- Ravens are playing on just 5 days rest.
- Browns are 5-7 against the spread this season.
- Baker Mayfield has played better since Odell Beckham injured his ACL.
To be blunt, the Ravens inability to contain a coronavirus outbreak within their team and facility put their postseason aspirations in jeopardy. Without Lamar Jackson, Baltimore gave it the ol’ college try against Pittsburgh, but Robert Griffin III was unable to rally the troops in an upset bid over the Steelers – a game delayed six days due to COVID-19 safety measures. The postponed Thanksgiving night game pushed Week 13’s Ravens-Cowboys game back another six days – from December 3 to December 8 – and now they’ll have to face the Browns on a shorter-than-expected week.
What. A. Mess.
Despite the 15-day layoff, Lamar Jackson’s legs looked fresh in the Ravens 34-17 win over the Cowboys Tuesday night. Baltimore ran all over the league’s worst rush defense to the tune of 294 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens improve to 7-5 straight up and 6-5-1 against the spread.
At 9-3, following a 41-35 win over the Titans, the Browns boast their best start to a season since 1994 when Vinny Testaverde was their quarterback, Leroy Hoard their running back and an up-and-coming head coach named Bill Belichick roamed their sidelines. However, the question remains: can they knock off the gatekeepers of the AFC North, which are currently the undefeated Steelers and Lamar Jackson’s Ravens. Their offense is clicking – namely their rush attack – but it’ll be on their defense to pull off the greatest win the franchise has witnessed since their return in 1999.
|Week 14: Baltimore Ravens vs Cleveland Browns Game Info|
|Date: December 14, 2020, 8:15 p.m. ET|
|Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium|
|TV Coverage: ESPN|
|Opening Odds: Ravens -3 | O/U 48|
|How to Bet: Best Online Sportsbook Reviews|
Baltimore opened as 3-point road favorites, but depending on the book, odds range from PICK’EM to Ravens -2.5. The Browns moneyline opened at +118, but is now minus-money at several books. The point total opened at 48, but has dipped significantly to 45.5. The point total has gone UNDER in eight of Baltimore’s last 10 games against AFC teams.
The Ravens beat the Browns back in Week 1, 38-6. Coming out of an abridged training camp with no preseason games, Cleveland turned the ball over three times and made only one trip to the red zone. The Browns two other losses to-date were to the Steelers and Raiders.
Ravens News and Notes
In the Ravens win over the Cowboys, Lamar Jackson completed just 12-of-17 passes for 107 yards compared to the backfield’s 37 rush attempts for an insane 7.9 per rush attempt against a Dallas front seven that allows 168 rush yards per game. With the way Ryan Tannehill shredded the Browns secondary last Sunday, one would assume Jackson’s pass attempts will see a significant uptick Monday night.
Here are some splits between the Ravens Week 1 offensive production against the Browns and Cleveland’s season-to-date defensive metrics:
- Week 1 Passing: 270 yards | Season-to-Date: 256.9
- Week 1 Rushing: 111 yards | Season-to-Date: 104.3
- Week 1 3rd Downs: 54.5% | Season-to-Date: 43.4%
- Week 1 RZ Conversions: 5-of-6 (83%) | Season-to-Date: 61.22%
- Week 1 Browns TO’s: 3 | Season-to-Date: 1.1 per game
In short, and this is profound, the Browns secondary remains leaky, but as a whole, Cleveland has found a defensive groove with Myles Garrett healthy and active. The rush defense remains a top 10 unit and one would believe, they’ll pick a player to spy Jackson should he decide to tuck and run. This will force the hybrid quarterback to once again beat the Browns via the pass. He proved back in Week 1 that he can torch Cleveland’s 23rd-ranked pass defense, but like Baker Mayfield, Jackson’s accuracy was off the mark on several throws against the Cowboys.
All signs point to this game being much more competitive than Week 1’s blowout. When two teams take the field for the first time in 9 months from a cold start (i.e. abridged training camp, no preseason games), it’s obvious the better team is going to cruise to victory. Cleveland has more confidence in their ability to run the football and win games without Odell Beckham as the primary target. All Baltimore has is a lack of routine, health concerns every day and only five days to prep for their biggest game of the season.
Browns News and Notes
One of the wildest stats to come out of the Browns win over the Titans had nothing to do with their loaded rushing attack. More on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in a second. Get this, Baker Mayfield’s completing 65% of his passes, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt, passed for 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and boasts a 116 passer rating since Odell Beckham’s season-ending knee injury. Granted, weather conditions in Cleveland didn’t allow for much of a passing game back in November, but the analytical theory that Mayfield is more at ease when not forcing the ball to OBJ stands. Somebody in the Twitterverse compared it to how Calvin Johnson may go down as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, but after he retired, Matthew Stafford’s numbers improved because there wasn’t the pressure to get it to Megatron.
The league’s top rush attack, averaging 157.8 ground yards per game, are averaging 154.0 per pop over the past three games. So, it feels like for the first time this season, the rushing and passing game is progressing in harmony. This balance and threat of Chubb/Hunt breaking a long run every time they touch the ball allowed Mayfield to work the ball down the field via play-action against the Titans. Keeping Ravens linebackers honest is going to be critical if Cleveland is to pull off this upset.
While the Browns defense (and offense by building an early lead) did a nice job of neutralizing the threat of Derrick Henry and holding him to 60 yards on 15 carries, Ryan Tannehill’s 389 passing yards and three touchdowns appeared to come with ease throughout much of the second half. Thus, a 38-7 halftime lead was muddied by an inefficient third and fourth quarter that saw Tennessee light Cleveland’s defense up for 28 points and Titans receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis to combine for 269 receiving yards and a touchdown. Leaving this proverbial door open is something the Browns will NOT survive when playing the Ravens.
On the injury front, it would be an upgrade if the Browns could get cornerback Denzel Ward back. He’s missed two games with a calf injury and is questionable against the Ravens.
Betting Pick: OVER 45 and Browns +3
The point total dip from 48 to 45 leads me to believe bookmakers assume a run-centric Monday night contest where ground games equate to a running clock and shorter game, i.e. fewer scoring opportunities. While Jackson, Chub and Hunt will take center stage, I see both teams flirting with point totals in the mid-20’s. It’ll be a chilly night on the shores of Lake Erie, the perfect setting for this AFC North clash.