NFL

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW Sun: Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

The first element to consider in this AFC North battle is who can hang onto a lead in the 4th quarter?

Cleveland and Baltimore are the two worst finishers in the NFL; in the fourth quarter this season, Cleveland have allowed a league-high 67 points, and Baltimore have been outscored by 42 points, which is the worst scoring margin in the NFL. The Ravens are the 39th team in NFL history to have a double-digit lead in its first six games and the first to not have a winning record. So we could expect a wild last quarter of the game and don’t count on the team that leads into the final stanza actually winning this game.

The Ravens three losses after leading by double digits this season are tied for their most in a season in franchise history (also 1996 and 2016).

The Ravens for all their lead-blowing woes are still 3-3 on the season although it’s noticeable that of late (the last three weeks) their games have averaged fewer plays and points as they have upped their run rate and seen their liking for using explosive plays on offence disappear into the ether. Against the Browns the Ravens may be set for an upturn in those figures as Cleveland have given up the fifth-most explosive passing plays, fifth-most yards per play, and second-most points per snap. Their games feature the eighth-most combined plays (129) and third-most total points (51.8), so we could be set for a lively back and forth affair.

Neither of these two sides have met their usual high defensive standards and the Browns have allowed plenty of yards through the air allowing the 6th most yards per pass attempt (7.2) despite facing a less than stellar cast of quarterbacks in five of their first six games. That won’t be the case here with the dangerous dual-threat Lamar Jackson leading the Ravens offence. Jackson has only thrown for over 300 yards once this year and after throwing for multiple pass TD’s in his first three games he’s only thrown one such TD in his last three games. He remains a threatening customer with his legs though and has already had two 100-yard rushing games this year and went for 77 yards last week against the Giants on just seven carries. Despite racking up the yards he has only scored one rushing TD this year.

The rest of the Ravens run game has been something of a committee this year but the clouds did appear to be clearing on that one with Kenyan Drake on the back of his 119 yards on 10 carries last week emerging as the likely “hot hand” in the Ravens backfield. Although the picture on Sunday may be muddied once more with Gus Edwards who missed all of last season with a knee injury being activated on Saturday. Edwards is one of two players in NFL history to produce at least 700 yards rushing and average 5-plus yards per carry in the first three seasons of their careers. It will be interesting to see how much of a part he plays in this contest and how it affects Drake’s usage. The Browns have been weak against the run this year and opposition running backs have tallied 5.6 yards per carry and 10 TD’s against them in six games.

One of the reasons that the Ravens offence has declined is the fact that in the passing game they don’t have many viable targets with TE Mark Andrews almost carrying the pass offence. Over his last 16 games, Andrews is averaging 6.8 catches for 81.3 yards and 0.7 TDs and he remains Jackson’s main receiver, especially in the red zone. The rest of the Ravens pass catching corps remains low-key but with Jackson at the helm and the porous Cleveland defence points could still be on the agenda for Baltimore.

The Browns have one of the top rushing offences in the NFL via Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt with the former particularly difficult to stop while the latter plays more of a part in the passing game out of the backfield. With the Ravens giving up 4.5 yards per carry and 132.7 total yards per game to opposing RB’s I’d expect to see a healthy dose of Chubb and Hunt throughout. Although it should be noted that historical evidence points to the fact that the Ravens defence has been one of the units that has had success in containing Chubb in the past.

It’s no surprise that with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback the Browns lean more heavily on the ground game although Brissett has exceeded initial expectations and he’s not lacking in receivers to throw to. WR Amari Cooper is the best known of the receiving group and he has plenty of upside in his matchup with the Ravens defence. However, it may well be the resurgent David Njoku at tight end who causes the Ravens the most problems as they have proved vulnerable to that position over the past couple of weeks.

Njoku has developed a healthy connection with Brissett with the tight end who the Browns took in the first round of the 2017 draft already clocking up 347 yards receiving on 27 receptions. Njoku has been consistent all season long with his last four receiving totals being 89, 73, 99 and 58 yards and Njoku has the matchup once again to top the half-century of receiving yards.

Defensively both teams have flaws and that’s been proven by how they have both let leads and substantial ones at that slip away this year and I would expect that both offences can take advantage of those flaws and insecurities.

Before losing 38-15 to the Patriots last Sunday the Browns were averaging 26.6 points per game and the Ravens are only a fraction behind that number (26.3). I would rather back the offences that the defences here and will be taking a close look at this game going over the +45.5 total or +5.5 TD’s.

ANDY RICHMOND


ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


RECOMMENDED BETS

BACK Lamar Jackson over +57.5 rushing yards 1.5pts at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

BACK David Njoku over +38.5 receiving yards 1.5 pts at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

BACK Over 45.5 total match points 1pt at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ?  CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (OCT 2022): LOSS -15.93 points
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