It's gameday, so the betting lines you see are likely to be the very final ones before kickoff. With the lines bouncing between the Browns being 3.5 point or 4 point favorites, the Ravens have a bit of an uphill battle to cover the spread.
Every one of the Ravens 10 games this season have been within a touchdown, win or lose. To have 3.5 or 4 points means that the Ravens will likely need a touchdown difference to beat the spread, the upper end of their point differentials this season. It's also the first game where the Ravens won't have running back Justin Forsett and more importantly quarterback Joe Flacco.
If you are betting, here are some of the reasons that the Ravens will actually cover the spread and get you some cash.
You laughed when I wrote that didn't you? Well no one knows how Schaub will actually perform. We can base our skepticism on his last starts with the Oakland Raiders or on my eyes in training camp, but this is a different team than the Raiders and it's meaningful snaps now.
Matt Schaub used to be a Pro Bowl quarterback with the Texans and while the Ravens roster right now is about as far away from early 2000s Houston Texans as could be, he does have the talent to hit a wide receiver in stride and read defenses. With cornerback Joe Haden out of the game with a concussion and the Browns defense being terrible against the pass as it is (26th overall in yards allowed), the Ravens and Matt Schaub will have their best chance to put up a bunch of points.
Okay, so Matt Schaub might be able to replace Joe Flacco for a game against one of the worst defenses in the league and put up some points. But what about a Ravens defense that is pretty bad itself? Josh McCown did tear this secondary apart for nearly 500 yards earlier in the season.
Well you have to understand that earlier in the season, the Ravens were battling injuries and trying to figure out where everyone needed to go. Schemes changed, players were still trying to get healthy and the Ravens have brought in new players since the Browns matchup.
The Ravens secondary has actually done a solid job over the last two weeks of holding down good offenses in a variety of ways. The Ravens held the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blake Bortles to only 188 yards and a 48% completion percentage. Against the St. Louis Rams, the Ravens held Case Keenum to 136 yards and a 46% completion percentage. They even kept Todd Gurley at 66 yards for a 2.6 yard per carry average, the lowest of his season when he has 10 rushes or more.
This isn't a top-10 defense by any means, but it is improving. Against a hurt Josh McCown that has slid downwards enough to let Johnny Manziel take over until he decided to party, it's a defense that could very well hold the Browns offense down and administer a beating.
As much as anyone could look at the personnel and talk about how one team will beat another, it's the AFC North and as we know, everything is up in the air until the final whistle. This division prides itself on taking teams' lunch money and nothing is going to change Monday night. We've seen the Browns take it to the Ravens in years past despite the Ravens being a much better team, and we've seen the Ravens beat up the Browns like they are the younger brother.
This game could simply go either direction and either direction by a little or a lot. It just depends on who wants it more in primetime.