Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns (9/29/2019): NFL Betting Picks, Lines

Last Week’s Results: 6-8
All Time Results: 26-16, +8.16 Units

Cleveland Browns +7 @ Baltimore Ravens – .9 Units

This spread is all about early season overreactions.  After beating up on the dregs of the NFL, the Ravens have suddenly been priced like a Top-5 team.  Meanwhile, the Browns have been completely discounted after a close home loss on national television.

Coming into the season, Vegas favored the Browns to win the AFC North, slightly ahead of the Steelers and Ravens.  Whether oddsmakers actually considered the Browns the better team or whether they were just taking advantage of an overzealous betting public, attracted to the new shiny thing, is very much debatable.  I tended to lean toward the latter perception, which is why I made several Futures picks betting against the Browns.  After both the Steelers and the Browns looked unprepared and sloppy in Week 1 losses, I then picked the Ravens to win the AFC North at +180.  I trusted their coach more and they seemed less quarterback-dependent than the other two teams.

That said, I haven’t made a significant adjustment to the power ratings of either of these teams based on the first three weeks of action.

cleveland brownsThe Browns have one ugly, turnover driven loss vs. the Titans, one easy win over the hapless Jets, and a tough down-to-the-wire defeat against the NFC Defending Champions.  In that game, the Browns were without 4 starting Defensive Backs yet still held a strong LA offense to only 20 points.  Conversely, the Ravens had an injury advantage over the Chiefs and still faced a multi-touchdown deficit for most of the game.

The Browns rush defense – thought to be a weak point on the team coming into the year – has held up well, holding opponents to 4.0 yards per carry and just over 100 rushing yards per game.  Their ability to stymie Ravens Mark Ingram should prove critical to their chances on Sunday.

While Baker Mayfield has struggled with pressure in all three games, I still think he is an above-average quarterback.  I like his chances to take advantage of an injury-riddled Ravens secondary.  The Ravens defense as a whole has allowed 6.4 Yards Per Play, 4th worst in the NFL.

Baltimore has two wins over possibly the two worst teams in football.  Baltimore backers cashed their tickets if they bet them +6 or higher vs. the Chiefs.  But I would argue KC actually dominated that game. After the Ravens scored on their opening drive, the Chiefs rattled off 30 of the next 37 points in the game.

KC posted an incredible 7.9 yards per play against the Ravens – even better than their numbers vs. either the Jaguars or the Raiders.

A couple of fortuitous lobs broke the Ravens way in the 4th quarter, making for an exciting back and forth end to the game. But the Ravens’ decent, not great 5.8 yards per play on offense is more illustrative of their performance than the 28 points they scored.  The Chiefs had the ball within the Baltimore 30 when the game ended.  If the game had ended 5 minutes earlier or 5 minutes later, the Chiefs likely win by double figures.

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Cleveland Browns +4 @ Baltimore Ravens (+143) – .1 Units

In my opinion, the correct line for this game should be closer to +3 than the current number.  If we ignore the records and just look at the underlying statistics, there isn’t much to separate these teams.

The Ravens have a +0.5 Yards Per Play differential, while the Browns are right in that neighborhood with +0.1 YPP differential.  Considering competition, their underlying statistics are essentially a wash.

ESPN Power Ranked Cleveland 10th prior to the season, and the Ravens 17th.  Today, the Ravens have crept into the top 6 while the Browns are outside of the Top 20. Both adjustments are far too extreme.

Outside of a terrible 4th quarter vs. the Titans game, the Browns are who I thought they were.   A talented team with a solid defense and a work-in-progress offense that has a physicality disadvantage against the best defenses.  When 4 of their Defensive Backs were announced out on Sunday afternoon, Cleveland went from a 3 to a 4.5-point underdog against the Rams.  After another week of recuperation, I expect all four players to be back and ready to stifle a limited Ravens passing attack.

Fun fact: Since October 2013, the Browns are 0-32 SU when 7+ point underdogs, 10-22 ATS.  I largely ignore this trend – as this Browns team is of an entirely different stripe than Browns teams of the past.  Whereas other lackluster Browns teams were prone to quit, Baker Mayfield has the gusto to inspire his troops to battle back through adversary.  A college walk-on, I think Mayfield plays better when in the underdog role.

Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have a similarly poor record as 7+ point favorites, 11-19 ATs over their last 30.

Bottom line: This spread opened at Ravens by 3.5 over the summer. Neither the Browns or the Ravens have varied much from my preseason expectations. Both are solid, above-average NFL teams and this line is far too high.

Baltimore Ravens Team Total Under 26.5 -.25 Units

baltimore ravensThese teams starting quarterbacks have entirely switched places in terms of public perception.  Coming into this season, Baker Mayfield was a stud, capable of being the Brett Farve of the new NFL for the next decade.  Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson many believed to be on a Tim Tebow-Esq trajectory of unsustainable success based on running ability and poor throwing mechanics.

While Mayfield has retained his place in my eyes as a slightly above-average quarterback, Lamar Jackson has indeed impressed.  His offseason work on his throwing mechanics has paid considerable dividends.  Already he is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the league, and his intermediate throwing ability is trending in the right direction.

That said, if we threw out his first two games against JV NFL teams, and we only looked at his work against the Chiefs, he is still miles away from being one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  The Ravens haven’t faced a pass rusher like Miles Garrett.  He is one of the few defensive ends in the league with the speed to catch up with Jackson in a dead sprint to the sideline.

Against legitimate NFL defenses in the Cardinals and Chiefs, the Ravens scored 25.5 points per game.  Cleveland’s defense presents a step up in class versus any the Ravens have faced.

Prediction: Baltimore 23, Cleveland 20

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Born in Chicago, born for Las Vegas, Mackenzie is a graduate of Yale University with a BA in English & Creative Writting. Mackenzie runs AlternativeStats.blog, which seeks to by-pass the minutiae of commonly cited sports statistics and expose the heart of what drives athletic success. After several successful years investing in Las Vegas real estate, Mackenzie is excited to transition in 2019 into betting on sports full time, as well as documenting his thought process as he further learns the craft.

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