The Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens are both 7-6 through week 14 of the NFL season. One team’s playoff odds will rise in week 15, while the other’s odds will fall. Which team will be able to produce under pressure, now that the NFL season has reached its final few weeks and the stakes are so high around the league? This will be a fascinating Monday Night Football confrontation, with the winner taking one very big step toward the 2013 postseason.
Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions
NFL Football Odds: Lions -7
Why The Ravens Can Cover The Spread:
They are a more proven team in December. The Ravens know how to close the sale when playoff berths and playoff seeds are on the line. This team has been a regular part of the final eight in the NFL playoffs over the past six years. The Ravens usually reach the divisional round in the AFC postseason, and this doesn’t happen by accident. The NFL is a parity-driven league on a larger level, but a few teams do manage to cut through the clutter and make the playoffs on a fairly consistent basis. Most of those teams are in the AFC, and the Ravens are one of them. The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots are the others. The rest of the league goes through cycles. Denver wasn’t a particularly good team in recent years until Peyton Manning came along. The Pittsburgh Steelers have fallen on hard times. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers weren’t in good shape three years ago, but now they’re doing well. The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons make the playoffs most years, but not every year. Baltimore really is one of the NFL’s most consistent franchises since 2008, and if you want to be more specific, only the Patriots have been more consistent over that same span of time.
This season, Baltimore was 4-6, but the Ravens didn’t back down. They overcame three fourth-quarter deficits to beat the Minnesota Vikings in a snowstorm this past Sunday to move to 7-6. This team is indomitable in December of each season, and when one realizes how undependable the Detroit Lions have been – the organization hasn’t won a playoff game in over 20 years – it becomes that much easier to bet the Ravens here.
Why The Lions Can Cover The Spread:
Their talent is superior to Baltimore’s, and they’re playing at home in a nationally televised night game. Detroit played in snow the past weekend in Philadelphia, a reality that placed a limitation on the effectiveness of the Lions’ passing game. Now that Detroit gets to play inside its domed home, Calvin Johnson and the rest of this team’s receivers should be thrilled. They can run in open space at full speed and not get slowed down by the conditions. It should also be said that the Lions very rarely host a Monday Night Football game. This isn’t just a key game for playoff purposes. This is a time in which the Lions can show the rest of the country what they’re made of. The players on this team will likely embrace this opportunity.
The Lions are not consistent enough to crush the Ravens, but they are likely to come up with enough big plays in the passing game to win outright. Baltimore will cover the spread, though.
Pick: Ravens +7