Monday Night Football NFL Betting: Baltimore vs Cleveland

Posted by Aaron . on November 30, 2015 in

Usually, when Baltimore and Cleveland meet late in the NFL betting season, the Ravens are aiming for a high seed in the playoffs, while the Browns are looking to play the role of spoiler. This year, the Ravens (3-7) and Browns (2-8) are rivals in a different contest: the race for the #1 pick in the 2016 draft. The Tennessee Titans are in the pole position to get that pick at 2-9, but there are three teams at 3-8 (San Francisco, Dallas and San Diego). If Baltimore loses, they will join that group; if the Browns lose, they’ll be in a “first” place tie with Tennessee.

The Browns are in a real mess at this point of the season. Johnny Manziel looked like he was finding himself in the quarterback position and had been named the starter for the rest of the season. Then, he turned up in an online video partying with some champagne – and he lied to the front office about when the video had been filmed. The team immediately sent him down the depth chart to the #3 quarterback, which means that his time in Cleveland may be done. Josh McCown has missed the last two games due to injury but will now take the starting role again.

The Ravens’ quarterback position will be iffy at best this week as well. Matt Schaub is their backup, and he hasn’t started a game in two seasons. This is the same Matt Schaub who pick-sixed his way out of Houston and who threw two picks in ten attempts last year as the Oakland backup. The Ravens have six key players on injured reserve: their quarterback (Joe Flacco), their starting tailback (Justin Forsett), their best wideout (Steve Smith), their center (Jeremy Zuttah), their best defense pass rusher (Terrell Suggs) and first-round draft choice Breshad Perriman. This team is virtually a lock to finish below .500 for the first time in the John Harbaugh era, and they could beat the team’s worst record (4-12, 1996).

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Even with all of this adversity, the Ravens have hung tough. They are the NFL’s first team ever to have all of its first 10 games in a season decided by no more than eight points. However, they are 3-7 in those contests. The issue is that the Ravens too often have found themselves behind. They have a -50 point differential in the first three quarters combined, but a +27 point differential in the fourth quarter and overtime. It’s the early mistakes (a -8 turnover margin in the first three quarters).

Cleveland, though, has been blown out multiple times this season. Before the bye, they lost four straight games by margins of 18, 14, 21 and 21. While Johnny Manziel may have a greater degree of upside than Josh McCown, McCown has been more consistent this season. He is in the NFL’s top 15 this year for passer rating, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and yards per attempt. The last time he saw the Ravens (Week 5), he threw for 457 yards.

Cleveland enters this game as a 2.5-point favorite. The over-under total is 41. Given McCown’s success in Baltimore, I like Cleveland to win this game and cover. I can see this being a 20-14 sort of win, though, so I would take the under.