NFL Picks: Flawed Defenses Predict Ravens & Browns Going 'Over' 41

Sterling Xie

Saturday, November 28, 2015 2:21 PM GMT

In looking at the static total line for our Week 12 NFL picks between the Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns, it's clear that savvy bettors have an opportunity to exploit this underexposed game.

Monday Night Football Total
The game's combined total of 41 is the week's lowest on the NFL odds, and not without good reason.  The decimated Ravens lost Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett for the season last season, leaving turnover prone vet Matt Schaub and unproven rookie Javorius "Buck" Allen as the backfield duo in Baltimore. Moreover, Cleveland currently ranks just 28th in points per game (18.6 PPG), so some won't feel comfortable about having the Browns potentially picking up the slack.

Nevertheless, there are a few signs Monday night's total is a few points too low at the moment. For one, the Browns have been a totally different offense with Josh McCown under center this season. When McCown started midseason from Weeks 4-8, the Browns averaged 21.8 points per game, a more respectable middle-of-the-pack rate. That included a season-high 33-point, 505-yard outing against these very Ravens, a day when McCown had the game of his career (457 yards passing and three total touchdowns). Given that Baltimore ranks 22nd in allowing 7.2 yards per pass attempt, McCown should have plenty of opportunities to post a second stellar game against the Ravens.

The question then becomes whether Baltimore can hold up its end of the deal and post a reasonable point total. Bettors taking the under would be banking on Matt Schaub remaining as dismal as he was when he last started for the Houston Texans in 2013. Schaub had an infamously wretched stretch of pick-sixes, setting a dubious record of four consecutive games throwing an interception returned for a touchdown. 

 

Ravens vs. Browns
For the purposes of this NFL pick, though, turnovers aren't necessarily detrimental. After all, if Schaub turns the ball over and sets up prime scoring opportunities for the Browns, bettors who choose the over total will be pleased just the same. The real question is whether Schaub can revitalize some of his dropping yardage numbers, which would hurt Baltimore's chances of sustaining drives. In 2013, Schaub posted a yards per attempt average of just 6.5 and a net yards per attempt average of 5.67. Both those are over a full yard below his career average and easily the worst marks he had posted since becoming a starter in Houston. Indeed, Schaub's last stretch as a starter featured not only a host of harmful plays, but a dearth of positive chain-moving gains.

In this contest, though, Schaub should have plenty of help from the running game. Allen hasn't been particularly explosive in a supporting role next to Forsett, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, but there are signs he could thrive in this game. For one, Cleveland is one of the worst run defenses in the league. The Browns have allowed 4.8 yards per rush attempt, 28th in the league, and the advanced metrics portray an even bleaker picture. Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, which is an opponent-adjusted measure of success rate, ranks Cleveland 29th against the run. Another FO stat, adjusted line yards, ranks the Browns 30th. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will not need to rejigger the offense too dramatically to accommodate Allen, since he supplies a similar dual threat to what Forsett provided. When Forsett was injured against St. Louis, the rookie stepped in and provided 67 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards. With Baltimore's receiving corps totally depleted, one would expect Trestman to funnel the offense through Allen, both on the ground and through the air.

 

So, What's the Pick?
Both offenses possess severe flaws, but many of these relate to ball security. If turnovers are abundant on Monday, that might actually drive up the total score, especially against a pair of defenses with fatal flaws throughout their respective units. This week's Monday night matchup might not look particularly appealing, but the underexposure has provided a terrific value for bettors willing to study this unglamorous matchup.

Free NFL Pick: Over 41 at BetOnline

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