Browns vs. Ravens Betting Preview: Baltimore Controls Playoff Destiny, but Cleveland Won't Make It Easy

With a high-performing secondary and a front seven that has effectively slowed down mobile quarterbacks this season, the Browns will be a tough matchup for Baltimore's rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Publish date:

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5)

Sun., December 30, 1:00 p.m. ET

Four things you need to know before betting on Browns-Ravens:

1. Hue Jackson's third and final win as Browns head coach came in Week 5 this season, when Cleveland took down division rival Baltimore 12-9 at home. It was an ugly game from start to finish, with the Browns winning with two seconds remaining in overtime on a 37-yard knuckleball of a field goal to avoid a second tie in the season’s first five weeks. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 342 yards and a touchdown in his first win as a starter, and Cleveland's defense forced Baltimore's Joe Flacco-led offense into two turnovers.

NFL Week 17 Expert Best Bets: Jets Can Keep Things Tight vs. Patriots

2. Both teams look very different heading into the season finale. Hue Jackson was fired by the Browns after Week 8, and Cleveland interim head coach Gregg Williams has led the team to a 5-2 straight up and 4-3 against the spread since then. Cleveland's defense will be facing a new quarterback, as Lamar Jackson took over for as the starter when Flacco went down with an injury, and the rookie has held onto the job even with Flacco now healthy enough to suit up. The Browns have gained some recent experience against a mobile quarterback, having held Carolina’s Cam Newton to 23 yards on the ground in a Week 14 victory. (Newton’s 463 rushing yards in 2018 ranks fourth among NFL quarterbacks to Jackson, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Houston’s Deshaun Watson.)

3. Until their outright victory as a three-point underdog in Week 5, Cleveland had been 0-5 against the spread in its previous five meetings with Baltimore. All but one of those ATS defeats, however, came under coach Hue Jackson. The Browns already have more victories in seven games under Williams (5) than they did in 2.5 seasons under Jackson. While the Browns are 2-5 ATS on the road this season, both of the wins and only one of the losses have come since Williams took over.

4. For the second time in two seasons, the Ravens can get into the playoffs with a victory as a home favorite in the regular-season finale. Cincinnati went into Baltimore on the final day of 2017 after already having been eliminated from playoff contention and emerged with a 31-27 victory as an eight-point underdog. The Ravens rallied from a 14-point deficit to take its first lead with 8:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton led a 90-yard drive in the closing minutes, capping it with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on a fourth-and-12 play with 44 seconds left.

Pick: Cleveland +5.5

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)