Cleveland Browns (1-2) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
I typically like to bet against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This line has climbed all the way from Baltimore -4 on the early line last week to Baltimore -7 this week and it really doesn’t make sense why. In the past week, the Ravens lost in Kansas City in a game that was not close most of the way, while the Browns lost at home by a touchdown to the Rams in a game they had a chance to send to overtime at the end. The Browns have injury concerns, with starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams both unlikely to play again this week, but the Browns are in better shape injury wise than last week, with starting safety Damarious Randall set to return and possibly right tackle Chris Hubbard as well, and they’re pretty deep at cornerback, so that’s the one position where they can afford to have some injuries.
The Ravens aren’t exactly healthy either, set to miss starting cornerback Jimmy Smith once again. They had already lost fellow starting cornerback Tavon Young for the season before the year began and before that they had already lost 5 of their top-11 in terms of defensive snaps played from 2018 in the off-season. The Ravens had one of the best defenses in the league last year, which carried them to the post-season with a developing Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but, with a few exceptions, this is almost a completely different defense than last year. The addition of Earl Thomas at safety is big, but he can’t mask all of their other losses by himself. Last year, they were one of the few defenses that gave Kansas City trouble, nearly leading to the upset in Kansas City. Last week, they allowed the Chiefs to pick up a first down or score a touchdown on 48.44% of their offensive snaps.
The Ravens are obviously better on offense this year with Lamar Jackson seemingly making a second year leap and they could make the playoffs even with their defense being a shell of what it was, but Jackson has also faced a very easy slate of defenses so far this season, as the Dolphins, Cardinals, and Chiefs are all likely to finish among the worst defenses in the league this season. Jackson got lucky with an easy slate of defenses last year as well, with 5 of his 8 starts coming against teams that finished in the bottom-10 in first down rate allowed. Even at less than 100%, the Browns’ defense is better than what Jackson has been used to facing thus far in his career. I have the Ravens a little higher than the Browns in my roster rankings right now, but not nearly enough to justify this line being a full touchdown. This should be a close game and it wouldn’t shock me if the Browns were able to win outright, so I like the Browns +7 a good amount.
Final Update: The Ravens lost key defensive lineman Brandon Williams, one of four remaining healthy starters from 2018, to a late week knee injury. This just solidifies my pick of Cleveland. With Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Williams out, the Ravens have comparable injury problems to the Browns, who are without safety Morgan Burnett, linebacker Christian Kirksey, and tight end David Njoku in addition to their two-top cornerbacks, but do get back safety Damarious Randall and right tackle Chris Hubbard.
Baltimore Ravens 23 Cleveland Browns 20
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7