With home field advantage in their sights, the Ravens hit the road to take on the Cleveland Browns in what could the starters final act for the 2019 regular season. Two teams heading in the opposite direction, the Browns are coming off an embarrassing lose to the Arizona Cardinals which followed with reports that key players such as Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. want out of Cleveland.
After an embarrassing 40-25 home loss to the Browns in Week 4, the Ravens have rolled off 10-straight wins and hold the keys to the AFC playoff picture with a chance to have a Super Bowl berth run through Baltimore. The Ravens enter as heavy, 10-point favorites with a total point projection of 49.5. Weather will not be a factor with the forecast calling for clear skies and a high of 50-degrees at game time.
Below is a look at some of the best bets for this AFC North showdown.
ATS (Against the Spread)
Ravens -10 (-110)
If you listened to offseason analysis on both teams, you would be shocked to see where each organization stands heading into week 16. The Browns were preseason darlings, drawing Super Bowl buzz with star acquisitions and MVP aspirations for second year quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Ravens were thought to be “figured out” as many doubted the abilities of Lamar Jackson to take the next step as an NFL passer. Fast-forward to week 16 and the Ravens are in prime position to take home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and are now the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl in February. Lamar Jackson is where Browns fans hoped to see Baker Mayfield, as the face of the NFL and heavy favorite for the MVP award.
Back in Week 4, the Browns went into Baltimore and delivered a convincing win, running the Ravens out of their own stadium. At the time, this brought both squads to 2-2 and figured to be a launching point for a Browns team that started out of the gate slow. Time would prove this to be false as the Ravens used that defeat to assess their roster and make a bevy of moves to shore up the weak spots. Baltimore didn’t have Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Williams, L.J. Fort, Josh Bynes and a slew of other starters on the defensive side of the ball when Nick Chubb ran wild on them for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
Since that game, both teams have gone in opposite directions and based on recent events it looks like Cleveland would rather be anywhere but the football field. Mayfield is playing behind a makeshift offensive line which has had him uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the season. The receivers are publicly frustrated with the lack of production while first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens appears to be coaching for his job. The Ravens remain laser focused with a bigger goal in mind, but that starts this week with revenge on a Browns team which dominated off season headlines and embarrassed them in their own stadium a few months back. Jackson can all but wrap up the MVP award with another signature performance while setting himself up for two weeks of rest leading up to the playoffs. Baltimore has a lot to play for while the Browns are dreaming of better days ahead, presumably somewhere sunny with plenty of beaches.
The Ravens are 5-0 ATS in their last five games vs. AFC opponents, 4-0 ATS in their last four road games and 7-1 ATS in their last eight games overall while Cleveland has gone 6-22-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Ravens wrap up a historic regular season with a convincing win against the disappointing Browns.
Prediction: Ravens 34 Browns 10
Team to Score First: Ravens (-172)
Despite a 10-game winning streak, the Ravens undoubtedly have a bad taste in their mouth from their first meeting with the Browns. Players weren’t shy in voicing their frustration with the amount of national attention the Browns were receiving despite the Ravens winning the division the year before. Expect the Ravens to come out of the gate hot, which has been their mantra since beginning this winning streak. Jackson’s 2019 season has been all about making statements, and he will make an early one in Cleveland, striking first and setting the tempo for the rest of the afternoon. The Ravens like to get ahead early and let the defense play with a lead. With home-field advantage on the line, they will have their foot on the pedal from the start.
Mark Andrews total receptions: Over 2.5 (-164)
Mark Andrews total receiving yards: Over 45.5 (-108)
Despite drawing the questionable tag last week against the Jets, Andrews caught four passes for 52 yards and touchdown on seven targets. Now with 10 days of rest, he was taken off the injury report and will be ready to rock against a Browns defense which has been vulnerable to the tight end position. With Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon on the shelf, Jackson will have ample time in the pocket to find Andrews downfield where he has been a mainstay, averaging 13.1 yards per catch on the season. Despite being injured back in week 4, the Browns were effective in slowing him down, holding him to just 31 yards on four catches on their way to a 40-25 victory. The Ravens know they must get Andrews involved to be successful through the air and they won’t be shy in exploiting a weak pass defense to the tight end position.
Lamar Jackson total passing and receiving yards combined: Over 265.5 (-112)
This will likely be the final act to the historic regular season we have seen from Lamar Jackson who will be the league’s MVP barring unforeseen circumstances. The 2019 season has been somewhat of a revenge tour for Jackson who faced heavy criticism throughout the off season. One could argue that the criticism was loudest in the city of Cleveland after Jackson and the Ravens beat former first overall draft pick Baker Mayfield to clinch the AFC North last season. Picked on opposite ends of the first round, the match up between Jackson and Mayfield will always hold some extra weight. What better way to cap off an MVP season than going into the city that hates you to clinch the top spot in the AFC, a position most Browns fans envisioned for their team. It will be a hostile environment, but Jackson is the one who dictates the outcome of games and he will have the last laugh as he caps off a nightmare season for the Browns.
Week 15 Recap
Ravens -16.5 (-110) – WIN
First Half Spread -9.5 (-110) – WIN
Jets total points: Under 14.5 (-112) – LOSS
Marquise Brown total receiving yards: Over 43.5 (-102) – WIN
Sam Darnold interception: YES (-192) – WIN
Season record: 30-25 (55%)