Thursday night football brings about somewhat of a mismatch as Ray Rice and the highly powered Baltimore Ravens football squad take on the inexperienced and winless Cleveland Browns (0-3).
The NFL odds list the Ravens as a heavy betting favorite at -13.5 and the total for the game is currently listed at 43.5.
Can rookie Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of Thursday Night Football?
Be sure to check out all of SBR's coverage on this matchup
Browns vs. Ravens: Early Picks & Predictions
Browns vs. Ravens: Betting the Total
Browns vs. Ravens: Betting the Spread
A soaring offense
Surprisingly the offense has led the way for the Ravens this season, as they're the 3rd ranked passing team in the league at 301.3 yards per game and the 11th ranked running team at 118 yards per game. The two men responsible for this have been quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice
A new quarterback?
Joe Flacco has always been able to orchestrate a Baltimore Ravens offense by primarily handing the ball off to former University of Rutgers star Ray Rice and making the timely passes when needed while the defense dominated the game. This season, Flacco has been active and precise in a way that he's never been before, using receivers like Torrey Smith (235 yards, 2 TD), Dennis Pitta (18 catches ,188 yards 2 TD), Jacoby Jones (153 yards ,1 TD, and Anquan Boldin (118 yards ,1 TD) as his targets.
Flacco has had a variety of targets to throw to this season but his level of accuracy has taken a step up this season. At 6 foot 6 , Flacco has been in command of the offense and has the ability to throw over the defenses. He's coming off of a 387 yard performance against a tough New England Patriots team. It was a real turning point for the Ravens as they used their offense to win a highly contested 31-30 game. Expect Joe Flacco to come out strong in front of a national audience.
Coach Schiano's go to guy
Coach Greg Schiano as his never say die attitude have made the front pages of some newspapers and been the talk of the NFL as he has his Buccaneers play until the last second of non-winnable games; just ask Eli Manning. In college, Ray Rice was Schiano's main source of offense and he's carried it over to the pros.
On an NFL documentary on the NFL Network, legendary Ravens linebacker and future hall of famer Ray Lewis referred to Ray Rice as Baltimore's offense and that he has a lot of respect for Rice who stand at just 5 foot 8. That's high praise coming from one of the all-time fiercest competitiors of all time in the NFL.
Rice gives Flacco that extra luxury of being able to dump off of a pass if there's congestion in the pocket. Ray Rice is one of the best all-purpose backs in the NFL and Cleveland's defense won't have an answer for him. On the season, Rice has 268 yards with 3 TD's on the ground and has caught 14 passes for 127 yards. He's truly one of the best offensive players in the game and expect to see a lot of him here tonight.
The Baltimore Ravens have always been known for their defense, but this season the defense has basically done a 180 degree turn. This is a defense that has won games in the past, but in 2012, the Ravens sport the 28th ranked defense against the pass, allowing almost 300 passing yards per game while ranked 18th against the run. This is certainly not your typical Baltimore defense.
Baltimore looks to defend against Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, and company with their two future hall of famers in linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. These two players will go down as two of the best players at their respective positions in NFL history and they are still going strong despite their age.
On the season, Lewis leads the team in tackles with 29 along with 1 sack. Reed on the other hand, already has 2 interceptions (1 returned for a TD) along with 16 tackles, and 4 pass defenses. These guys are ageless and they'll do their best to get Baltimore's defense back to repcetability.
28 year old rookie
He's almost 29, but quarterback Brandon Weeden looks to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Thus far, he's been inconsistent as the Browns are 0-3 and Weeden has thrown for 3 TD and 6 INT. If the Ravens continue to play poor defense and play the way that they did against New England, the opportunity will be there for Weeden to excel on the grand stage in front of the entire country.
This is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie quarterback regardless is he's almost 30 years old and to have Ray Lewis staring him in the face will be his real introduction to the NFL.
This young man was successful in college as he ran for 2000 yards in a season as he was a national champion as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide and on his way to the NFL.
Thus far, Richardson has been somewhat successful in 3 games with 175 yards and 2 TD's on the ground and he's caught 11 passes for 65 yards and 1 TD. His yards per carry aren't where he want's them to be at 3.5 but it's only been 3 games. Richardson's breakout game came in week 2 when he played a tough Cincinnati team in Cincinnati and had his first 100 yard rushing game of his career and 145 all-purpose yards with 2 TD's.
I know the numbers say otherwise, but the Baltimore defense is still tough and Richardson can be in for a rude awakening as he faces the Ravens.
Balimore is coming off of a huge victory against the New England Patriots in where Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense were highly effective. I expect the Ravens offense to keep it going and the defense will finally get it into gear as they face a very weak and inexperienced Cleveland Browns football team.
Parlay Pick - Baltimore -13.5 and UNDER 43.5