Cleveland Browns (0-9 SU, 2-7 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (4-4 SU, 3-5 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: MT&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
TV: NFL Network
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +10/BAL -10
Over/Under Total: 45
The Cleveland Browns come into MT&T Bank Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. The Browns remain winless at 0-9 and anyone who saw them on Sunday getting lambasted by Dallas at home will find it hard to pull the trigger on them this week, even getting double-digit points in their own division to a .500 team. Baltimore put a stop to their 4-game losing streak on Sunday with a 21-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They now have some optimism moving forward in an AFC North division that is suddenly up-for-grabs. Baltimore is tied at 4-4 with the Steelers for the division lead.
These division teams have already played this season in week two. It was a bizarre game. It was shocking to see the Browns up a 20-0 score with barely a half-quarter gone. Isaiah Crowell was running wild on the Ravens’ defense, with Josh McCown hitting his aerial targets, as they shredded the Baltimore defense. But as is their wont, a spark was followed by a lull, as the offense took the balance of the day off, not hitting the scoreboard again for the rest of the game. Baltimore worked their way back into the game deliberately, eventually taking a 25-20 win. Flacco connected with ball-catching talent like Dennis Pitta and Mike Wallace and the Browns didn’t have any answers.
Again, it’s been a weird season for the Ravens. Things were looking up with a 3-0 start, but 4 straight losses made that almost a distant memory. The win over Pittsburgh was a critical one, as the Ravens would have been lost at sea without it. Now, they are tied for the division lead and have a lot to play for. It’s interesting to note that going back to last season, even their losses have been competitive. It could work against them in the sense that they’re not closing out the close games, but even a down Ravens team can be competitive.
Against the Steelers on Sunday, the Ravens were dominant and led 21-0 into the 4th quarter, before the Steelers added two late TDs to make the score look closer than it really was. The Baltimore defense got a positive development by shutting the potentially-powerful Steelers offense down for almost the entire game. Granted, the Steelers were perhaps not due to thrive with Big Ben coming back in a rushed state after a surgery just a few weeks earlier. But Baltimore did its job in keeping Big Ben in check; in addition to holding Pittsburgh star back Le’Veon Bell to 32 yards on 14 carries. This is not a defense that is all that bankable, as they play with some different form on a week-to-week basis. But some offenses have really struggled against this group. They are a top-five defense in the league and can get after the QB, stop the opposing run-game, and prevent the aerial attack from getting on too big of a roll.
On Sunday, Joe Flacco kept the offense moving enough to keep the Ravens in control. He made a super-awkward slide late in the game on a run and left hobbling, though it seemed more of a knee brace malfunction. He should be OK and didn’t appear on any early injury reports. It’s an offense that struggles in a lot of areas, as running the ball is not something they can do with any consistency. But with Mike Wallace, they’ve added a dimension of down-field acrobats. He had a 95-yard TD on Sunday. He was big against Cleveland in their first game and put up 124 yards against the Steelers on Sunday.
There have been points during the season where the Browns did what they did against Baltimore in their first game—look good in spurts and give the opponent something to think about. Other times, they’re simply not competitive. They held their own against the Ravens, in an OT loss to Miami, a narrow loss to Tennessee, and a field goal-loss to the Jets two weeks ago. Other than that, they’ve been serving as punching bags to other teams. They didn’t have any answers for Dallas on Sunday, with Dak Prescott throwing three TDs and Ezekiel Elliott running for two scores. Browns’ rookie quarterback Cody Kessler threw for 203 yards and a touchdown, but they barely had the ball in terms of time and were unable to establish any offensive momentum, while their defense was hung out to dry.
One wonders where the Browns will turn from here. QB Cody Kessler offers some upside as a rookie whose ceiling hasn’t been defined. Josh McCown is still in the mix and has been the most-prolific of the bunch, though his inability to manufacture a win is troubling. And RG3 is technically able to start playing again; though seeing him this week seems like a long-shot. Either way, it’s not a very promising situation for the Browns on offense. And the line has under-performed, neither able to stop the pass-rush or able to spring the run game to much affect.
The Cleveland defense is ranked 31st in the league. They are unable to stop the run and have given up an average of 30 points per game. The pass-rush is sometimes non-existent, as is their ability to make a game-changing play. Against Dallas and at other times this season, it’s been like the “D” was just there taking up space. They’ve only recovered two fumbles this season. With an offense stumbling around at times, it would be nice to have a “D” that can make something positive happen and it’s not taking place this season.
The Browns might be getting a number here that forces us to take notice. They gave the Ravens a good go the first time around and though they have taken some losses and their situation is direr than it was then; some things still match up decently for the Browns in this one. Granted, the Ravens are facing an important week at 4-4, but I see them having trouble covering the big spread. I’m taking Cleveland.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Cleveland Browns plus ten points.
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