Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

The Browns’ offense ranks 27th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 67.55% rate, and they’ve gotten progressively worse as the season has gone on. They’re moving the chains at a pathetic 63.44% rate over the past 10 games since Alex Mack went down. The returns of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon from injury and suspension respectively haven’t helped matters as both as looked less than 100% after extended absences. In week 13 and 14 combined, Brian Hoyer’s final two starts, they moved the chains at a 58.33% rate, and in week 15 and 16 combined, Johnny Manziel’s first two starts, they moved the chains at a 43.75% rate.

Now undrafted rookie Connor Shaw is expected to start this one, after being called off of the practice squad earlier this week, with both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel both hurt. Their offense isn’t going to get any better with him under center and it could get even worse. The Browns have a solid defense, which allows opponents to move the chains at a 70.81% rate, 7th in the NFL, but it’s not enough to make up for their completely stagnant offense. This line is way too low at 9 points as the Browns go into Baltimore.

The Ravens rank 4th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 76.15% rate, as opposed to 70.90% for their opponents, a differential of 5.25%. They’ve been even better at home, moving the chains at a 78.67% rate, as opposed to 68.18% for their opponents, a differential of 10.48%. This home dominance is nothing new as, since Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh came in before the 2008 season, the Ravens are 46-11 straight up, outscoring opponents by an average of 10.33 points per game, at home, as opposed to 34-33, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.04 points per game on the road, a swing of about 9-9.5 points. The Ravens are 31-25 ATS at home over that time period and, while they’re just 9-13 ATS as home favorites of 7 or more, their home dominance is still worth mentioning.

This line moved from 7 to 9 over the past week, to adjust for the Browns’ terrible showing in Carolina (though the final score was 17-13, the Browns lost the first down battle 27-8) and the fact that Connor Shaw will likely be starting. I normally like to fade significant line movements, but I don’t think the line moved enough nor do I think that it was high enough to begin with, when it was at 7 last week. The reason the line only moved 2 points was because the Ravens lost in Houston last week to the Texans and 4th string quarterback Case Keenum.

I think that’s an overreaction to that loss, which wasn’t quite as bad as the final score suggested. The Ravens’ offense looked horrible, moving the chains at a 56.67% rate, but their defense held the Texans to a 55.88% rate. It’s not a tremendous accomplishment for the defense, considering who the Texans’ quarterback was, but it still suggests that the game was closer than the final score. The Ravens do well off of a big loss in the Harbaugh/Flacco era anyway, going 9-2 ATS since 2008 off of a double digit loss. Last week’s loss was on the road anyway and, as I mentioned earlier, the Ravens are much better at home.

The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because the Browns are in their 2nd of two road games. This puts them in a good spot. Teams are 113-77 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 96-55 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation.  This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 196-200 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.29 points per game, as opposed to 276-392 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.19 points per game. However, I still like the Ravens’ chances of bouncing back in a big way off of last week’s fluky defeat for all the reasons I outlined earlier.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Cleveland Browns 9

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -9

Confidence: Medium

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