Baltimore Ravens (3-7 SU, 1-7-2 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (2-8 SU, 4-6 ATS)
NFL Week 12
Date/Time: Monday, November 30, 2015, 8:30 pm EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BAL +2.5/CLE -2.5
Over/Under Total: 41
Two proud AFC North franchises that this season find themselves struggling with injuries, bad luck and bad play will face off in a rivalry game on ESPNs Monday Night Football in week 12 NFL action, when the Baltimore Ravens travel to FirstEnergy Stadium to tussle with the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens finally snapped their run of bad breaks and bad luck with a last-second, 16-13, victory over St. Louis last Sunday in one of the weirdest games played this season. Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker and St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein both missed potential game-winning kicks in the final minutes of regulation, but when the Ravens defense forced a late strip-sack fumble it gave Tucker a second chance that he didnt miss from -yards.
The Ravens victory came at a huge cost however. Not only did the Ravens lose running back Justin Forsett to a broken arm early in the first quarter, but franchise QB Joe Flacco tore his knee in the closing minutes and will also be lost for the remainder of the season as the bad breaks for the Ravens just keep coming. The next man in means that veteran Matt Schaub will now be the starter for the Ravens for the rest of 2015 as the Ravens hopes for an AFC playoff birth have all but been extinguished.
Cleveland spent last week on their bye, which gave them a temporary break from their current five-game losing streak. The Browns got spanked by the division rival Steelers last time they played, 30-9, and havent found the win column since they ironically beat the Ravens in early October, 33-30, in overtime. A lot has changed since that Browns victory over the Ravens, especially at QB where Josh McCown who threw for a Browns franchise record 457 yards in the first game against the Ravens has since been concussed and injured with broken ribs and hasnt played for weeks. Now with the Ravens limping into the Monday Night Football matchup this week, the Browns couldnt be in a better position to sweep their AFC North rivals even if they wrote the script themselves.
With Schaub assuming the role of signal caller for the final weeks of the season for the Ravens, its going to be even harder to handicap this weeks contest against the Browns. Add into the mix there will be no Forsett, no Steve Smith Sr. and no Terrell Suggs, no Ray Lewis, no Ed Reed for leadership these Ravens just dont have the same identity anymore. The positive news is that maybe the really bad Cleveland defense this week will give them a break, especially since the Browns currently rank 32nd against the run (139 ypg) and 30th in points allowed (27.7 ppg).
Just how bad has it gotten for the Browns in 2015? Well, a recent poll by ESPN gave them the best odds of winning next years top overall draft pick with 33.6% ahead of the San Diego Chargers who ended at 25.9%. Even now-QB Johnny Manziel cant seem to revive this slowly dying franchise, as the Browns just cant seem to get out of their own way these days. Manziel hardly has a chance, considering the Browns have the NFLs 31st-ranked running game and Isaiah Crowell still leads the team with barely 328 yards rushing. Facing 3rd-and-long on a way-to-consistent basis is no way to make it easy on the second-year QB or the Browns offense, and even though the Ravens defense is no where near as good as they were in the championship years they are still good enough to keep Johnny Football in the pocket and make him try and beat them throwing over the top of zone coverage.
Cleveland covered as 6.5-point underdogs in their first meeting this season, but as a whole the Ravens have been good to bettors going 14-6 ATS over the years in the spotlight of Monday Night Football. Of course, the Ravens havent played in many of those without Flacco, who hasnt missed a game since he was drafted in 2008. This will also end the Browns six-year drought of not being invited to appear on the leagues showcase telecast, who havent exactly earned that right at 2-8 and in the drivers seat for the number one pick overall.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Honestly, if you have to wager on this one you are a degenerate. With one of the worst defenses in the NFL and an over-rated, over-hyped virtually rookie QB, youd be assuming a ton of risk to bet on the Browns even with the Ravens down to a re-tread Schaub at QB and four of their top offensive weapons done for the season. If forced to choose a side, Id have to side with the Browns at home minus the points in this one. But wager with caution.
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