Coming off a tough 24-14 loss to Buffalo, things don’t appear to be getting any easier for the Cleveland Brown this week, who will travel to Baltimore to face off against the Ravens.
While this game may seem like a pretty easy call as far as the winner is concerned, betting the spread is a bit trickier. Bovada has the line at 13 points in favor of Baltimore. We know that every NFL team is at least competitive and we’ve seen the incredible number of upsets that have occurred through week three, so should we really be comfortable taking Baltimore by two touchdowns against the Browns?
Well, the Browns, as we also know, are bad. They’re real bad. Cleveland (0-3) is one of only two remaining winless teams in the league and is led by a rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden, who has a rating of 60.7. The Browns aren’t just playing poorly this season, but have established a losing tradition. They are coming into today’s game with an 11-game losing streak against division opponents and an eight-game losing streak against the Ravens.
Then, there’s Baltimore (2-1), riding high off an albeit, controversial one-point win against the New England Patriots. What’s important to note is how well Baltimore’s offense is playing. Ray Rice is rushing for 5.8 yards per carry and has three scores in just three games, while Joe Flacco seems to get better every week. He has already thrown for over 900 yards and six touchdowns to just two interceptions this year.
However, amidst the problems, Cleveland has shown some strengths, one of which has been the play of its other notable rookie, running back Trent Richardson. Richardson already has a 100-yard game under his belt and has rushed for two TDs on the season. With each team fielded strong runners and a wiliness to keep the ball grounded, this game might be lower scoring and closer than many think.
There’s no question that Cleveland will most likely lose tonight on the road, continuing their horrendous streaks, but I like the Browns to cover +13 against Baltimore. Even at 0-3, Cleveland’s largest margin of defeat has only been 10 points. Baltimore has a tough defense, but if Cleveland can turn Thursday night into a grinding ground game, it may be able to wear down that defense and take pressure off the young and inexperienced Weeden. Look for Baltimore to notch its third win of 2012, but for Cleveland to make things interesting in a highly-contested bout tonight.