The Baltimore Ravens are coming off an emotional, last-second win over the New England Patriots. Receiver Torrey Smith produced a monster game just hours after his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.
On paper, the Ravens should win this contest rather easily and the odds makers seem to think so as well, but an emotional letdown could be in order when they host the winless Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
NFL Betting Odds: Ravens -11.5
How The Browns Can Win
The Browns’ issues over the last few years have come on offense, and it’s no surprise that this is where they need to improve to move closer from the bottom of the AFC North, which is arguably the toughest division in the league. It is also no coincidence that their highest point total so far came when rookie running back Trent Richardson ran for 109 yards in a 34-27 loss in Cincinnati in Week 2. If Richardson, who had just 27 yards in Sunday’s 24-14 loss to Buffalo, that takes pressure off fellow rookie Brandon Weeden, who has been all over the place over the first three games.
At least the Browns have shown they can it close against the Ravens, covering in four of their last 10 games.
How The Ravens Can Win
The Ravens simply need to keep their momentum up after their highly-charged win over the Patriots, who beat Baltimore in last season’s AFC championship game. The entire team rallied around Smith, who lit up the Pats for 127 yards and two touchdowns and played an inspired effort, but they’re also an older team and playing on just three days rest could be a problem.
This is where Baltimore’s experience comes into play as they’ve covered in 11 of their last 26 when playing on six days of rest or less, while Cleveland is a paltry 9-17.
Weeden against safety Ed Reed and the Ravens’ defense does look like a no-brainer, but Baltimore’s run defense has strangely struggled this season, allowing 111.7 yards over the first three games, good for 18th in the NFL. This would be a good step for Richardson if he could have a big game against the Ravens, especially with Ray Rice on the other side of the ball for Baltimore. Weeden is going to make mistakes against the Ravens, there is no doubt about that, but he has to limit those mistakes and hopefully the line can open a few holes for Richardson.
The Browns probably won’t win outright against the Ravens, but they can keep it close and these AFC North games are usually hard-hitting slugfests and four of the last five games have been under the total, which means their styles aren’t conducive to high-scoring games. Cleveland’s defense is 25th in the NFL, but the Ravens are 27th (how much are they missing Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who is out for the season with an Achilles tear?) and the Browns will do just enough to cover on Thursday night.
NFL Pick: Browns +11.5