Masses like Smith, Ravens to finish strong
Baltimore’s playoff hopes came to a crashing halt with last week’s 31-27 loss to Pittsburgh. But that hasn’t dissuaded people from counting on John Harbaugh’s crew as the regular season draws to a close.
In Steve Smith’s NFL swan song, the Ravens are attracting 78 percent of wagers entering this afternoon’s battle against the Bengals. The perennial Pro Bowler’s ready to call it a career following 16 years and nearly 15,000 receiving yards. Clearly, though, there’s still work to do vs. a suspect Cincinnati secondary. One genuinely wonders how much energy Marvin Lewis’ injury-riddled bunch can muster, particularly after pushing Houston to the limit just days ago.
Another huge favorite, Green Bay, must wait until the evening to hit the field. Seventy-seven percent of individuals prefer the Packers to the Lions in a matchup that determines the NFC North champion. In truth, Detroit’s defense may not have an answer for Aaron Rodgers, who’s thrown for touchdowns and no interceptions over the past six contests. Nonetheless, Matthew Stafford’s polishing his own MVP-caliber résumé in the Motor City. The former No. 1 overall selection’s trying to finish with a 65.0 completion percentage for the second time as a professional.
Russell Wilson wasn’t exactly asked to thread the proverbial needle in the Seahawks’ most recent meeting with San Francisco. Yet 76 percent of the crowd anticipates a robust showing in the Bay Area later. The 49ers have prevailed only twice in Chip Kelly’s first go-round as coach. Seattle, on the other hand, will head back to the postseason for the fifth straight year.
Kansas City can’t quite make the same claim, but things keep motoring right along for Andy Reid’s club. Fresh off a 33-10 thumping of Denver, the Chiefs currently entice 73 percent of patrons in advance of a tussle with San Diego. Philip Rivers & Co. could be bidding farewell to Qualcomm Stadium, with relocation to Los Angeles looming. Nevertheless, it’s hard to envision Alex Smith, Spencer Ware and the rest of the gang suffering a slip-up in such a key spot.
Don’t expect a similar level of intensity in Pittsburgh, where stars Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown figure to all but kick back and relax with the Browns in town. Despite being locked into the AFC’s No 3 seed, however, the Steelers welcome support from 72 percent of the audience. Cleveland did manage to eke out a victory over the Chargers in Week 16, giving Hue Jackson the faintest silver lining leading into the offseason.