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New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (Friday 01:20 GMT)
The Baltimore Ravens’ surge to towards the NFL Playoffs shows no signs of slowing down after last week’s 24-17 victory at the Buffalo Bills extended their win streak to nine games. It may not have been a walk in the park like some of their most recent outings, but Lamar Jackson & Co. were able to get by that tough Buffalo defense and that victory, coupled with New England’s loss to Kansas City, means they are now in pole position to earn the number one seeing in the playoffs that would guarantee the road to the Super Bowl would go through M&T Bank Stadium as long as the Ravens were alive in the postseason. They will look to take another big stride towards top billing in the conference when they kick off Week 14 with a Thursday night clash with the New York Jets.
The Jets are enjoying a solid run for form at this time having won four of their last five games, but Adam Gase’s team have mainly been padding their record at the expense of poor opposition. Their only notable victory during this run was the emphatic 34-3 win over Oakland that has seemingly sent the Raiders’ season into a tailspin, ending their hopes of making it to the playoffs, so nothing we have seen from New York in recent weeks suggests they are about to spring an upset here and bring Baltimore crashing back down to Earth. The Vegas odds-makers certainly feel that way because the Ravens opened as the fourth largest favourite in team history for this game as 14.5 point favourites – the only time they have been shorter when they were 16.5 favourites for a 2011 game against Indianapolis and 15 point favourites for the 2000 games against Cleveland and Arizona. And as a side note, they won all three of those games but only covered the spread once.
It would be unfair to take history into consideration here though. This, of course, is a completely different team to those that came before and this is a team who have not spent an entire season feasting on woeful opposition. A couple of weeks back they beat San Francisco in what some believe may have been a dress rehearsal for the Super Bowl, while they have also blown out the likes of the Los Angeles Rams and Houston Texans while soundly beating a New England Patriots team who are one of their main threats in the race for the number one seeding. This Ravens team is for real and they should extend their win streak to 10 games here – the question is how will they win it?
I know that they are overwhelming favourites but I cannot help but feel wary of backing them to win by more than a couple of touchdowns, even if they have blown out several teams and are hosting a New York team that are 5-8 and heading towards another losing season. The short week that Thursday Night Football throws up limits preparation time and, as a result, has a knack for producing surprise results or at least making games a little more competitive and closer than you would expect them to be. Baltimore do not have the best of records when covering large spreads either, and the last thing that makes me wary is that Jets defense – they do rank seventh overall in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed and they are second when it comes to rushing yards given up, so perhaps they can slow Jackson and the Ravens offense a little here.
It will not enough to win them the game but it may ensure that they at least cover the +14.5 spread, especially if the Ravens open up a healthy lead and take their foot off the gas late on, allowing New York to rack up yards and points in ‘garbage time’.