Blowing a fourth-quarter lead to the Cleveland Browns and Deshaun Watson when he had a broken shoulder and high ankle sprain is far from ideal, but that doesn't mean the Baltimore Ravens aren't still one of the NFL's best teams.
The Ravens have a chance to reestablish their position among the NFL's elite on Thursday night. They face the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that became even bigger in the AFC North after the Cleveland Browns announced that Deshaun Watson is done for the season.
The Browns aren't completely dead and the Pittsburgh Steelers keep finding ways to win, but it seems like if the Ravens win on Thursday night they're on their way to a division title. They'd have the season sweep over the Bengals.
The Bengals know all of that, too. That should give Thursday night a playoff feel. The Ravens are 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM for one of the best Thursday matchups of the season.
Both teams come in looking to make up for a loss last week. The Ravens allowed the Browns to come back and beat them in the fourth quarter. The Bengals were upset by the Houston Texans at home. That tightened up the AFC North.
The big problem with putting the game on Thursday is neither team will be at their best. Other than the obvious challenges of playing on a short week, the Bengals will be without two of their best players. Receiver Tee Higgins and defensive end Sam Hubbard were ruled out. Key Ravens like cornerback Marlon Humphrey and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley missed practice all week. Stanley was ruled out and Humphrey is doubtful. It would be nice to see both teams at full strength, but that won't be the case.
Still, it should be a fantastic game on a Thursday night, which has been rare. The winner on Thursday night might also end up winning the best division in the NFL.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
A light basketball night
The hoops world apparently didn't want to go up against Thursday Night Football.
There are just two NBA games. The Brooklyn Nets play at the Miami Heat. Miami is a 3.5-point favorite. In the late game, the Oklahoma City Thunder is at the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder has actually been the better team early this season, off to a 7-4 start, while the Warriors are 6-6. The Thunder are 2.5-point favorites over a Warriors team that won't have Draymond Green, who has been suspended five games.
Best of the rest
There is a lot of hockey action on Thursday. There are nine games in the NHL. The best matchup is the Florida Panthers at the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are -130 favorites.
There's also college football. Pitt is a 3-point home favorite vs. Boston College.
What's the best bet?
I still believe in the Ravens. Last week's loss to the Browns was not great, but Cleveland is a good team with Deshaun Watson at quarterback (everything is going to be a struggle for the Browns with Dorian Thompson-Robinson taking over for him). It's hard to lay more than a field goal in a game that should be close, but I like the Ravens and think the Bengals will really miss Tee Higgins and Sam Hubbard. I'll take the Ravens as home favorites.