Ravens are tied for third in the NFL with a plus-35 turnover differential.

Cincinnati's defense will be asked to hold serve when Baltimore gets into enemy territory. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed twice from over 50 yards last week, making him 1-for-6 in that situation this year. Harbaugh will likely think twice before attempting a long field goal in this one.

Flacco threw and threw and threw last weekend and that trend could continue in this game due to Hall's injury. Not only will Jennings and Jones need to step up, but so will cornerback Brandon Ghee, a second-year Wake Forest product who was promoted from the practice squad. Safety Chris Crocker could also shift to corner if needed.

Dalton's 14 touchdown passes are the most by a rookie through nine games of the season since the NFL merger in 1970. He needs two touchdown passes to surpass Greg Cook for the most by a rookie in franchise history.

The Ravens are seeking their seventh consecutive home win. But the Bengals have won three straight on the road.

Ravens WR Anquan Boldin needs seven receptions to reach 700 for his career.

Baltimore is 15-5 SU in its last 20 games when playing at home against Cincinnati
Baltimore is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
Baltimore is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Cincinnati
Cincinnati is 9-4 SU in its last 13 games when playing Baltimore
Cincinnati is 5-12 SU in its last 17 games on the road
Cincinnati is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road

Cincinnati-Baltimore in November didn't have too many clubs excited prior to the start of the season, but lo and behold it has morphed into a big game for both squads. The Ravens and Bengals are looking to rebound from tough losses last week, though Baltimore may have the most sense of urgency as it tries not to squander its series sweep of Pittsburgh that could be key to a division title. The two teams are getting their first look at each other in 2011, but Hall's injury and a trip to tough M&T Bank Stadium may be too much for Cincinnati to overcome.

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NFL Football Pick: Take Ravens.