We are getting to the point in the season in the NFL where the healthiest teams win. Quarterbacks were the biggest story in Week 13, but not for the reason anybody would like to see. Jimmy Garoppolo's broken foot has put the 49ers' Super Bowl aspirations in the hands of rookie Brock Purdy. At the same time, Lamar Jackson fell victim to the Ravens' insatiable injury bug for the second straight year. Baltimore's situation is much less severe with Jackson set to return this season, but the road to the playoffs got much more challenging.
Getting ahead of line movement fueled by respected money or bad weather is part of the weekly grind as a bettor. However, nothing causes the odds to shift as swiftly as a quarterback injury. The wild swings open up opportunities to capture decent odds before the market moves to a more efficient number later in the week. Spotting these overreactions, whether based on injury or the result of a high-profile game, can help you capture a slight edge. Here are two buy-low scenarios that I have already locked in for the upcoming week.
Baltimore Ravens +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers
Bettors should always proceed with caution when the matchup has the feel of two teams heading in opposite directions, as you are most likely entering the market at the peak of two extremes. Mike Tomlin continues to do the impossible in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers moved to 5-7 after their 19-16 win at Atlanta. They have been a hot team to back since their bye (3-1 ATS), while the Ravens have failed to cover the last three weeks.
Despite Pittsburgh's success, capturing the key number of three is enough for me to buy low on Baltimore. Tyler Huntley gained valuable experience when Jackson went down last year, so there is a level of familiarity with him in the offense. Of course, everybody remembers the four straight losses to end the year, but they forget that Huntley kept them within three points of every game.
Laying three points is a pretty steep role reversal for Pittsburgh. The only time Pittsburgh was a favorite of this size this season, it lost outright to the Jets as a three-point home favorite. Huntley leading the team on the game-winning drive against Denver is a boost of confidence for the Ravens' offense, and it will carry over against the Steelers this week. Catching three points with the Ravens feels like an overreaction, so I am happy to take the dog in a spot it can win.
The Cincinnati Bengals slayed the Chiefs for the third consecutive time in two seasons and put the entire AFC on notice. Cincinnati appears to be peaking at just the right time, while the Browns couldn't even muster an offensive touchdown against the worst team in the league last week. The contrast creates the perfect buy-low spot for the Browns, while the perception of the Bengals has never been higher.
Cleveland has dominated this series recently by winning eight of the last nine, including a 32-13 win as 3.5-point underdog only five weeks ago. It marked the Browns' fifth straight victory against the Bengals — and a 4-0 mark when facing Joe Burrow. The defending AFC Champions are rightfully favored, but six points is too rich when facing a divisional opponent that has always played them competitively. The Browns are also a 3-0 ATS against AFC North opponents this year.
Cleveland sacked Burrow five times and piled up 440 yards of offense in the first meeting. The Bengals will be more explosive with Ja'Marr Chase back in the lineup, but it's fair to question whether they can match Cleveland's physicality in the trenches. The Browns were only underdogs of six points or more twice this season, covering against Baltimore and coming up short against Buffalo at a neutral site. I will take my chances with the underdog at this number. Six is the third-most frequent key number behind 3 and 7, and is too valuable to pass up in this spot. Bet the Bengals to end up in a dogfight, coming down from a massive win against Kansas City.