Even though it was just a few months ago it now seems almost unfathomable that the Cleveland Browns were considered a serious Super Bowl contender before the season began. If nothing else, the Browns serve as a cautionary tale against betting a team based on little more than potential and hype. Cleveland was embarrassed on their home field by the Tennessee Titans on opening day losing 43-13. They were able to tread water during the first few weeks of the season going 2-2 SU/ATS in their first four games. Then the bottom fell out–a four game SU/ATS losing streak did in their hopes for making the playoffs. To their credit, they haven’t quit on the year and have gone 4-2 SU/3-2-1 ATS during their last 6 games but that just leaves them needing to win out to finish at .500. That’s a far cry from the preseason hype.
It’s also difficult to remember back to late September when the talking heads of the mainstream sports media had a feeding frenzy after the Baltimore Ravens lost two straight games after starting the season 2-0. On September 29, the Ravens were at 2-2 SU/1-3 ATS following a 40-25 home loss to none other than the Cleveland Browns. The prevailing ‘wisdom’ was that the Ravens were going to finish out of the playoffs. These geniuses also concluded that Lamar Jackson was all hype and could only put up numbers against bad teams–like the Ravens 59-10 opening game win at Miami. The most common ‘take’ was that Jackson wasn’t a legit franchise quarterback with some going as far to suggest that the Ravens would miss Joe Flacco.
They couldn’t have been more wrong. Baltimore hasn’t lost a game since reeling off 10 straight wins going 7-2-1 ATS. In the process they’ve beaten Seattle, New England, Buffalo, San Francisco, Houston and the LA Rams. Not bad for a team that ‘would be exposed’ when they stepped up in class. All Lamar Jackson has done is make the NFL MVP award a foregone conclusion–he’s priced at -3000 to win with Russell Wilson the second choice at +1000. In the process, he’s re-written the NFL record book and put up some downright insane numbers: 2889 yards passing, 1103 yards rushing, 33 touchdown passes to just 6 interceptions and 7 more rushes for touchdowns.
Unfortunately, mainstream sports media types have a short memory and no concept of accountability. The same prattling fools that wrote off the Ravens and Jackson after Week Four now can’t stop gushing about him. The mouth-breathers on ESPN and sports talk radio might have a short memory but it’s very doubtful that the Ravens share this trait–they now catch the last team to beat them in a vulnerable position on *their* home field. Can you say ‘payback’? More significantly, the Ravens need a win here to lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. When you give a good team something tangible to play for *and* a bit of emotional/subjective motivation good things are going to happen.
The Browns have been downright awful against the run this year ranking #27 in rushing yards allowed per game. They’re pretty good against the pass ranked #6 in the league but all that means is that they’ll have to stop Jackson on the ground where he’s definitely capable of putting up big numbers. Cleveland’s porous rushing defense made Arizona’s Kenyan Drake look like a superstar last weekend as he ran for 137 yards on 22 carries and scored four touchdowns in the Cardinals’ 38-24 rout of the Browns. Even before their dominating 2019 season the Ravens were money in the bank outside of the ‘Charm City’ going 14-8 SU/15-5 ATS on the road during the last three seasons. As for Cleveland, one thing hasn’t changed yet–the Browns still struggle when stepping up in class. They enter on a 4-13 SU/5-11-1 ATS run against opponents with a winning record.
The Ravens opened as a -7 road favorite and have been bet up to -9.5 or -10. Even at that price, they’re definitely the play. In addition, we’ll bet this game ‘Over’ the total. There’s nothing to suggest that Cleveland can shut down Lamar Jackson on the ground *and* through the air. The teams combined for 65 points when they played in September and they could put up similar numbers here only with Baltimore emerging victorious.