Betfair's Mark Kirwan provides his two best bets from the AFC and thinks bitter rivals, the Ravens and Bengals can come out on top in their respective Week Five match-up's...
"From Baltimore’s perspective, they’ve been humbled by the Jaguars in London and the Steelers at home in their last two games, but they are a better team than both of those games suggest, and their defence had started the season in mean form before their travel-affected aberration versus Jacksonville."
Week Four of the 2017 NFL season was blighted by injuries to important players on several teams. Scares for Julio Jones and Odell Beckham had Fantasy Football managers fretting, Minnesota's intriguing potential this season may have snapped with Dalvin Cook's Anterior Cruciate Ligament, and everyone now knows Matt Cassel is still in the league following Marcus Mariota's hamstring tweak.
Sunday 8th October, 21:05
The most significant injury, however, is the spinal fracture suffered by Oakland QB Derek Carr. The Raiders didn't impress at Washington in Week Three, but their offence still has the potential to be a top three unit in the league with Carr throwing to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper at receiver, Marshawn Lynch's un-retirement, Jared Cook at tight end, and a host of potential play-makers backing them up. Carr's absence undermines all this promise and could be very costly in the league's toughest division.
Last season's playoffs showed us what to expect from a Carr-less Raiders, where Connor Cook was forced to deputise at quarterback in a Wildcard round defeat to Houston. He threw 45 times for 18 completions, Oakland converting only 2 of 16 third down situations in a 27-14 defeat that was little more than a formality in Carr's absence. Former Bills QB EJ Manuel is now the backup, but his record gives little reason to expect an improvement on January's performance.
From Baltimore's perspective, they've been humbled by the Jaguars in London and the Steelers at home in their last two games, but they are a better team than both of those games suggest, and their defence had started the season in mean form before their travel-affected aberration versus Jacksonville. They kept the game close against Pittsburgh's scary offence last week, and the depleted Raiders carry a much weaker threat than the Steelers.
Considering the Ravens defensive potential to shut down powerful offences, that they need a win after two defeats, and that they are facing a team with EJ Manuel at quarterback, the pick this week is Baltimore +3 at [1.91].
Back the Baltimore Ravens +3 at [1.91]
Sunday 8th October, 18:00
Buffalo have been one of the surprises of the season so far. The trades of Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby and Reggie Ragland late in preseason suggested to some that winning games in 2017 may not be a priority in Orchard Park, but they have defied those expectations, upsetting the 2016's NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in their new stadium last week and sitting on top of the AFC East after four games.
The Bengals are coming off a crucial win in Week Four against the Browns, building on a significant improvement in the previous week's loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. A change of offensive coordinator seems to have revived Andy Dalton and the passing game (aided by Cleveland's porous defence it must be said), with four touchdowns thrown last week and tight-end Tyler Kroft looking like another useful addition to the offence. A weak running game and problems replacing Andrew Whitworth on the offensive line have contributed to their slow start, but, as was evident against the Packers, they are a better team than the opening weeks suggested.
This is a tough game to call because both teams are trending positively, but a win is more important for the 1-3 Bengals than the Bills, who will be very pleased to be 3-1. Given they are at home, Cincinnati ought to cover the -3 at [1.95].
Back the Cincinnati Bengals -3 at [1.95]