In what should be a gritty defensive battle, let’s take a look at some players who could be key performers, such as Zay Flowers and Roquan Smith, and pick some Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns player props. Amazingly enough, the Cleveland Browns will have played the whole rest of the AFC North after they host the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.
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Along with the Steelers, these teams are all knotted up thus far with 2-1 records, and this Sunday’s game could be a real tone-setter in the division race. Let’s see who could be in for a big day, and who could have something of a letdown against a tough defense. With ambiguity around who will be playing Quarterback for the Browns, we’ll focus on the Ravens side of things today.
Zay Flowers Over 51.5 Yards(-115)
While this game figures to be an absolute defensive smackdown, there’s one player who should be a beneficiary of all of the roster messiness on both sides. That’s Zay Flowers, a rookie wideout from Boston College who has the look of someone who will become the top receiver that Lamar Jackson has always deserved but never had. The Ravens offense has had a strange start to the year, but Flowers has shown polish and explosion whenever he’s had a chance. He had a tough day against the Colts, but still came pretty close to breaking this number; he went over in both of his first two games in the league.
Flowers has already benefited from an increased emphasis on the passing game with J.K. Dobbins out for the year, and now he’s going to become even more of a centerpiece; Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham Jr. have both been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Tight end Mark Andrews is the only other natural option to absorb the targets that would’ve gone to those two, but as he comes back from injury, it’s possible that he won’t shoulder too heavy of a load. Those throws should come to Flowers, who will receive top coverage, but he’s up to the task and should crack this number if given enough targets.
It also helps Flowers that the Browns have one of the best run defenses, and one of the best pass rushes in the league, but a secondary that exists as a relative weak point; to beat them, you have to throw, and do it quickly. This makes Flowers the perfect option to get after them, as his technical route-running ability will give Jackson some short, productive throws to make, and even if the catches aren’t too far downfield, Flowers has excellent burst to grab yards after the catch, and should crack this plateau.
Justin Tucker Under 1.5 Extra Points Made (+150)
I’ve definitely made this point ad nauseam, but it bears repeating for any first-time readers; betting the under for a kicker’s points or kicks made prop is not a fade based on his expected level of play. This is just a bet that shows faith in the incredible Browns defense, and one that capitalizes on outstanding value at +150.
In three games thus far, the Browns defense is by far the best unit in the league in terms of EPA per play. They have allowed just one touchdown, a figure Tucker would need the Ravens to double in this game alone to hit the over on this prop. Of course, the Browns have given up defensive touchdowns and those still have a point after try attached to them, but the likelihood of those happening is not statistically worth handicapping.
The Ravens are also one of the most likely teams in the league to settle for a field goal in certain situations rather than pushing for six because of none other than Tucker himself. The decision between fourth and eight versus a field goal from 58 yards out, for instance, might be a tough one for teams that trust their kicker less, but John Harbaugh knows that if he chooses the latter, his team has effectively already gained three points.
The Ravens are also a team that never shies away from going for two- so if the math makes sense, even if they do score a touchdown, there’s still no guarantee that Tucker gets the chance to convert the try. Jackson’s dynamic running ability makes him incredibly dangerous in short spaces, giving Baltimore a huge edge on two-point tries.
Roquan Smith Over 9.5 Combined Tackles + Assists (-135)
Lastly, we’ve arrived at an opportunity to invest in one of the most exciting young talents in the league, Ravens middle linebacker Roquan Smith. The unique, speedy Smith had a bit of a hiccup in a strange game where the Bengals didn’t give him much to work with, but he racked up 16 tackles and assists against the Texans and 12 against the Colts. He accumulated 169 combined tackles and assists last season in a first-team All Pro effort, averaging just over 9.5 per game after a midseason trade to Baltimore from the Chicago Bears, where he was drafted.
No matter what the game plan ends up being for the Cleveland offense, Smith should be involved. He’s the top linebacker in PFF’s overall defense grade this season due to a well-balanced game; he ranks second amongst linebackers in their run defense category, and sixth in pass coverage.
That being said, a run-heavy approach is almost always good for linebacker involvement, and even without Nick Chubb that’s the core of this Browns offense, especially if Deshaun Watson is in fact out and Dorian Thompson-Robinson is forced into his NFL debut. If that should be the case, you’d have to imagine that the Browns would have to drastically simplify the offense and lean on the run to make things easier for the rookie.