Week 4 kicks off Thursday night and hopefully by the time you read this, the replacement refs will be long gone after an abysmal Week 3 showing. The Browns will travel to Baltimore to take on one of the league’s premier sides in the Ravens. It’s a tale of two teams going in opposite directions but whenever two divisional foes square off, it always seems to be a meaningful contest. Let’s just hope the refs don’t screw up yet another prime-time game!
The Ravens enter this contest with a stellar 2-1 outing coming off a huge victory against New England last week. Though they were the benefactors of some favourable officiating down the stretch, the Ravens did enough to squeak out a victory against a powerful Patriots side, and will look to maintain their focus against a lowly Cleveland squad. After seeing Pittsburgh’s collapse in Oakland last week, the Ravens have to be thinking that the AFC North is their division to lose, and they’ll need to try and keep pace with Houston if they want home-field come January. Though it’s late-September, for a Super Bowl contender like Baltimore, it’s never too early to start thinking about potential playoff ramifications.
The Browns enter this game just like they do every week, still awful and showing minimal signs of improvement. Cleveland enters 0-3 and with 28-year old rookie Brandon Weeden behind centre, look dysfunctional on offense. Making matters worse for Cleveland on Thursday evening is the fact that key wide-out Mohammed Massaquoi is slated to be out injured for the Broncos. Massaquoi has emerged as the Browns’ top receiver and without him moving the ball could prove impossible against a vicious Ravens’ defense. If this game is to be respectable, the Browns defense must keep pace with Baltimore’s fast offense, and rookie running back Trent Richardson will need a spectacular performance. Don’t count on either.
Browns vs. Ravens Spread & Betting Odds:
Cleveland Browns +13 (-115)
@ Baltimore Ravens -13 (-105)
Over 44 (-110)
Under 44 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Browns vs. Ravens Pick:
Though this seems like quite the mismatch on paper, dealng with short weeks and with the Ravens coming off such a huge victory against New England, they may be prone to a bit of a letdown Thursday evening. Add in the fact that this will be their 4th game in the past 18 days, and it wouldn’t be a shock if they came out a tad sluggish. Still, the Ravens really should win this football game, but divisional contests sometimes have a funny way of being closer than expected. Last year when Cleveland travelled to Baltimore, they only lost by six points in a low-scoring affair, and don’t be surprised to see a similar outcome Thursday night.
Trusting the Browns however is a big no-no in the betting world, so let’s take a look at the Under 44 points in this contest. Last year’s games both landed on totals of 34, and a similar type of game should unfold Thursday evening in Baltimore. Firstly, expect Cleveland to muster absolutely nothing on offense. Their attack, led by the rookie Weeden is atrocious, currently ranking 26th in the league in total yardage per game. Without key receiver Mohammed Massaquoi, the Browns lack a reliable outlet in the passing game. Look for Cleveland to become one-dimensional and allow the Ravens to stack the box and stuff the running game of the inexperienced Trent Richardson. The Ravens are ferocious on defense and will pressure Weeden at will. Though Cleveland has a solid offensive line, look for the speed of Baltimore’s Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger to overwhelm the Browns. Baltimore’s blitzes will throw off Weeden’s rhythm, forcing the rookie into a ton of poor decisions against a very opportunistic defense.
Though Baltimore’s defense is struggling from a statistical standpoint, it remains a premier unit in the NFL. Squaring off against the Eagles, Patriots, and even Cincinnati is a tough start, and this team will find its gear Thursday night against a punchless Browns’ attack.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the football expect a bit of a letdown from the Ravens attack following a solid showing Sunday night. Facing the Browns is nothing like a huge win against the Patriots, so don’t be surprised if some nonchalant play becomes prevalent in Baltimore’s game Thursday evening. That said, the Ravens can sleepwalk through this Cleveland side. Expect Baltimore’s defense to give up very little, while the offense puts up points with a steady dose of Ray Rice. Rice has killed the Browns on the ground in past meetings and expect more of the same Thursday night. Look for the Ravens to get up by a bit and run their way to a 3-1 record.
The Ravens simply have too much talent not to be in complete control of this contest. On a short week, it will be a grind for both squads, but expect the savvy Ravens to control the tempo of this game with a solid defensive showing. The Ravens will run the ball a ton, killing the clock and making Ray Rice fantasy owners very satisfied. Something along the lines of a 20-10 scoreline seems fitting for Thursday night. Take the Under 44 points in Baltimore.
PICK = Under 44 (-110)