For a while, the Baltimore Ravens looked pretty good as they lined up against the Denver Broncos in the opening game of the NFL campaign. But then things went awry, and the game got out of their hands. On Sunday they will try to redeem themselves against the Cleveland Browns, in a game that will get underway at 1 PM ET at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
In the pro football lines that have been posted on this game by the people at GTBets, anyone backing the Ravens in this one will be paying a price:
Baltimore Ravens -6
Cleveland Browns +6
Over 43.5 Points -110
Under 43.5 Points -110
Whichever way you slice it, the opener for the Baltimore defense became a horrific experience against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Manning set his career best, and tied an NFL record, with seven touchdown passes in the 49-27 rout.
But it perhaps worth exploring how this stop unit will perform against mere mortals, because there is a big stretch of ground between the likes of Manning that of Brandon Weeden, the over-aged second-year man who is not providing answers for the Browns. Cleveland made some moves in the off-season to spice up the offense, and that was done in the way of scheme. Rob Chudzinski, a guy whose philosophy is to throw the ball down the field, was hired as head coach, and Norv Turner, recently deposed as head coach of the San Diego Chargers (where Chudzinski served as an assistant) is the offensive coordinator.
They have some work to do, judging from the opening-week effort against the Miami Dolphins. For a team with Trent Richardson in the backfield, Cleveland (the +240 money line dog in this game at GTBets) had no offensive balance whatsoever, rushing the ball just 13 but putting it in the air on 53 occasions. They weren’t exactly playing ball control in that area, with Weeden completing only 26 passes and tossing three interceptions. The coaching staff is not bailing out on the Oklahoma State grad, though, so no panic call has been made to veteran Jason Campbell. But this may not be a bad spot for people like Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs to tee off on the quarterback. Along with everything else, Weeden was sacked six times by Miami.
You know that Weeden is not going to pick apart this secondary, the way Manning did. And on the other side, Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP who has now become one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in football, has not lost a game against the Browns since he came into the NFL.
No one analyzing these pro football lines should forget about the fact that these are the Super Bowl champions, and taking a 22-point loss in an atmosphere where skeptics already think you’ve lost too much personnel to contend is a bitter pill to swallow. And this team has had the extra time – ten days’ worth – to get itself ready to go.
They could play a little smashmouth here. Ray Rice had averaged 109.5 yards in his last four games against the Browns. Dallas Clark turned out to be a pretty good outlet for Flacco, with seven catches. But they have to worry about getting Torrey Smith loose, and Cleveland’s secondary did a pretty good job of taking Mike Wallace away as an option for Ryan Tannehill, limiting him to one reception.
In that Thursday night debacle, Baltimore allowed Denver to advance for 7.5 yards per play. Cleveland gained four yards a play against Miami. So chances are, Baltimore will extend its straight-up winning streak in this AFC North series to eleven games.