Cleveland Browns (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (1-3 SU, 0-3-1 ATS)
NFL Week 5
Date/Time: Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: MT&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +7/BAL -7
Over/Under Total: 43.5
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The Cleveland Browns face the Baltimore Ravens at MT&T Stadium on Sunday in a battle of 1-3 AFC North teams. Both teams will be going hard for a win on Sunday. The Browns had a heartbreaking loss on Sunday to the Chargers to fall to 1-3. Nevertheless, they had some positive developments to build on this season. Baltimore registered a Thursday night win against Pittsburgh in overtime, 23-20.Theyre hoping that breaking the ice can lead to better results after a rough start to the season.
The Ravens were fortunate late in their last game, with the Steelers missing easy field goals and getting nothing on two 4th-and-short situations in the overtime period. Cleveland, conversely, was at least a bit unlucky on Sunday. They marched down the field down by 8 with time waning and managed a touchdown along with a two-point conversion to tie the game. Predictably, San Diego drove down the field to set up a 30-yard FG, which missed, but alas, Cleveland was off-sides. The Chargers got another hack at it and knocked it in with time running out for a 30-27 win.
At the same time, Cleveland was a big underdog and hung right in there with the Chargers in a tough road spot. Josh McCown, who caused some moans and groans when he returned as the starter right after Johnny Manziel won his first game, has been excellent in his past two games with 697 passing yards. He has been getting this offense on the move. McCown has developed growing chemistry with TE Gary Barnidge, who has been making some huge catches lately. Travis Benjamin is becoming a consistent weapon, while Duke Johnson, Jr. stepped forward on Sunday with some nice runs and 9 receptions, including a TD catch. Isaiah Crowell ran for 63, while compiling 62 passing yards.
The one alarming aspect of Clevelands performance is how poorly they played on defense, especially after having some success against what was really a depreciated San Diego offensive line. Early on, they were disrupting Rivers and making it hard for the Chargers offense to establish any foothold. Then, as the game wore on, the defensive resistance ebbed. Before long, San Diego was putting up massive yardage and staging some impressive drives. After a draining road game, they now have to pick up and head to Maryland to face a well-rested Ravens team that is gunning hard for win number two.
Baltimore is still up against it in a win-loss sense at 1-3, but Thursday was a good signthe way they fought and pulled deep for the win. They battled back from a 20-7 deficit on the road and overcame many near-misses late. Twice in overtime, they stopped the Steelers on 4th and short. Though, to be fair, they were also stopped on a pair of late 4th down scenarios that could have sewn up the game. They sort of let the Steelers hang around.
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Even so, the Ravens really had to battle in a game where it was an uphill battle the entire time. Joe Flaccos final 4th-quarter pass to get in field goal position was fantastic, with a series of pass-rushers bearing down on him. Baltimore saw their running game get untracked with Justin Forsett coming out of cobwebs for 150 yards on the ground. However, the Ravens will carry on without the services of Steve Smith, Sr., whose contributions were key. They have different guys who can step up and the emergence of Kamar Aiken as a blossoming receiver will help.
Baltimores defense seemed to pick up more momentum last Thursday, with a pass rush that was dynamic and a beleaguered secondary that at least held Michael Vick to modest yardage. They did give up a big game to LeVeon Bell, but theyre not the only ones. ZaDarius Smith, Elvis Dumervil, CJ Mosley, and others are bringing the heat and at home, theyre going to be a handful. The Cleveland O-line hasnt been very adept at keeping their quarterback safe.
Baltimore has been through the ringer early in the 2015 season. But maybe that pain can materialize into a battle-tempered team. They can get to 2-3 this week and with a long way to go, that would at least be a hopeful position. Dropping to 1-4, however, is a bitter pill to swallow. Having opened the season with 3 road games in 4 weeks, with their only home game against a tough Cincy team, this is a realistic spot for them to shine. If not here, then when?
The same urgency applies to Cleveland, though as a long-suffering franchise, the expectations are lower. After all, the last time they went to the postseason, Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl that year. At some point, you figure Josh McCown is going to break through, having lost his last 9 starts. They gave up Oaklands first road win in two seasons, while getting slaughtered by the Jets in week one. Their only win is against the Titans at home. But McCown has the offense moving in a more positive fashion and Baltimore has been exploited at times aerially this season.
With Baltimore already dealing with issues, they could ill-afford losses in personnel. Smith, Sr. is out and productive second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is questionable with a calf injury. That might make this a toss-up kind of game that Baltimore should probably win, but one that makes one uncomfortable taking them as a TD favorite.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 7 points.
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