Baltimore Ravens (3-7) at Cleveland Browns (2-8)
This has been the season from hell for the Ravens. After going 11-5, winning a playoff game, and finishing the season 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential a year ago, the Ravens lost outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak this off-season. And then during the season, they’ve lost 1st round pick wide receiver (and Torrey Smith replacement) Breshad Perriman, wide receiver Steve Smith, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, center Jeremy Zuttah, and, as of last week, quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Justin Forsett for the season with injury. They’re also likely going to be missing offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Eugene Monroe with injury this week.
As a result, the Ravens are 3-7, rank 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, and are even less talented than that suggests now with Flacco, Forsett, Osemele, and Monroe all out. The Ravens have to go with a backfield of quarterback Matt Schaub, a 34-year-old making his first start since 2013, when he really struggled with the Texans, and running back Javorius Allen, a 4th round rookie who has averaged 3.89 yards per carry on 64 carries in his career, behind a patchwork offensive line. That has flipped this line from Baltimore being favored by 2.5 on the early line last week to now being 3.5 point underdogs.
The Browns aren’t any better though and they might be worse. The Browns rank 31st in rate of moving the chains differential and shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal against anyone other than San Francisco. It’s possible looking back in a week that I’ll say that the Ravens should be added to that list and it’s very possible I don’t know quite how bad the Ravens will be without Flacco, Forsett, Monroe, and Osemele, but I’d like the Browns a lot more as 3 point favorites than 3.5 point favorites because about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal.
The Ravens are also in a better spot. They lost to the Browns earlier this year as home favorites in Baltimore, but teams are 53-30 ATS as divisional road underdogs in a regular season rematch against a divisional opponent they previously lost to as home favorites. On the other side, the Browns host the Bengals next week, a game in which they are expected to be 7 point home underdogs. Teams are 23-53 ATS since 2012 before being 6+ point home underdogs and 14-31 ATS over that same time period before being 7+ point home underdogs. I can’t put any money on the Ravens, but they’re the pick here.
Update: The line has jumped to 4.5. I’ll bite. Even if the Browns win, close to 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or less. The Ravens are in a better spot and the Browns shouldn’t be favored by more than four points over anyone except maybe the 49ers.
Cleveland Browns 19 Baltimore Ravens 17
Pick against the spread: Baltimore +4.5