The regular season is coming to an end and the last stretch of the playoff race is putting intense pressure on those teams still in with a chance of booking a spot in the postseason.
This is the time of the season when everyone is studying the NFL standings and calculating which team has the easiest and the lightest schedule, and betting fans are closely studying the odds. Between trying to find the best odds on their favorite team and checking out the never ending promotions at Michigan sportsbooks, bettors understand the importance of looking ahead. Even games that appear to be one-sided can have an influence on the shape of the playoffs.
Baltimore battling on
Baltimore Ravens never seem to do things the easy way and that has been the case once again in 2022. Despite playing good football through the opening weeks, an alarming habit of giving up big fourth-quarter leads held them back as they lost three of their first six.
When those troubles seemed to be behind them, Lamar Jackson suffered a knee injury that potentially threatened the season. Fortunately, Jackson is expected to be back for this one, although Baltimore fans will be watching closely to see if the latest injury blow has dented his effectiveness.
To his credit, Tyler Huntley has been a solid replacement and plays in a similar style to Jackson, though not at the same level. He has kept the Ravens on course in the AFC North and enabled them to hold off the resurgent Cincinnati Bengals – at least for the moment. But that final regular season game at Paycor Stadium is shaping up to be a potential division-decider.
Falcons still fighting
Going into Week 15, every team in the NFC South, including the 5-8 Atlanta Falcons, had a losing record. The Falcons remained at around .500 until the end of October, but four defeats from five knocked them back. The inconsistency shown by the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has kept them in the hunt, and like the Ravens, they have a potentially decisive final week matchup against a key divisional rival – in this case, the aforementioned Tampa Bay.
Ahead of that game, however, this clash with the Ravens rates as Atlanta’s toughest game, but it is one that they have to find a way to win.
What can we expect?
Atlanta has been performing notably well with their running game, ranking fourth best in the NFL for yards gained, going into Week 15. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they are up against the second-best rushing offense in the NFL in Baltimore, canceling out their main strength.
And when it comes to defense, there is no comparison. Even after an inconsistent season, Baltimore have one of the top 10 defenses, while Atlanta rank inside the bottom 10. Jackson’s fitness adds an element of uncertainty to this game, but while both teams may yet end up in the playoffs, Baltimore are in a different class and have enough depth to grind out another win here.