Bet Ravens on the Road vs. Browns in Week 3 NFL

Kevin Stott

Thursday, September 18, 2014 6:48 PM GMT

This intriguing AFC North matchup in the Buckeye State on Sunday sees Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens heading to Cleveland to face the Browns in a huge early season game for both teams.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns, CBS, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland is the site of this AFC North showdown on Sunday afternoon between the host Browns (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS) and the Ravens (1-1 ATS, 1-1 ATS) in a game NFL odds opened up as a Pick and which has seen enough early Baltimore money to move the point spread to -2 offshore and to -1 and -1½ in some Las Vegas books (as of Wednesday). And after looking at information like past trends, box scores, rosters, injury reports and current statistics, it seems that the early money on the Ravens—who will be playing their third straight divisional opponent to open the 2014 NFL season—is seemingly justified with the more defensive-minded veteran team who has absolutely owned its divisional opponent over the recent years and the proven head coach in John Harbaugh.

The Browns (4-12 SU, 6-10 ATS LY) have admittedly gotten better over the last decade, but their straight up (SU) record over the past four seasons reveals a football team stuck in A Maze of Mediocrity (5-11, 4-12, 5-11, 4-12). With QB Brian Hoyer (43 completions, 434 yards, 2 TDs)—who is a perfect 5-0 ATS so far as the Brown starter—and highly touted draft pick and Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Cleveland and new head coach Mike Pettine at least have some decent quarterbacks with which to work. The big problem for the Browns—as it will probably always be—is that they live in the perilous AFC North, home of these underrated Ravens (8-8 SU, 7-9 ATS), the upstart Cincinnati Bengals (2-0 SU this season, 11-6 in 2013) and the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. So, being the Browns is a bit like being Ringo Starr in The Beatles.

 

Does the Likelihood of Plenty of Rushing Give an Edge to the Under at 41½?
The Total in this game opened at 41½ and has pretty much stayed flat there for days, so, everyone looking at these numbers seems to think they’re right where they should be. And they are probably right. Years ago, a game like this would have possibly had a Total around 39, but because of the increase in scoring in games in recent seasons, the numbers are all a couple of points higher than where they used to be. But that concept is still moot when trying to determine whether or not this particular game in Cleveland in the present day will get to 42 points or not. One thing is likely though: There will be rushing.

With the Ravens usual starter Ray Rice now out of the picture, Baltimore (125.5 ypg, #6 in AFC) is utilizing Bernard Pierce (22 rushes, 96 yards vs. Steelers) and Justin Forsett (19 rushes, 126 yards, TD) at RB to much success so expect that to continue here in Cleveland on Sunday against the Browns who rank 25th in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of 250.5 ypg. And after having a pass-to-run ratio of 62-to-20 against the Bengals in the season opener, the Ravens went back to a more balanced and more healthy 29-to-36 ratio against the Steelers in Week 2’s impressive 26-6 win over their rivals in Charm City.

But Cleveland (152.5 ypg, 7th in NFL, 5.08 ypc), though it’s very early on in the 16-week regular  NFL season, has been even more effective rushing the ball than have the Ravens. Despite the knee injury to Ben Tate—coach Pettine isn’t expecting him to play here against the Ravens and a Week 5 return is targeted—rookies Terrance West (35 rushes, 168 yards, TD) and Isaiah Crowell (16 rushes, 86 yards, 2 TDs, 5.4 ypc) have done a wonderful job carrying the load. And neither team will want to fall to 1-2 in this division and boat coaches Harbaugh and Pettine should play it fairly close to the vest, good for a lower-scoring affair and Under players.

 

Injuries, Skill Position Players To Watch For Anytime TD Scorer Prop Bets
Besides the aforementioned injury to Browns RB Tate, Cleveland TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) and DE John Hughes (hamstring) are all listed as questionable for Sunday, while WR Josh Gordon was suspended for the season for testing positive for marijuana, although his suspension is expected to be reduced to 10 games. The Ravens also have significant injuries of their own heading in to CBs Asa Jackson (concussion) and Lardarius Webb (back), both of whom are listed as questionable for this game. In short, Baltimore’s two banged up DBs and the Browns Cameron and Mingo’s availability should be the primary concerns.

