Baltimore Ravens (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS)
NFL Week 3
Date and Time: Sunday, September 21, 2014, 1:00 pm EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: CBS, DirecTV – 707
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Balt. -2/ Cle. +2
Over/Under Total: 41.5
The NFL schedule makers decided that it would be a great idea to have the teams in the AFC North grind on each other to start off the 2014 season, so for the third straight week the Baltimore Ravens will face a division rival when they travel to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on the Cleveland Browns in an early game Sunday on CBS.
So far Baltimore has split a pair of home games in the early going, dropping a tough 23-16 opening week decision to Cincinnati before rebounding in front of a national television audience in primetime on Thursday night, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-6, despite the swirling controversy focused around former Raven Ray Rice. For the third and final divisional rivalry game this weekend, the Ravens will go on the road for the first time in 2014 to take on the Browns in the what used to be the Dawg Pound that has now been sold out and renamed to FirstEnergy Stadium.
But at least the Browns will enter this Sundays game riding high, following an upset of the New Orleans Saints on the same home turf last weekend, 26-24, when kicker Billy Cundiff drilled a 29-yarder with three seconds remaining on the clock. The Browns, who lost their opener to the Steelers in their first of the schedule-makers rivalry games, will try and keep the momentum going when they host the Ravens, who up until last November had owned the Browns winning 11 straight head-to-head meetings between the two longtime rivals.
This rivalry game has also had a little bit of early week line movement at the sportsbooks too, opening as low as a pick em at a few offshore sportsbooks across the Internet, while others on the Web quickly listed the Ravens as 1.5-point favorites on the road. Currently you can find the Ravens listed anywhere from 1- to 2-point favorites depending on where you look, and there are even a few pick ems on the board at some sportsbooks (as of press time, Belmont and 5Dimes are still listing the game as a pick).
The over/under total opened at 41.5 and has had the 180-degree opposite action in terms of movement, going nowhere and holding firm exactly at 41.5 where it opened at late on Sunday.
Since I am not a sportsbooks manager, I can only venture to guess that this game opened as a pick em based on the fact that the Browns scored a big last-second upset over the Saints last Sunday. With the short-memory of the public, and with Baltimores solid win over the Steelers long-gone ago last Thursday, its only natural that the books had to react in the moment.
Surprisingly, its been the Browns offense that has held things together in Cleveland in the early going. QB Brian Hoyer has been a solid game-manager and the Browns has been grinding on defenses with the running game (152 ypg 7th in NFL) to keep control of the tempo. However, if the Browns dont start playing better overall defense (31st in yards allowed 450 ypg; 29th in passing yards allowed 299.5 ypg) they will make a long season even longer for Hoyer and the offense.
Baltimore almost looked like they were going out of their way to try and prove that they didnt need Rice to run the ball last week, with Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett combining for 157 yards the game after Rice was cut. But the Ravens had to settle for field goals four times in the Steelers win, and they had tons of trouble moving the ball a week earlier against the Bengals, so its not like John Harbaugh and the Ravens coaching staff have fixed all of the problems and have gotten the ship steered in the right direction just yet.
As I mentioned earlier, the Ravens had won 11 straight against the Browns until the Browns beat them last time out on the FirstEnergy Stadium turf, 24-18, back last November. Because of that straight up dominance, its also reflected in the against the spread records as well, since the Ravens are 5-1 ATS in their last six visits to Cleveland. Ironically, the road team is also 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings.
The under has been the safest wager in the head-to-head series, going 6-1 in the last seven overall and 4-1 in Cleveland.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: If you like Baltimore in this game the value has already peaked when this game was a pick em. With most of the action coming in on Baltimore now and the number going up, the only play here is to wait a few more days this week and see if the number gets up to 2.5 or 3. Even if the number doesnt move, the only play Id consider here is taking the Browns as a home dog and the 2-points that comes with it.