Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-4)
Obviously, 3-4 is not how the Ravens wanted to start the season, but the schedule gets easier from here for them. After being underdogs in 5 of their first 7 games, the Ravens will definitely be favored in at 4 games (@Cleveland, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. NY Jets, vs. Minnesota) the rest of the way and may be favored in another 3 (vs. Cincinnati, vs. New England, @ Chicago). This is one of them, as they go to Cleveland as road favorites.
Cleveland isn’t an awful team or anything, but the Ravens still deserve to be favored by this margin. Both offenses are sputtering, moving the chains at a 70% rate, but the Ravens’ defense has been significantly better, as opponents are moving the chains at just a 68% rate against them, as opposed to 75% against the Browns’ defense. The Ravens should be able to completely shut down the Browns’ offense this week, which obviously gives them a huge advantage.
The fact that the Ravens deserve to be road favorites is especially important because of how good road favorites are off of a bye. Teams are 45-18 ATS in that situation since 2002, including an absurd 22-4 ATS in a divisional matchup. This makes sense as good teams tend to be extra focused and take care of business against an inferior opponent with an extra week to prepare. John Harbaugh has been pretty good off of a bye himself since taking over the Ravens in 2008, going 6-1 ATS and winning all 7 games, including last year’s Super Bowl.
The Ravens could also be in another good spot if they are favored next week at home against Cincinnati. The early line was at PK, but after Cincinnati’s loss to Miami and their loss of Geno Atkins, we could easily see the Ravens favored by 1.5 to 2.5 points, which would make this trend kick in. Since 2002, divisional road favorites are 38-22 ATS before being divisional home favorites. The Ravens are in great position to roll over an inferior opponent here (as they did 25-15 in almost this exact situation in Cleveland last year) and they are my Pick of the Week.
Baltimore Ravens 20 Cleveland Browns 9
Pick against spread: Baltimore -2.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week