Baltimore Ravens (5-2 SU, 2-5 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (2-6 SU, 4-3-1 ATS)
NFL Week 9
Date/Time: Sunday, November 4th, 2012, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: CBS/DirecTV 709
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bal -3.5/Cle +3.5
Over/Under Total: 42.5
The AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs last year and this season it continues to be one of the most competitive divisions in the National Football League, and this week that depth will be put on display when the Baltimore Ravens make the short trip to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon on CBS.
The Ravens are currently sitting atop the division standings at 5-2, but their last time out they not only were blown out by the Houston Texans, 43-13, but they lost another key member of their defense to season-ending injury when LB Ray Lewis torn his triceps. The Ravens were able to lick their wounds with a bye week last Sunday, but after losing CB Lardarius Webb and Lewis in back-to-back weeks, the Ravens best players on defense this season, the folks in Baltimore are starting to wonder if they still have enough to hang on to the AFC North lead.
Cleveland certainly took it’s lumps early this season and looked like a raw team built around talented rookies, but the last few weeks the talent has risen to the top and the Browns are surging following a, 7-6, victory over San Diego in Browns Stadium last Sunday. The Browns defense combined with a little good ole’ Midwest weather snuffed out the boys from sunny So Cal last week, but with two wins out of their last three games the Browns are starting to believe they can win every week and could give the Ravens all they can handle in week nine action on Sunday.
Baltimore opened as early 3-point favorites on the road at some of the first few sportsbooks to post a point spread on this game, but by the time the rest of the books finally released a number all of the early money on Baltimore knocked it off the key number and up the hook to minus -3.5. Since it moved to -3.5 it hasn’t budged, so it looks like it might stick there until late in the week or just before kickoff.
The over/under total opened at 42.5 and has had little to no line movement at all after early betting, although there are a few online sportsbooks that have dropped the hook to list the total at 42.
On paper you would think this game is going to turn into a shootout, with all of the offensive talent combined with weak and weakened defenses.
Baltimore can pound Ray Rice at the Browns 24th-ranked run defense (131 ypg), or go over the top with Joe Flacco picking apart the Browns 25th-ranked pass defense (261 ypg).
But Cleveland can give the Ravens a taste of their own medicine with a heavy dose of rookie running back Trent Richardson into the heart of the Ravens 30th-ranked run defense (143 ypg) that will be playing without Lewis in the middle. The only problem is the Browns have struggled to get the run established this season (86 ypg - 29th), but it’s been more about carries (34 and 33 in their two wins, 15 in last loss) and a lack of trying instead of a lack of ability.
Cleveland gave the Ravens everything they could handle in their first meeting of the season back on a Thursday Night (Sept. 27), taking them to the final play of the game (a Brandon Weeden incompletion through the back of the end zone) before dropping a 23-16 decision in Baltimore. Both Weeden and Flacco played good games in the first meeting, but the game turned on a Cary Williams interception return for a score to give Baltimore it’s ninth straight victory over the Browns since 2007.
The Browns also covered in their earlier meeting with the Ravens as 11.5-point underdogs, their second cover in a row, and are a perfect 5-0-1 in their last games against a rival from the AFC North. But Baltimore is 4-0 ATS in their last four trips to Cleveland, and 5-2-1 ATS against the AFC North in general.
The under has some strong betting trends going for it, especially since the under is 4-0 in their last four head-to-head and 6-1-2 in the last nine Ravens-Browns games held in Cleveland. The under is also 8-1 in the Browns last nine home games. The one trend that defies the previous is the fact that the Ravens usually play over the total on the road, with the over going 9-4 in their last 13 road games.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Look for Ray Rice to have his biggest game of the season vs. a Browns team that could stuff the box and still get burnt in the run game. I’m betting the Ravens minus the points.
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