NFL OddsOnline Sports Bet Preview:

NFL betting in the AFC North is getting interesting. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers sit on top of the division each with an 11-4 record. They are finishing the season against the bottom two teams in the division, but neither game is a gimme by any stretch of the imagination.

The Ravens have the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town for the final game of the season, and the Bengals just knocked the San Diego Chargers out of the playoffs with a week 16 win. The sportsbook promo experts were not expecting the Chargers to lose that game considering the fact that their entire playoff hopes were riding on a win. But Cincinnati beat one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league 34-20, and that should concern the Baltimore Ravens.

Offense:

The Ravens put together a potent offense in the off-season with the acquisition of wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Anquan Boldin. But the offense experienced a slow start due to some problems with quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco came into the first few games of this season indecisive and, when he did make a decision, it was not a good one. But, as the season wore on, Flacco has developed confidence in his abilities and has teamed up with running back Ray Rice to create a very potent offense.

The Bengals were losing to the Chargers until a 21-point fourth quarter explosion sealed the game. The explosion came from the Cincinnati passing game. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes in the game, with two of them going to receiver Jerome Simpson. The Bengals were playing without their top receiver Terrell Owens, but they still managed to put up an offensive display to win the game.

Defense:

The confidence of the Cincinnati offense could be a problem for the Baltimore defense. The front seven of Baltimore is capable of keeping Carson Palmer in check, but the young and inconsistent secondary is prone to giving up points especially towards the end of a game. Ray Lewis and the linebackers will shut down the Bengals running game, but it could be Carson Palmer and the passing game that gives the Bengals problems.

The Bengals completely shut down the Chargers extremely potent running attack, and the Chargers feature two first-string running backs in Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. The Ravens have Ray Rice and occasionally turn to Willis McGahee, but the lack of dimension to the Ravens running game may give the Bengals a chance to focus on Flacco and the passing game.

The Bottom Line:

The Cincinnati Bengals saw what it was like to have Terrell Owens on offense this season, and now they have seen what it is like to not have him. Owens will probably be looking for a new team again this off-season. and the Bengals will roll into this game with some confidence. But they will need more than confidence to beat a Ravens team that is fighting for the second best record in the AFC.

BSN Sports free pick: Baltimore Ravens

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