The Baltimore Ravens (8-4) and Cleveland Browns (6-6) will meet in a rematch from Week 12, which was a 16-10 win by the Ravens. Cleveland has had a bye week to stew over that one while the Ravens lost 20-19 in Pittsburgh on Sunday to lose control of the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Let’ see the NFL odds.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
Sunday, December 12, 2021 – 01:00 PM EST at FirstEnergy Stadium
The Browns (5-7 ATS) are a 1.5-point favorite over the Ravens (5-7 ATS) at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. This is only the third time since 2008 (and first since 2015) that the Ravens are an underdog against the Browns, a division rival head coach John Harbaugh is 23-4 SU and 17-9-1 ATS against.
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Week 12 Recap
It is a weird scheduling quirk for a team to have a bye this late in the season and replay the same opponent it played before the bye, but that’s what Cleveland is doing here. What did the team learn from that Week 12 slugfest in Baltimore on Sunday Night Football?
For one, the Ravens are not that great of a team this year. Lamar Jackson threw a career-high four interceptions that night and has been in a slump for a month now. He took seven sacks in Pittsburgh and has been under a lot of pressure throughout the season. However, the Browns only pressured him four times in Week 12. They did better at forcing Jackson into poor throws for picks. In that game, only 17.6% of Jackson’s passes gained a first down, his worst game of the season.
But if the Ravens are bad, then what are the Browns for losing 16-10 in that game with only a generous touchdown upon video review to David Njoku to show for the offense? The Browns could not run the ball at all on the Ravens. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, one of the best duos in the league, combined for 36 yards on 15 carried that night. It was the worst rushing performance the Browns have had under coach Kevin Stefanski.
Baker Mayfield was blitzed a season-high 16 times against the Ravens, yet his pressure rate was only 17.5% according to Pro Football Reference. He just struggled to move the ball with zero running game to speak of. The Browns were 4-of-13 on third down as the Ravens remain one of the best third-down defenses this season.
The Browns had a bye week to get healthy, but nothing will bring tackle Jack Conklin back. He made his return in the Baltimore game before leaving with another serious injury that has ended his season. This is bad news for a struggling Cleveland offense that has failed to crack 14 points six times this season. Only the Texans (seven) have more such games.
John Harbaugh has received some heat for his two-point conversion decision at the end of the 20-19 loss to Pittsburgh. Analytically, it was the right move, but the Ravens just did not execute the play well enough. Baltimore has won a lot of close games this season, but Sunday was not one of them.
One of the reasons Harbaugh wanted to win the game on one play was the injuries to the cornerbacks. Standout corner Marlon Humphrey is feared to be lost for the season. Jarvis Landry was the only bright spot for the Browns in Week 12 when he had 111 receiving yards. He could have another big game, which might turn into more points this time if the Browns can solve their running woes.
It is still easier to trust Jackson than Mayfield at quarterback. Mayfield’s QBR (37.9) ranks 26th in the league while Jackson's (50.4) is 16th. Mayfield’s number is more associated with quarterbacks who lose their starting jobs with their team. He has been more banged up than ever before this season, so hopefully, the bye week will have him feeling better.
But the Browns still look more offensively broken while the Ravens just need to protect the ball better. The Ravens have not won the turnover battle in their last five games and the defense only has 10 takeaways all season. The loss of corner Marcus Peters has been a far bigger issue than the hits to the depth at running back as Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman have been running well in recent weeks.
Jackson is still a major threat with his legs, but the passing game has not been taking big steps forward this year. Jackson has been held to one touchdown pass in all but two of his games this season.
The Ravens are fortunate to not have a worse record than 8-4. Against Cleveland, Jackson became the first quarterback since Russell Wilson in the 2014 NFC Championship Game to throw four interceptions and win. It would be impossible for him to play worse in this rematch, but he has to start picking up his play. Jackson is averaging 5.86 yards per attempt in his last three starts, down from 8.30 earlier in the season.
The Ravens have not convincingly beaten any team since the Chargers (34-6) way back in Week 6, which is really a one-game outlier on their season. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for that 41-16 win in Cincinnati in Week 9, the Browns would have their own mess of an October and November. These teams are not as good as they were a season ago, but I am still going to trust the better coach and quarterback to get the job done in a sweep for the Ravens for your NFL picks this Sunday.
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