The Baltimore Ravens (2-1) may have gotten an assist from the replacement referees in the last couple of drives of a thrilling 31-30 win over the Patriots on Sunday, overcoming a nine-point deficit in the final four minutes and winning when Justin Tucker’s field goal on the last play of the game sailed directly over the upright.
The Cleveland Browns (0-3) remained winless by losing at home to the Buffalo Bills 24-14 as Trent Richardson rushed for only 27 yards on 12 carries. As you might expect, the Raven are prohibitive -13 favorites here, with the total set at 43½.
1. Why Baltimore will cover the spread: Perhaps first and foremost, the Ravens will cover the spread if they avoid a letdown after that emotional win over the Patriots, a win made even more emotional by the death of the younger brother of wide receiver Torrey Smith in the early hours of the day. As long as the Ravens come to play, it will be hard for the Browns to compete with them here. Another key is keeping Ray Rice involved in the hurry-up offense, something that Baltimore successfully did more of Sunday night than in their first two games as Rice rushed for 101 yards on 20 carries and added 49 more yards on five receptions.
2. Why Cleveland will cover the spread: The Browns will cover the spread if Richardson can bounce back from his performance vs. Buffalo and run for around 100 yards. He did rush for 109 yards in a 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago and a return to that kind of form would move the chains and keep the Baltimore hurry-up offense off the field. A second key to a Cleveland cover is their quarterback Brandon Weeden not turning the ball over. Weeden was awful while throwing three interceptions in his NFL debut and he then looked great when not turning the ball over vs. the Bengals. He was mediocre vs. the Bills on Sunday, passing for 237 yards but throwing two picks.
3. Total Talk: This total seems a bit dicey, and we give just the slightest of leans to the ‘over’. The Ravens should be able to score if they are not emotionally drained, and the truth is that Cleveland probably would not be able to make many stops even if Baltimore has a bit of a letdown. The Ravens finally found a way to incorporate the run into the hurry up, and thus they managed to score 31 points despite Joe Flacco throwing the ball less than he did the first two weeks. Now Richardson is much better than he showed last week, but Baltimore is still tough to run on, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry on the season. Weeden actually has a chance for a little success though as the Raven’s pass defense looks more vulnerable with the injured Terrell Suggs not around to terrorize quarterbacks.
4. Betting Trends for Ravens-Browns: The Ravens are a perfect 8-0 straight up while going 6-2 ATS in the last eight head-to-head meetings. However, the Browns are on a 4-0-1 ATS run as road underdogs. Also, the ‘over’ is now 7-0 in Baltimore’s last seven September games.
Baltimore 31 – Cleveland 14