by Stephen Nover of Covers Sports Handicappers
The Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback play has been so putrid the team opened a 3-point home underdog to the Cleveland Browns. It’s the first time the Browns have been favored at Baltimore since rejoining the NFL in 1999.
“You keep waiting for the Ravens to play better, but it doesn’t happen,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “Baltimore just can’t score.”
The Ravens managed a measly seven points Sunday against Cincinnati’s beat-up defense. Backup quarterback Kyle Boller led the meaningless touchdown drive after Steve McNair failed to generate any points during eight possessions. Baltimore has scored more than 14 points only once in its past six games.
“Baltimore’s offense is so bad that the total is 43 ½,” Seba said. “The total would be a lot higher if it was just about any other team playing Cleveland.”
McNair is washed-up. He remains the nominal starter only because Ravens coach Brian Billick has so little confidence in Boller.
How about a movement to start third-string rookie Troy Smith, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner? Sure Smith isn’t ready. But could he do worse than McNair or Boller? At least there might be a little excitement at the quarterback position.
The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a possible ambush spot, traveling to take on the New York Jets after winning three consecutive division games. The Steelers fortified their AFC North lead by sneaking past the Browns.
The Jets, on the other hand, were idle this past week. The team is excited about the potential and arm strength of new starting quarterback Kellen Clemens.
“Teams off a bye seem to play well,” Seba said. “We really take a look at that when making the line.”
The Steelers were either nine or 9 ½-point favorites on Monday morning. Seba said Pittsburgh would have been double-digit chalk if the Jets weren’t coming off a bye.
Dallas is a strong 10 ½-point home favorite against Washington. The Cowboys are second in the league to New England in points (averaging 32.9) and yards (averaging 396.6).
“The Cowboys are a public team; everybody plays them,” Seba said. “So you have to inflate them a bit. If it weren’t for the Cowboys (covering against the New York Giants), the sportsbooks would have raked it in Sunday.”
Green Bay is another public team. The Packers are whopping 10-point home favorites against the quarterback-challenged Carolina Panthers. It has been five years since the Packers were a double-digit favorite.
“It doesn’t look right,” Seba said about the line. “But you can’t deny the results. Would you want your money on Carolina right now? The Panthers are a very hard team to back.”
Like the Ravens, the Panthers have serious issues at quarterback where starter Jake Delhomme is out for the season. Carolina coach John Fox’s quarterback choices are 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde, whose limited mobility is made even worse by an Achilles’ tendon injury, shell-shocked and totally ineffective David Carr, and undrafted rookie Matt Moore.
That unholy trio has turned franchise wide receiver Steve Smith into a non-entity. On top of that, the Panthers’ No. 1 running back, DeShaun Foster, has a turf toe injury.
Speaking of injuries, the battered Indianapolis Colts opened as 14 ½-point home favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite Peyton Manning throwing six interceptions, Adam Vinatieri missing two field goals and numerous players out with injuries, including Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark, the Colts nearly beat the Chargers in San Diego. The Chiefs lost to Denver at home by 16 points.
“If the Colts weren’t so banged up the line would be -16,” Seba said. “The Chiefs really have nothing. They showed how pathetic they are against the Broncos.”
It was just the third time in its last 17 games that Denver covered the spread. The Broncos opened as a field-goal favorite at home against Tennessee in the Monday night game. The line was at -2 on Monday.
“The Broncos -3 was too high,” Seba said. “I think it will close 2 ½.”
What would you like to do next?
View Current Week 11 NFL Opening Odds & Lines
Purchase Winning Week 11 NFL Picks
View Stephen Nover’s Expert Picks for Week 11