Monday NIght Football Handicapping Week 15

Monday Night Football Handicapping Week 15 – Baltimore at Detroit

Line:  Detroit Lions -6.5  l  Total:  50

The Detroit Lions ( 7-6 SU / 6-7 ATS ) host the Baltimore Ravens ( 7-6 SU / 6-7 ATS ) in a key playoff-impacting game on MNF December 16, 2013.  This Monday Night football handicapping week 15 match-up will have big betting action as ESPN carries the coverage live from Ford Field in Detroit.   Let’s chip-in with some thoughts and analysis between two teams pushing for a playoff position.

Both the side and total have been bet up in this Monday night football handicapping week 15 contest as astute bettors grabbed -5.5 on the Lions and Ravens supports are still waiting with the line now hitting 7 in some betting shops. These two teams home/road splits could direct you to tonight’s winner, but we’re going to ‘tease’ you with some action on the Lions along with a look ahead to week 16 to complete our wagering recommendation.

The Ravens are 1-5 on the road this season and the defending Super Bowl champs enter off 3-straight home wins. Four of their last five road games have been decided by exactly a 3-point margin, but the Lions are the toughest opponent they will have faced on the road since the Ravens were shot down in week 1 by the Broncos 49-21. I’ve discussed throughout the season how fortunate the Ravens have been in many of their games in winning SU and/or getting some remarkable ATS covers.  They are 1-game back of Miami for the final AFC wild card spot and would actually win the AFC North division if they win their final three games at Detroit, vs. New England and at Cincinnati.  That’s not going to happen and it will start with a loss at Detroit Monday night.

The Lions are back in their preferred enclosed den following recent road losses in a rain storm in Pittsburgh and a snow storm in Philadelphia. The Lions defense couldn’t gain traction and the Eagles ran wild for 300 rushing yards over Detroit last week. That’s won’t happen against the Ravens impotent offense and #30 ranked rushing attack averaging 82 YPG and a league-low 3.0 YPR.  The Ravens clearly lack offensive line strength with a very poor running game, and while TE Dennis Pita’s return last week may help a lacking pass attack, the Ravens still lack a productive slot receiver and expect more pressure on QB Flacco Monday night in a loud, playoff-type atmosphere.

Detroit’s offense averages over 400 YPG with nearly 300 passing YPG. On their fast indoor track, they have shown how powerful they can be when they pounded the Packers 40-10 on Thanksgiving – our Top Play Big Bertha winner and turkey treat.  Additional strong yardage production and 30-40 point scoring at home vs. the Vikings, Bears and Cowboys along with over 430 yards and 24 points against the Bengals stronger defense has us projecting more points and production against the Ravens. Throw out the 3-point home loss to the Buccaneers, as 5 turnovers were the troublemaker and drives-killer despite a 390-229 yardage edge.  Now, the Lions turnover troubles are a concern with 20 TOs in their last six games and a minus (15) turnover margin during that stretch.  But the Ravens have not protected the ball well either and are -6 net turnovers this season while the Lions are now -10 following six-turnover prone games in a row. Questionable coaching and decision on the sideline and QB Stafford’s inconsistent  play at times ( mostly on the road ) are a concern for a Lions team that should clearly be in control of the NFC North but instead find themselves trailing the Bears by 1/2 game.  Meanwhile the Ravens are well-coached, find ways to win more than lose and play with toughness often lacking from the Lions.

But in this match-up and setting, we expect the Lions to put together a strong game similar to their performance ( minus the 4 turnovers ) against the Packers.  The Ravens pass defense is slightly above average but they haven’t faced these kind of offensive weapons and talented players since a 23-20 loss at Chicago ( backup QB Josh McCown’s season starting debut ) and at Denver in week 1; a 49-21 wipeout.  The Ravens defense has allowed more plays of 40 or more yards ( 16 ) than any team in the NFL, and the league’s top receiver Calvin Johnson is going to have some big passing plays deep and on intermediate slant routes.  Running back Reggie Bush is set to go and his healthy return means not only running off the edge out of passing formations, but more short passes in space with Bush able to break open underneath.  Ravens strong-side LB Elvis Dumervil, their sack leader, has not practiced since Thanksgiving as he deals with a bruised and injured ankle.  Baltimore’s pass rush has become pretty stagnant with Terrell Suggs slowing down and no sacks in his last five games.  The four-man rush has seemingly hit a wall, and with Lions QB Stafford’s quick release, the Ravens will be forced to bring more players if they want to pressure QB Stafford, which should only make for more big plays by the Lions.  Rookie Matt Elam is playing pretty well at free safety, but again the Ravens have given-up a league-high number of big plays, and Elam is really playing out of position as he’s a better option at strong safety.

The Lions 4-man rush is going to pressure QB Flacco heavily once they shut down the Ravens running game. That will force Baltimore to use extra blockers in the backfield.  The Lions are short-handed in the secondary even more so this week, but I don’t see Baltimore able to take advantage enough to keep up with the Lions projected production on offense.

With the line moving from 5.5 to 7, let’s play Detroit on the teaser line and combine them with the Buffalo Bills +8.5 at home vs. Miami in week 16 and any other open spots you want to fill in week 16.  Look for a Lions victory Monday night and no surprise to this bureau if it’s by a larger margin.



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Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay