Baltimore Ravens vs Cleveland Browns: BAL -3 (5Dimes)
MarketsThere isn't a whole lot of movement here (yet). The look-ahead line was Ravens -3 and it has re-opened at the same number this week. However, there are signs this line is moving as you have to lay a little bit of extra juice depending where you shop. I won't be surprised if this comes off the 3 at some point.
Off a Bye Into a Bye
Either way, in this game we have the Ravens coming off the bye as the Browns enter one. The same scenario played out in Week 8 in the Dolphins/Jets game. For the time being, I'm going to include this as an advantage in our favor.
Trust What You See?Some might look at the Browns win over the Chargers and be a little bit weary about this pick. Don't be. The Chargers are only getting by on reputation at the moment and the truth is they aren't a very good football team this season. Cleveland only managed one sack on Philip Rivers and came away with no interceptions.
If the Browns hope to repeat the same script against Baltimore they might want to revisit that plan. There are a number of mismatches they have to overcome on both sides of the ball, including the fact that the Ravens have had an extra week to prepare.
Only -3?Part of the reason this point spread isn't higher is thanks to the Browns defense. It certainly isn't among the top half of the league though, because they rank well below average in run and pass categories. What does raise their stock is the fact that they tighten up a bit on third down and in the red zone.
Joe Haden's return from suspension has sure helped that, but it is their overall play in make-or-break moments that have kept them within striking distance of most games. This is a direct reflection of their coaching and discipline within the scheme, because they sure don't have the personnel to scare people.
At the same time, they now must face a top flight running game and above average passing game. I'm not the biggest fan of Joe Flacco, but he does have the clear edge on Brandon Weeden and much better weapons around him. Advantage Ravens.
A Step AboveSpeaking of Weeden, the Browns rank around the middle in turnover differential, but the bad news is most of their turnovers have come from interceptions. The Ravens have been below average defending the pass this season, but like the Browns, they tighten up in the key situations.
The Ravens are a well-coached team and their week off is going to help them tighten up some of their problems. Also, now that Terrell Suggs is back in the lineup, it's safe to say that the ratings across the board are going to get a kick up.
Baltimore's defense isn't what it used to be, but the challenge ahead of them in Week 9 is not a daunting one. Unless Trent Richardson has a monster day, I don't foresee the Ravens in danger of any serious trouble.
Bottom LineThe Ravens have had a week to get the bad taste from the Texans game out of their mouths. They face a much easier task this Sunday against a familiar division foe. In Week 4 they were 11.5 point favorites when they played the Browns, but now they're only laying a field goal. I know Baltimore have some flaws, but there are simply too many advantages across the board to only be laying three points.
The rest of my Week 9 NFL picks.