The Bengals get to open their bid for a return to the Super Bowl against a rival they beat a week ago, again playing that team at home, again playing that team without its starting quarterback, and the oddsmakers see everything lined up for Cincinnati to advance.
Seven days after beating the Baltimore Ravens 27-16, the AFC North champion Bengals play their division rival again Sunday night in the opening round of the NFL playoffs. Cincinnati was consistently a 9.5-point favorite Friday morning at the many online sportsbooks where Ohioans can legally wager on the playoffs for the first time.
The line had been 8.5 points a day earlier, but it widened with confirmation from Lamar Jackson that he would be unable to return from a knee injury to line up behind center for Baltimore Sunday night at Paycor Stadium.
That leaves the Ravens starting either backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has been limited in practice by a shoulder injury this week, or third-stringer Anthony Brown, an undrafted rookie who ran Baltimore’s offense last week when neither Jackson nor Huntley could play. It was Brown’s first NFL start, and he completed just 19 of 44 passes, with two interceptions.
"Very simply, if the Cincinnati Bengals don't turn the football over, the Ravens have no shot to win this game."
— @danorlovsky7 😳 pic.twitter.com/mboUxgCJuE
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 11, 2023
Bengals have fifth-best odds for Super Bowl
It’s an interesting twist that the two teams are playing in back-to-back weeks, considering they have never once faced each other previously in the postseason.
With a healthy Joe Burrow and a full arsenal of explosive offensive weapons available to him, the Bengals should have a lot of confidence, even if the Ravens did narrowly win the first meeting between the two teams in October. That was back when Jackson had no knee trouble and before Cincinnati got back the mojo of its 2021 success and ran off eight straight victories to close the season.
The sportsbooks so heavily favor the Bengals Sunday night that a bettor has to risk a considerable amount to win anything on Cincy’s moneyline. PointsBet, at -450, is about the best a bettor can do taking the Bengals to win, with DraftKings close behind at -460.
Across the board, the sportsbooks set the points total over/under for the game at 40.5, which is lower than for any of the other playoff games this weekend.
The sportsbooks widely make Cincinnati the fifth favorite to win the Super Bowl, with the 8/1 odds at DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook a better payout on that option that what most of their peers are offering.
Expect something different from last Sunday
It’s hard to make too much of last Sunday’s outcome, as coaches on both teams knew this far more important playoff game was upcoming and mostly stuck to the basics in game planning and play calling. Baltimore also rested some key players, including running back J.K. Dobbins and tight end Mark Andrews.
The Bengals, who ran out to a 24-7 lead, were uncharacteristically sluggish on offense — with just 257 total yards — and won by 11 points largely by virtue of the four turnovers the Ravens committed. In the five games in which Baltimore has gone 2-3 playing without Jackson, the Ravens have averaged just 12.5 points per game.
Burrow completed 25 of 42 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown last Sunday, and this week’s game likely provides a much better showcase for his ability to amass yardage and TDs throwing to Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and the rest of the receiving corps.
They call him Joe Cool, but @Bengals QB Joe Burrow (@JoeyB) was on 🔥 this season!
🎯 He's the third @NFL QB with 4,000+ passing yards, 35+ TD passes and 5+ rushing TDs in a single season.
🏈 He has the most games with 400+ passing yards in his first three seasons all-time. pic.twitter.com/GJ4IznrYK2
— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) January 11, 2023
The over/under on Burrow’s passing yardage is 267.5 from DraftKings, which posted no prop for any Ravens quarterback as of Friday morning, presumably due to uncertainty over whether Huntley or Brown would start. DraftKings set -205 as the price for Burrow to throw more than 1.5 TD passes and +155 for under 1.5.
The sportsbook made Chase’s receiving yardage prop over/under 76.5, with Higgins at 61.5. And while Joe Mixon ran for just 27 yards on 11 carries last Sunday, his rushing o/u was set at 55.5, with -110 to bet the over, -120 on the under.
Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY