In many ways this week’s National Football League schedule is like the old days; every team but two playing on Sunday and a Monday Night Football game.
In another way, it is like no other.
COVID had their highest day of positive tests on Monday, 96 NFL players testing positive, and the virus and rules around it for NFL teams is changing team balances throughout the league. Last night, the Miami Dolphins faced a quarterback making his first NFL start because the New Orleans Saints lost the two players in front of him to COVID protocol.
Fourth round selection Ian Book out of Notre Dame may have won more games than any other starting quarterback out of the Fighting Irish program, but he was overmatched in his first professional start by the solid Miami Dolphins defense. The visiting Dolphins notched their seventh straight victory while limiting the Saints to a field goal and pinning them with a 20-3 defeat.
The books knew the Saints were in trouble with Book at quarterback, once Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian were declared out while placed on the reserve COVID-19 list, the point spread shifted six points. The Saints opened a three point favorite and were a three point underdog at kickoff.
In prior seasons, I have always watched dramatic point spread shifts as indicators on what team has a real advantage with available personnel. When the books take a game off the board, and then put it back up with a shift of three points or more, one can be sure that a key player is out for the team that has the spread shifted against them.
I don’t always lay the additional spread, my penchant for point spread value most often overrules following a team with a better line that is probably in for a long day based on the loss of a key player.
Yet, on Sunday, we had a four point shift in the Baltimore Ravens against the Cincinnati Bengals game in which the Ravens went from a three point underdog to a seven point dog for the game at Paul Brown Stadium. The reason was clear, Baltimore lost quarterback Tyler Huntley, who had replaced injured Lamar Jackson, and played well in relief. Now, John Harbaugh’s team was forced to start a player just picked up off waivers the week before, Josh Johnson.
In this case, I thought the 13-year veteran had enough experience, this was his ninth NFL start, to lead a fired up Ravens team that needed the game to maintain first place that they once had a chokehold on in the AFC North Division. In their first game this season against the Bengals, Baltimore gave up 41 points so I expected a big effort from their defense with a backup quarterback and to atone for their earlier poor showing.
Didn’t get it.
Instead, the Bengals offense rolled through the Baltimore defense like a hot knife through butter. In all, the Ravens allowed more than 500 yards of offense to the Joe Burrow led attack and were once again pinned with a loss while giving up 41 points.
So, what do we know now?
Instead of bemoaning our loss, the Ravens were our top pick last week and cut our season record on those selections to 11-5, I’m going to school on the Bengals.
They must be pretty good to do what they did with first place at stake against what we considered a solid Ravens defense. And, based on results, this week the Bengals are in a great spot to end the Kansas City Chiefs eight game winning streak when Patrick Mahomes and company visit the Queen City.
Qoxhi Picks: Cincinnati Bengals (+5) over Kansas City Chiefs