Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-6)
Road favorites are 42-15 ATS off a bye. That makes sense. Road favorites tend to be very good teams and very good teams tend to be extra focused with a week off. The Browns kind of got screwed over by the schedulers because they have two straight games at home as dogs against a team coming off a bye. Last week, they hosted the Chargers and were 3 point home dogs. However, the Chargers didn’t deserve to be road favorites, especially against the underrated Browns, who are now 4-3-1 ATS on the year. As a result, the Browns were able to pull off a “surprising” upset.
This week, however, they face a Ravens team that does deserve to be road favorites and divisional road favorites off a bye are 20-3 ATS since 2002. They certainly didn’t look like it before the bye in a 43-13 loss to the Texans. Because that loss came immediately after the game in which they lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb for the season, a lot of people assume that they’re going to play like that going forward. However, the defense is not at fault. Yes, they allowed 420 total yards, but before they lost Lewis and Webb, they were already allowing 396.7 yards per game and they were 5-1.
The reason they were 5-1 despite poor defensive play was their offense, which was averaging 385 yards per play going into that Houston game. Against Houston, they managed just 176 yards of offense. Joe Flacco did what Joe Flacco does on occasion and had a terrible game. He went 21 of 43 for 147 yards, 1 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
However, as inconsistent as Flacco is, he always bounces back. He has won his last 14 straight games off a loss. He’s 5-1 ATS off a loss of 10+. He’s also 3-1 ATS off a game in which he threw more than 20 incompletions. He should have a bounce back game against a much easier Cleveland defense, especially off a bye. He’s 4-0 ATS off a bye. The defense won’t play well, but they weren’t playing well before the injuries either and they still went 5-1.
Contrary to popular belief, they have yet to miss Lardarius Webb or Ray Lewis. Besides, as much as the Ravens struggle outside the division as road favorites, they’re 5-2 ATS in the division in the Joe Flacco era. On top of that, teams are 30-16 ATS before being 10+ point favorites since 2011. Teams tend to be extra focused in this spot. The Ravens host Oakland next week. Meanwhile, the Browns are in a bad spot as home dogs off of a close home upset (1-3 points). Teams are 21-34 ATS in this spot since 2002.
We are getting some line value with the Browns as the yards per play method says this line should be -2.5 in favor of Baltimore and the rate of sustaining drives method says this should be a pick em. However, that Houston game where they lost the yards per play battle 5.5 to 3.0 and the first down battle 27 to 12 skewed both of those statistics. They should be able to bounce back and the trends are in their favor.
Besides, in the AFC North, the Browns and Bengals have always had trouble against the Ravens and Steelers. The Bengals and the Browns are a combined 22-63 against the Ravens and Steelers since 2002, when the divisions were realigned. Specifically, the Browns are 5-16 against the Ravens. They’ve dropped their last 9 against them and they are 3-6 ATS in those 9 games. I don’t think they’re good enough to beat the Ravens yet.
This would be a bigger play on the Ravens, but there are two things stopping me. The first is just that I’d be more comfortable with the Ravens if the line was -3 or lower. I’m confident the Ravens will win, but they’ve had some close calls this year (wins by 31, 1, 7, 3, and 2), so I’d be more confident if they had field goal protection.
The 2nd reason is that the public is heavily betting on Baltimore. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case after their fluky blowout loss to the Texans, but it is. I hate betting on heavy public leans. It is good to see, however, that the line is climbing along with the heavy public lean, so there’s no danger of this being a trap line. The Ravens should be the right side though, so it’s a significant lean. That 20-3 ATS trend is hard to go against.
Public lean: Baltimore (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Cleveland covers)
Sharps lean: BAL 15 CLE 6
Final update: Of my 6 big plays this week, 5 of them lined up with heavy sharps leans. I feel really good about this week. However, I’m staying put at just 3 here. I really wish we had field goal protection with the Ravens though.
Baltimore Ravens 27 Cleveland Browns 20
Pick against spread: Baltimore -3.5 (-110) 3 units