The Washington Redskins (6-6, 3-3 home) host the Baltimore Ravens (9-3, 4-2 away) Sunday in a pivotal game with playoff implications for both teams. Baltimore is in first place in the AFC North while sharing a 9-3 record with both the Patriots and Broncos in a three-way race for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Redskins trail the Giants by one game in the NFC East division. Oddsmakers have installed Washington as a 2.5-point favorite over Baltimore with a total set of 47 points.

Why Washington Covers

The Redskins are playing their best football of the season right now. They have won three straight over division rivals Philadelphia, Dallas and New York to put themselves in a great position to make a run at the NFC East title with only four games remaining. They trail the Giants by just one game, but own the tiebreaker due to their division record.

Baltimore may be 9-3 this season, but a closer look at the numbers assures that it has been overachieving in the win-loss column all season. Six of their nine wins have come by 7 points or less, including five by 3 points or fewer. They have simply gotten all the breaks to go their way in close games, but that tends to even out over time.

The Ravens rank just 19th in the league in total offense at 343.2 yards per game, and 25th in total defense at 372.4 yards per game. They are getting outgained by an average of 29.2 yards per game, which is a number more indicative of a team below .500 than one that is 9-3 on the season.

Baltimore was already playing without Ray Lewis and LaDarius Webb, two of its best defensive players. Now, it is likely to be without 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs for the rest of the season. Suggs suffered what was diagnosed a torn bicep in its 20-23 loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday.

Washington is 5-1 against the spread in its last 6 vs. a team with a winning record. The Ravens are 0-5-1 against the spread in their last 6 games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game. Baltimore is 0-4 against the spread in its last 4 December games.

Why Baltimore Covers

The Redskins are coming off a big emotional win over the New York Giants on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. That could set them up for a huge letdown spot here as they face the Ravens Sunday. Plus, Washington will be working on just five days’ rest after playing on Monday, which is certainly a disadvantage.

There’s no question the Ravens will want to bounce back following their 20-23 loss to the Steelers last Sunday. They have responded well following two previous losses this season. After a 23-24 loss at Philadelphia on September 16th, they came back with a 31-30 home victory over the Patriots the next week. After a 13-43 loss at Houston on October 21st, they bounced back with a 25-15 win at Cleveland following their bye week.

This play falls into a system that is 29-10 (74.4%) ATS over the last 10 seasons. It tells us to bet on all teams where the line is +3 to -3 (BALTIMORE) – off an extremely close home loss by 3 points or less, in the second half of the season.

Baltimore is 12-3 against the spread off an upset loss as a home favorite since 1992. The Ravens are 36-19 against the spread in road games after 1 or more consecutive losses against the spread since 1992. John Harbaugh is 22-12 against the spread in all games where the line is +3 to -3 as the coach of Baltimore.