It is hard to believe but when the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns square off this Thursday, the NFL season will be entering its one quarter mark (8.20pm ET, Thursday, Sept 27).
Although the past three weeks will matter when it comes to playoffs, it is at this point of the season that the meat of the match-ups really comes into play. From here on all of the games will hold more weight than the next .
Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL!
Brandon Weeden Could Be Ready for Breakout Against Ravens Secondary
It is a common quote among the players and in the locker room. Whether it is hazing, practice and training camps or just some good natured ribbing among teammates, every rookie at one point in time has to hear the words, “Hey rookie, welcome to the NFL.”
For the Cleveland Browns, the two main offensive weapons on their team are rookies and their welcoming to the league came on the field and in a not so welcome way against the smash mouth Philadelphia Eagles defense.
28-year-old rookie QB Brandon Weeden was intercepted four times in his first career start. He completed just twelve passes for 118 yards and a quarterback rating (QBR) of just 1.2. He improved in his second start against a weaker Cincinnati Bengals defense throwing for 322 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His overall rating jumped from 5.1 from week one to 114.9. Still, it wasn’t enough as the Browns’ defense was unable to stop the Cincinnati attack led by the sophomore tandem of Andy Dalton and AJ Green.
In week three against a much improved Buffalo Bills offense, the 6’3 Browns QB regressed. While he did complete a career high 27 passes in 43 attempts, he only threw for 237 yards. He also added another two interceptions to put his season total at six in three games.
Luckily enough for Weeden, Eagles QB Michael Vick is having an atrocious season and for that reason it is him and not the Brown’s rookie that leads the league in turnovers. Still, Weeden will have to do much better against a strong defense in Baltimore if he hopes to get his first career win and the Browns first win of the season.
Luckily enough for Weeden, he will get a chance to face the 28th ranked defense in opponent’s passing yards allowed. Although safety Ed Reed will still present a challenge, Weeden might have the opportunity for some deep ball threats to the speedster Joshua Cribbs or the crafty Mohamed Massaquoi.
Trent Richardson Will Look to Improve His Rushing Stats
Joining Weeden is his rookie running back, Trent Richardson, who has really yet to breakthrough in the NFL.
At Alabama, Richardson ran all over the defenses of the SEC. Following in the footsteps of Mark Ingram, now with the New Orleans Saints, Richardson ran all the way to the Heisman trophy finals where he was just narrowly beat out by another rookie sensation, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins.
Although Richardson enjoyed college success, unlike RG III, he has really yet to put this success into a consistent showing week by week. In week one, the Eagles and their 16th ranked rushing defense held Richardson to just 39 yards in 19 attempts on the ground.
In the second week of the season, Richardson showed the makings of a good NFL running back. He ran for 109 yards on 19 carries and scored a touchdown. Showing his ability as a reliable pass catcher as well, Richardson caught four balls for 36 yards and another touchdown.
It was by far his best game just as it was Weeden’s. Also like Weeden though, Richardson really regressed when he faced the 14th best NFL rushing defense. The Bills, who yield just over 100 yards a game to opposing rushers, completely stuffed Richardson holding him to just 27 yards in twelve carries. Richardson did have a touchdown however but overall, the Browns run game was nearly nonexistent.
Richardson could have a slightly easier match-up against the Ravens as their rushing defense is only ranked 18th. That said, as it stands right now, the Browns rushing offense is near the bottom at 26th worst in the league.
If the Browns hope to win this game, they will definitely need some sort of a ground and pound attack from Richardson.
Taking a Look at the NFL’s Second Best Offense
Currently, it is the Ravens that are the second most prolific scoring offense in the NFL. They average 32.7 points a game which is second best in the league and are ranked fourth in total yards at 419.3 and third in passing yards at 301.3. Here’s a look at just some of the pieces that have led to these numbers:
- Joe Flacco: In three games this season, Flacco has a completion percentage of 64.5 percent. He has thrown for 913 yards in 71 completions averaging about 8.3 yards a pass. He has led the Ravens to score six touchdowns and has just three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble).
- Ray Rice: The 25-year-old Rice has been a rushing powerhouse over the past few seasons and so far in 2012 it has been more of the same. In three games he has carried the ball 46 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
- Anquan Boldin: Although Boldin does not have many receptions to his name on the season, he has made the most of his opportunities. In just ten catches, Boldin is averaging 11.8 yards a catch for a total of 118 yards on the season.
- Torrey Smith: Smith has been a big play weapon for Flacco and the offense this season. He has only ten receptions on the season but has broken them off for an average of 23.5 yards a reception. Most of this yardage comes after the catch as well. Smith has two touchdowns on the season, both of them coming in the Ravens third week game against the New England Patriots.
Browns v Ravens Picks & Prediction
Baltimore has owned their divisional rivals in the recent past. They have won eight straight and have covered the spread six times. The under has also been the smart betting option as the past six match-ups between these two have gone under the set total.
Looking at these trends, the safe bet would be to pick the Ravens to cover the spread. That said, the deficit is set at -12 points. Even for the NFL’s second best offense, covering a 12-point disadvantage is a tall order.
- Betting Pick: Even though the Browns defense is ranked 27th in opponent’s passing yards and 23rd in opponent’s rushing yards, the best betting pick is to bet on the Cleveland Browns +12 points.
Place Your Bets Here & Best Odds:
- All Americans except those from Utah, NY, Washington & Maryland state: Bovada Sportsbook goes Cleveland +12.5 points @ odds of -110.
- All Americans: BetOnline Sportsbook goes +12pts @ -115.
- Non-Americans: Place these bets with Bet365 (Browns +12pts @ 10/11).