Alex Collins

Bengals oust Ravens from playoff hunt with 31-27 victory

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BALTIMORE (AP) The Baltimore Ravens were ousted from the playoff hunt in stunning fashion Sunday when Andy Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds, giving the Cincinnati Bengals a 31-27 victory.

Needing a win to advance to the postseason, Baltimore (9-7) rallied from a 14-point deficit to take its first lead with 8:48 left. But Dalton put together a magnificent 90-yard drive in the closing minutes before hitting Boyd over the middle on a fourth-and-12 play.

Boyd avoided a tackle by Maurice Canady and raced to the end zone to give Cincinnati (7-9) the victory in what might have been its final game under coach Marvin Lewis.

Baltimore entered knowing it could have also gotten into the postseason if either Tennessee or Buffalo tied or lost. Both those teams won, leaving the Ravens with no margin for error on a frigid and windy day.

After getting off to a horrid start, the Ravens appeared in position to end their two-year hiatus from the postseason. Plenty of players stepped up in their time of need: Chris Moore had a pivotal kickoff return, Alex Collins delivered a huge fourth-down touchdown run and quarterback Joe Flacco bounced back from a horrible 4-for-18 start.

Flacco’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace made it 27-24, but all of that was rendered meaningless after Dalton put an appropriate finish on a game filled with huge plays.

Dalton also threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tyler Kroft.

The Ravens were down 17-3 late in the first half when Moore rambled 87 yards with a kickoff before being stopped near the left sideline with 8 seconds left. He finished what he started on the next play, catching a 6-yard touchdown pass.

Thus, Baltimore trailed by only 17-10 at the break despite a 268-61 deficit in yardage and 16-2 disparity in first downs.

The Ravens took that momentum into the third quarter, moving deftly downfield before Moore juggled a pass that ended up in the hands of Cincinnati’s Darqueze Dennard, who sprinted down the left sideline 89 yards for a touchdown.

Trailing again by two TDs, Baltimore faced a fourth-and-3 from the Cincinnati 17. Collins took a pitchout designed to go around left end, reversed his field and ran around a block by Flacco to get into the right corner of the end zone.

That set the stage for a tense fourth quarter in a game Cincinnati dominated at the outset.

The Bengals moved 78 yards on eight plays following the opening kickoff and took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Kroft. That represented more points than Cincinnati scored in the first game between the teams, a 20-0 Baltimore victory in the season opener.

The Ravens’ first five possessions produced several dropped passes, one first down and five punts.

CHILLIN’ TO THE MAXX

Ravens tight end Maxx Williams went through preliminary warmups without a shirt, even though the temperature was 19 degrees. He did, however, wear a knit hat and sweat pants.

INJURY UPDATE

Bengals: LB Jordan Evans (head, shoulder) left in the third quarter. … WR Josh Malone (ankle) did not play in the second half. … S Shawn Williams (back) left in the third quarter.

Ravens: Moore sustained a concussion in the third quarter and did not return. … WR Jeremy Maclin (knee) was inactive for a second straight week. … Ravens DB Anthony Levine (foot) left in the second quarter.

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Steelers betting favorites over rival Ravens for Sunday Night Football

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Ben Roethlisberger will face a defense that has given him fits without one of his best receivers on Sunday night, while the betting line is set right at the point where the Pittsburgh Steelers cause fits for bettors.

The Steelers are listed as a 4.5-point favorite against the Baltimore Ravens with a 43.5-point total for the Week 14 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Over the last four seasons, Pittsburgh is 7-1 straight-up but 4-4 against the spread when favored by 3.5 to 6.5 points at home. The Ravens have been a consistent cover against AFC North competition, to the tune of 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games vs. divisional opponents. That trend might overlap with the Steelers being 5-0 SU in their last five divisional home games.

The Ravens are 7-5 SU and 6-5-1 ATS, but are 0-3 SU against teams presently in a playoff position. Whether they can rise to meet the level of the Steelers will likely start with whether the offensive line anchored by LT Ronnie Stanley and RT Austin Howard, which has allowed only one sack in the past two games, can shut down DE Cameron Heyward and the Pittsburgh pass rush (which is second in the NFL with 40 sacks).

If they hold up, QB Joe Flacco and targets such as WR Breshad Perriman and WR Mike Wallace could exploit a Steelers pass defense that has been rather generous at allowing long-strike completions since CB Joe Haden (fibula) went down.

Baltimore, through Alex Collins, is solid in the rushing phase. It’s hard to know what to expect from Pittsburgh’s run defense in the team’s first game since a serious injury to ILB Ryan Shazier (spine).

The Steelers are 10-2 SU and 6-6 ATS and Roethlisberger has an ugly 4-to-6 touchdown pass/interception ratio across his last five games against the Ravens. With CB Jimmy Smith (ACL/PED suspension) out of the picture, it is just a matter of when WR Antonio Brown will break off a big play. The Steelers will be counting on Eli Rogers or Martavis Bryant to fill in for the absence of JuJu Smith-Schuster (suspension).

Without Smith-Schuster, who is excellent at sealing off defenders as a run blocker, the Steelers might use more double tight-end sets with Jesse James and Vance McDonald. That could serve two purposes: opening lanes for RB Le'Veon Bell, who scampered for 186 rushing-receiving yards against the Ravens in Week 4, as well as seizing on the Ravens’ year-long struggles covering tight ends.

Pittsburgh, second to New England on the odds to win the AFC championship, is 1-3 ATS in its last four games against the Ravens, and 1-3 ATS over its last four, but between Brown, Bell and Heyward they have three difference-makers at key spots.

The total has gone over in six of the Ravens’ last eight games. The total has gone over in the Steelers’ last five games in Week 14.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Garoppolo, Patriots face Bears to highlight NFL Week 2 preseason betting slate

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Jimmy Garoppolo will be facing his hometown team when the New England Patriots play host to the Chicago Bears in a matchup that could be a little more intense than the typical Week 2 NFL preseason game.

The Patriots and Bears are having joint practices prior to their game on Thursday, and the first was marred by a near-brawl after a run-in between New England CB Malcolm Butler and star Chicago WR Alshon Jeffrey.

The matchup will provide Garoppolo, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, with another opportunity to get comfortable filling in for Tom Brady. The future Hall of Famer will be serving his Deflategate suspension during the first four weeks of the regular season.

New England is listed as a four-point favorite against Chicago at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Dating back to 2010, the Patriots are 7-3 straight-up and 6-4 against the spread as a home favorite in the preseason.

Patriots TE Martellus Bennett will face his former team, and might perhaps get some extra targets since All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski could opt to play it safe after sustaining a lower-body injury on Monday.

Chicago is 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS in their last 10 preseason matchups where they were a road underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

Thursday’s slate also includes a playoff rematch, with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks listed as 3.5-point favorites against the Minnesota Vikings. Seattle, which is 8-2 SU and ATS in their last 10 preseason home games, have had RB Thomas Rawls back at practice, but it’s more likely that rookie Alex Collins will be first up in the backfield.

For the Vikings, playing Seattle is a test for third-year QB Teddy Bridgewater, who has to show more arm strength to take the next step in his progression. Minnesota is 5-5 both SU and ATS in their last 10 preseason road games.

Robert Griffin III is also expected to play most of the first half for the Cleveland Browns, who are 2.5-point betting favorites against the Atlanta Falcons. The Browns are on a 4-6 ATS run as a preseason home favorite.

Two Saturday matchups to monitor are the New Orleans Saints-Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers-Denver Broncos contests. The Texans, who are three-point favorites, are adapting to new QB Brock Osweiler and new RB Lamar Miller. The Saints’ track record on defense isn’t any better in August than in the regular season; the total has gone OVER in 13 of their last 20 games.

Denver is a 3.5-point favorite against San Francisco. Trevor Siemian, judging from his increased share of first-team reps, is ahead of Mark Sanchez in the Broncos’ QB competition. Denver is just 2-8 ATS in their last 10 preseason games as a home favorite, and seven of those matchups have gone OVER the posted total.