The most important player on the field in this game for bettors will be Ravens QB Joe Flacco (56 completions, 511 yards, 3 TDs) as if he can get into some kind of groove on the road on the soft grass at FirstEnergy Stadium, the 2 points Baltimore is giving (now) will look like nothing and the Total (41½) could very well shoot over. And with Cleveland 29th in the league in Pass Defense (295.5 ypg), Flacco (37-30-3 ATS off win, 31-25-3 ATS Away) and Steve Smith (13 receptions, 189 yards, TD)—always a great candidate for an Anytime TD Scorer wager and just a brilliant pickup by the Ravens organization from the Panthers—TEs Dennis Pitta (Anytime TD Scorer +275, Sky Bet) and Owen Daniels (-150), WRs Torrey Smith (+187 Anytime TD Scorer) and Jacoby Jones (+200) and RBs Pierce (+120) and Forsett (+100), Flacco (+800) should have more than enough with which to work against the Browns here in Week 3.

Cleveland’s skill position players who will be looking to put up an elusive TD against a very staunch Ravens defense—which has allowed just 1 TD so far (a 77-yard TD catch by Bengals AJ Green), while stingily holding opponents to 7 FGs—are RB West (-120 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet), WRs Miles Austin (+100) and Andrew Hawkins (-120)—who has 134 catches for 157 yards and an 11.2 ypc average—TE Jordan Cameron (-110) and RB Crowell (+125), among others, so this could be very interesting if Browns QB Hoyer (24-40, 204 yards, TD last week against Saints) can be successful, but up against this Baltimore defense (14.5 ppg, #5 in NFL) it seems it will prove to be very difficult, even at home. But this one could evolve into a chess match if the Browns defense (27.0 ppg, #27 in NFL) can play over their collective and proverbial heads.

 

Majority of Trends Point To Taking Ravens, Under; Two Solid Picks Here
After losing 11 straight games to the Ravens (-125 Money Line, bet365)—and 5 straight in Cleveland—the Browns finally defeated Baltimore, 24-18 (Nov. 3) last year to earn a split in the season series and, at least momentarily, prove to themselves that they have improved somewhat. And Cleveland (+105) snapped an 8-game losing streak last weekend with its 26-24 win over the Saints on a last-second Billy Cundiff field goal here in Cleveland and the Browns have not committed a TO yet this season, something only three other NFL teams can boast about heading into this week of play.

But reality is calling and the reality here is that the Ravens are simply are a more experienced team with a more experienced coach and a more experienced QB that plays much better defense than does Cleveland and Baltimore is also the team which has completely dominated this series as of late (11-1 SU L12). Toss in the fact that the Ravens OL has been outstanding this season and that Baltimore (373 ypg, #9 in NFL) has an extremely balanced attack on offense and has the luxury, with this underrated roster, of being able to run when it wants and pass if it wants—a big credit to Harbaugh and his staff—and it’s easy to see who to side with in this game. And the Ravens have only had two TOs themselves and are tied for the fewest penalties taken (7) in the entire league. So, this is a very smart team that makes few mistakes, doesn’t beat themselves and can score by land or by air.

And the trends, for the most part, also seem to favor the visitors here. Baltimore is 8-4 ATS L12 vs. the Browns, while Cleveland is 1-5 ATS L6 vs. the Ravens at Home; the Browns are 1-8 SU L9 overall, 3-6 ATS L9 and 2-4 ATS L6 in Cleveland. The Ravens are 2-5 ATS in their L7 and 1-4 ATS L5 on the Road, but the psychology behind Baltimore possibly falling to 1-2 in the AFC North will mean coach Harbaugh will be using fear here as a big motivating force to whip his boys into the hungry mental state they will need to be in against a Browns team perfectly capable of beating them—as it did here last season (24-18 as 1-point underdogs). Harbaugh will remind his team of that little fact also.

One very obscure trend mentioned here before which I read about, is that if a gambler theoretically played AFC North games involving the Ravens Under a theoretical-fixed every-game Total of 42½ over the past 39 games, he/she would be an orgasmic 34-5 record (78.7%). And both such games this season—against the Bengals in the opener (L 16-23, U43½) and the Steelers on Week 2’s Thursday night TNF opener (W 26-6, U44)—both rewarded Under bettors following this trend with the money. And although that targeted 41½ is 1 point less than this theoretical 42½ cited in this true megatrend, taking the Under here is an automatic, as it will be for the remaining three Ravens AFC North games on the schedule this season. And if you somehow think the scoring will be lower than low, BetFair Sportsbook has posted a creative Total of 36½ (+300, Under).

Baltimore’s defense, which, as mentioned, has allowed just that 1 touchdown in 8 quarters of play so far this season, is strong enough and fast enough to make life miserable for Cleveland QB Hoyer—who will probably get his first ATS loss here—and his Browns teammates and make betting on both the Under 41½ and the Ravens on the money line—Baltimore is 9-1 SU in its L10 in Cleveland—both very logical approaches.

NFL Picks: Under 41½, Ravens Money Line -125 (Pinnacle)

Props Picks: Dennis Pitta Anytime TD Scorer +275 (Sky Bet) 

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