Baltimore Ravens At Risk For Letdown Versus Browns

By: Michael Robinson | Monday, September 24, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens could be ripe for a physical and emotional letdown when they host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football.

The NFL Week 4 odds have just been released at Don Best and Baltimore is a sizable 12-point favorite with a total of 44 points. M&T Bank Stadium is the site for the 8:20 p.m. (ET) broadcast on the NFL Network.

Baltimore is breathing a sigh of relief after Sunday night’s 31-30 thrilling home win over New England. The officials were brutal for both teams with 24 total penalties, but the Ravens prevailed with rookie kicker Justin Tucker sneaking in the game-winning field goal as time expired. That was much-needed revenge for last year’s AFC title game loss.

Coach John Harbaugh’s team (2-1 straight up and against the spread) did suffer its first ATS failure this year as 2½-point favorites. All three games have gone ‘over’ the total with the scoring offense (32.7 PPG) ranked second in the league and the defense (22.3 PPG) tied-for-15th.

The defensive figure is more surprising after ranking third last year (16.6 PPG). It hurts that linebacker Terrell Suggs is injured and Jarret Johnson departed as a free agent. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are playing very well despite their advanced age, but it will be hard for those two and the whole team to bounce back so quickly from New England.

Quarterback Joe Flacco did great in leading the comeback last week. Receiver Torrey Smith had an incredible game (127 yards, two TDS), especially given the fact that his younger brother died less than 24 hours earlier in a motorcycle accident. Smith will likely be very preoccupied leading up to this game.

Baltimore would be smart to concentrate on Ray Rice and the running game. He is averaging a whopping 5.8 yards per pop and has seen his carries increase (10, 16, 20) the last three weeks.

Cleveland (0-3 SU, 1-1-1 ATS) is still winless in coach Pat Shurmur’s second season, the latest being a 24-14 home loss to Buffalo as 2½-point ‘dogs. The team lost the final six games of last season, although was an impressive 5-1 ATS.

Brandon Weeden has a 60.7 quarterback rating (ranked 30th), but has at least played better since the horrendous Week 1 performance against Philly with four picks. The almost 29-year-old rookie from Oklahoma State is not blessed with good weapons and now leading receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (185 yards) is questionable with a hamstring injury.

Running back Trent Richardson was drafted high in the first round to take pressure off the passing game. He’s had one breakout game at Cincinnati (109 yards), but has just 175 rushing yards this season on 3.5 per carry.

Baltimore’s defense should be able to contain Richardson at home and will look to add to Weeden’s six interceptions for the year.

The Browns’ defense continues to struggle at 391.7 YPG (ranked 25th). The four-game suspension of cornerback Joe Haden has really hurt the secondary. The front-seven caught a break with Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller getting hurt last game, but still let up 91 yards to the underwhelming Tashard Choice. That doesn’t bode well against Rice.

Cleveland has lost 8-straight against the Ravens, but covered the last two in Baltimore at around 12-point underdogs each time.

Both matchups went ‘under’ last year and it’s 5-1 in the last six between the teams. The ‘under’ is 11-3-1 in the Browns last 15 games overall.

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