Ravens To Secure AFC North Crown With Browns Triumph

Will Jacksoin lead the Ravens into the playoffs?

The Baltimore Ravens know a victory over the Cleveland Browns will secure the club the AFC North title and a place in the playoffs.

Baltimore put forward an excellent defensive performance to beat the Los Angeles Chargers last week. They forced a crucial fumble from Antonio Gates before Tavon Young returned the ball for the game-winning touchdown.

Since Lamar Jackson has been installed as the Ravens’ starting quarterback, replacing Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh’s men have won five out of their last six matches. Their only defeat came at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in overtime.

Baltimore are peaking at the right time heading into the post-season and with Pittsburgh’s collapse in the second half of the campaign, they’ve been handed the AFC North crown on a plate.

However, their place in the post-season is not completely secure, especially given the form of the Browns. A defeat to Cleveland and a win for the Steelers would see them drop out of the playoffs. Alternatively a win and defeats by the New England Patriots and Houston Texans would hand them a first-round bye.

It’s all to play for Baltimore, although Cleveland are playing just as well as their rivals. Baker Mayfield and company have also won five out of their last six games.

Since the departure of Hue Jackson, the Browns have been extremely impressive on the field. The club will be regretting their decision not have parted company with their former head coach sooner as they could have well been in the position the Ravens are in heading into the final week of the season.

Will Jacksoin lead the Ravens into the playoffs?

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens’ season has come to life since Harbaugh made the move to start with Jackson ahead of Flacco. The decision was a simple one given that the quarterback suffered a hip injury, although even though he has since recovered Baltimore have not been tempted to revert back to the veteran. It echoes decisions of the past such as Tom Brady’s rise in New England and to a degree Patrick Mahomes’ success since replacing Alex Smith in Kansas City.

The Ravens’ offense has been more effective with Jackson on the field due to his dual threat, throwing and running the ball. His rushing skills have been more important than his arm. The 21-year-old has rushed for 605 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing for 1,022 yards and six touchdowns.

He has been good enough for the team, picking up yards in crucial situations. Gus Edwards out of the backfield has also been a key cog. Edwards has been successful in a traditional sense of a running back, rushing for over 600 yards and two touchdowns. He has eased the pressure on Jackson, although the duo will need to be at their best against a tough Browns’ defense.

Baltimore’s defense has been the foundation of their march towards the playoffs. They were outstanding against the Chargers, limiting a potent offense to only 10 points on the road. The unit have a good blend of experience and youth mixed throughout the ranks. Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle are providing the veteran presence, while young players such as Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon are rising to the occasion. Shutting down Mayfield and the Browns will give them the AFC North crown.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns’ hierarchy will be very encouraged about the future of the team, although they do face a big decision regarding the future of their head coaching position. Gregg Williams has done a fine job since replacing Jackson, although he does not have a great pedigree elsewhere and his reputation has been sullied by the bountygate scandal during his time with the New Orleans Saints.

His defense have been impressive throughout his team at the Browns, and the unit has taken a step forward in their development this term due to the emergence of their young talent. Years of struggle handed Cleveland a lot of capital in the Draft and between former general manager Sachi Brown and current general manager John Dorsey, the blend finally appears to be right on the field. Myles Garrett has become a superstar at defensive end, while Denzel Ward is developing into a number one cornerback in his rookie term. The signs are there that the Browns are ready to challenge for the AFC North crown next season.

Mayfield is the primary reason for their success. The 23-year-old has lived up to expectations after being selected with the first-overall pick in the 2018 Draft. He has improved every week he has been on the field. One of Jackson’s big mistakes was not starting him from the off this term.

Mayfield seemed keen to remind Jackson of that fact in Cleveland’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals last time out. Even though he does not have the most talented receiving corps in the NFL, Mayfield has made it work. Between him, Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landy, there is enough talent to make the Ravens sweat in the final game of the campaign.

Head to Head

Games Played: 39 Baltimore Ravens: 29 Cleveland Browns: 10

The rivalry between the Ravens and the Browns is a fierce one. Baltimore took ownership of the Browns in 1996 after Art Modell moved the franchise from Cleveland. They were rebranded the Ravens and have enjoyed the success that eluded the old team for many years in the city of Cleveland. Since the Browns’ return to the NFL in 1999, they’ve been on the receiving end of a hammering off the Ravens on a regular basis.

However, Cleveland did win the last meeting between the two sides, which was Jackson’s last win as head coach of the franchise. It was a game for purists as both teams struggled immensely to put points on the board. The Browns managed to score the decisive field goal in overtime to secure the victory, narrowly avoiding their second tie of the term.

Betting Options

The Browns are improving and are not the team of old. They’ve been impressive home and away, winning five out of their last six matches. However, Baltimore’s defense is a different standard from what they have faced in recent weeks and Harbaugh will have his men ready.

There’s a lot at stake for the Ravens given that they could rise as high as the number two seed. Jackson and Edwards will struggle to score points against the Browns’ defense, but in turn Mayfield and company will find life just as difficult.

On home soil back Baltimore to win the contest in a low-scoring affair at odds of -250   with Bovada, but take the Browns on a +3 spread at +138   with 888Sport. The two defenses are top-quality units so don’t expect a lot of points to be scored. Therefore take the under for 41 total points at -110   with TopBet.

Tips Summary

Baltimore Ravens To Beat Cleveland Browns
Sunday 30th December 2018 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -250

Cleveland Browns +3 Spread
Sunday 30th December 2018 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: +138

Under 41 Total Points To Be Scored
Sunday 30th December 2018 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -110