The Baltimore Ravens were wiping themselves off the mat the last time we saw them in action. The Cleveland Browns are coming off their second consecutive home victory over the San Diego Chargers. Can the underdogs make it three in a row or are we primed for a smackdown from the divisional big brother? Let's take a closer look at why I like the Ravens to sweep the season series.
There isn't a whole lot of movement here (yet). The look-ahead line was Ravens -3 and it has re-opened at the same number this week. However, there are signs this line is moving as you have to lay a little bit of extra juice (odds from SBRforum). I won't be surprised if this comes off the three at some point.
Off a Bye Into a Bye
The cat is officially out of the bag. Teams heading into a bye are now 1-14 ATS with the Monday Night Football game pending. I've seen many people say this is much ado about nothing and simply a case of random variance. That's entirely reasonable given the ultra-small sample size, but there could be something to this as players are looking forward to guaranteed time off under the new CBA.
Either way, in this game we have the Ravens coming off the bye as the Browns enter one. The same scenario played out in Week 8 in the Dolphins/Jets game. For the time being, I'm going to include this as an advantage in our favor.
Trust What You See?
Some might look at the Browns win over the Chargers and be a little bit weary about this pick. Don't be. The Chargers are only getting by on reputation at the moment and the truth is they aren't a very good football team this season. Cleveland only managed one sack on Philip Rivers and came away with no interceptions.
If the Browns hope to repeat the same script against Baltimore they might want to revisit that plan. There are a number of mismatches they have to overcome on both sides of the ball, including the fact that the Ravens have had an extra week to prepare.
Why Only -3?
Part of the reason this point spread isn't higher is thanks to the Browns defense. It certainly isn't among the top half of the league because they rank well below average in run and pass defense. What does raise their stock is the fact they tighten up a bit on third down and in the red zone.
Joe Haden's return from suspension has sure helped that, but it is their overall play in make or break moments that have kept them within striking distance of most games.This is a direct reflection of their coaching and discipline within the scheme, because they sure don't have the personnel to scare people.
At the same time, now they must face a top flight running game and above average passing game. I'm not the biggest fan of Joe Flacco, but he does have the clear edge on Brandon Weeden and much better weapons around him.
A Step Above
Speaking of Weeden, the Browns rank around the middle in turnover differential, but the bad news is most of their turnovers have come from interceptions. The Ravens have been below average defending the pass this season, but like the Browns, they tighten up in the key situations.
The Ravens are a well-coached team and their week off is going to help them tighten up some of their problems. Also, now that Terrell Suggs is back in the lineup, it's safe to say that ratings across the board are going to get a kick up.
Baltimore's defense isn't what it used to be, but the challenge ahead of them in Week 9 is not a daunting one. Unless Trent Richardson has a monster day, I don't foresee the Ravens in danger of a long day.
The Ravens have had a week to get the bad taste from the Texans game out of their mouths. They face a much easier task this Sunday against a familiar division foe. In Week 4 they were 11.5 point favorites when they played the Browns, but now we're only laying a field goal. I know Baltimore have some flaws, but there are simply too many advantages across the board to only be laying three points.
NFL Pick: BAL -3.