The first edition of the Modell Bowl this year has some added significance — it’s the first one played since Art Modell died earlier this month. Most Cleveland fans probably won’t miss him. Unfortunately, the fans in Cleveland haven’t had much to cheer for since Modell left town, and this year so far has been more of the same. Cleveland is one of only two teams in the league that hasn’t won a game yet. They came pretty darned close in their opener, though — the Eagles needed a late touchdown to win by a single point. Things have not gone as well since, though.
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Baltimore also lost to Philadelphia by a single point — one of the few things these two teams have in common right now. They bounced back from that one to win by one on Sunday in a thriller of a game against New England despite the horrific officiating — and they exacted some revenge on the Patriots for their playoff loss in the process. They have the clear talent edge and they are at home. Their biggest challenge will be to maintain their focus and intensity on short rest against a clearly outmatched opponent.
Browns at Ravens Betting Storylines
The Browns have rested their hopes on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. He has very little talent around him, so struggles were inevitable. His first game was truly horrible — he completed just 34 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions. His rebound effort, though, was nothing short of remarkable. At Cincinnati the next week he completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. I have very little respect for the Bengals, but it was still a strong day. He showed more issues in the third game, but he was still reasonably strong.
After the first game it seemed like Weeden would be a liability for this team. Now, though, it just seems like he will be limited by the realities of the team around him. That’s not to say that this is a good offense — especially if it can’t start moving the ball on the ground with any consistency. He’s just probably a somewhat better player than many give him credit for at this point.
The public perception in this matchup will clearly be that the Baltimore defense will have its way with Weeden. While things may turn out that way, the defense has not yet been the unstoppable force that we have grown used to over the last decade or so. It sits 27th in the league in total yardage allowed, and 28th against the pass. The Ravens are creating turnovers and coming through at key times, but 22 points per game are far too many for them to give up. This is the weakest offense they have faced so far, though, so this will be a good test of where the defense truly is at. If they struggle to contain the Browns here then it could be a long season, and I’d have to reevaluate the perception that they are a serious AFC contender.
It shouldn’t really be viewed as a meaningful trend, but I can’t help but be nervous about the heavy favoritism for the Ravens here. The Ravens are the biggest favorite on the board this week — at least at this point. So far this year, though, favorites of more than a touchdown are just 2-7 ATS. New England’s incredibly unlikely home loss to Arizona clearly stands out most, but they aren’t the only heavy favorite to lose outright. The Ravens seem like a comfortable pick, but if we have learned anything this year it’s that we really don’t know what we know yet.
Browns at Ravens NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Ravens favored by 12 points, according to NFL odds. There has been pressure upwards, and it has climbed as high as 13.5 in some places. Despite a large majority of bets being placed on the Ravens, though, that upward pressure has not been sustained, and the line is widely back to 12 points. That’s a clear sign that smart money was happy to eat up value they saw when the line moved higher. The total opened at 44 and is down half a tick to 43.5.
Cleveland is not in a good place right now — they have lost their last nine regular season games. As bad as they are, though, they aren’t as bad as the public thinks — they are 6-2-1 ATS over that stretch. They have lost eight straight against the Ravens dating back to 2007, and they are just 2-6 ATS over that stretch. Baltimore has failed to cover the last five times they have been favored by double digits.
Browns at Ravens Predictions and NFL Picks
The Ravens should win this one. They have a clear edge. The question, though, is how much they are going to win it by. This is a lot of points to give up — especially considering the short rest and the lack of defensive sharpness so far. I generally don’t like betting that teams will lose but cover the spread, but that is just what I lean towards doing here. I also lean towards the “under”.
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