The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns will look to extend their winning ways when they square off in a huge Week 3 AFC North divisional showdown on Sunday.
Cleveland picked up an impressive 26-24 win over New Orleans in Week 2 to cash in as a 5-point home underdog while Baltimore rolled to a convincing 26-6 win over Pittsburgh to cover the spread as a 2.5-point home favorite.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 18, 2014
Now, the question is…who will win and cover the week 3 NFL betting spread in this intriguing thriller?
Let’s find out!
Baltimore at Cleveland
Time: 1:00 PM
Spread: Cleveland +2
Expert NFL Picks Week 3 Preview
Cleveland (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS) recorded a thrilling, last-second win over the Saints in Week 2 as veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer led the Browns on an 85-yard drive that set up former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff for a game-winning 29-yard field goal with just remaining in regulation. Hoyer completed 8 of 11 passes for 78 yards on the game’s final drive while converting two third downs.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 18, 2014
"It’s great to get a win," said Hoyer, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in the win. "The biggest thing for me is to win a game like that. We won one like that in my first start against Minnesota last year and you see the guys when you get back to the sideline really believing in you. That’s the best feeling there is."
The Browns are thriving with their unheralded rushing attack as they currently rank seventh in the league (152.5 ypg) despite being without veteran back Ben Tate, the player they signed in the offseason to be their starter.
Rookie Terrance West has rushed for 168 yards and one touchdown on 35 carries for a fine, 4.8-yard per carry average. Tate is expected to miss a second consecutive game because of a sprained knee suffered in Week 1.
Defensively, the Browns still have some work to do as they rank 26th or lower in every meaningful defensive statistical category.
Baltimore (1-1 SU,1-1 ATS) got a huge win in Week 2 by defeating Pittsburgh as they were in the midst of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal – and surprisingly – it was fueled by their rushing attack as backups Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett have combined to rush for a stellar 239 yards.
The pair has helped Baltimore rank 12th in rushing in the early going. Pierce ran 22 times for 96 yards in the win while Forsett added 56 yards on eight carries.
"Both those guys played well, ran hard and protected the football," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "The offensive line has played really well in front of them, too."
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco completed 21 for 29 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Pittsburgh.
"(The offensive line) did a great job," Flacco told the team’s official website. "Any time you can protect the quarterback the way they did and wear a team out and get those running yards late, it’s a credit to those guys."
Analysis: While I’m pretty impressed with the way the Cleveland Browns have played so far in the early going, it is the Baltimore Ravens that are my pick to win this game and cover the NFL betting line.
The Ravens had won nine straight games – until losing to Cleveland 24-18 in November of last season. Still, after seeing the Ravens pull together in the midst of the Ray Rice scandal was surprising, not to mention the way they man-handled the previously unbeaten Steelers.
John Harbaugh says that if you're only looking at Terrell Suggs' sack totals, you don't really understand football http://t.co/2N8cczROSe
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 19, 2014
The Ravens are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven games against their AFC North division rivals, but the Browns are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven games against their AFC conference rivals. In the end, I like the fact that Baltimore has gone 5-1 ATS in their last half-dozen road games against the Browns, not to mention the fact that the road team in this division rivalry is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings
My Expert Week 4 NFL Pick: Baltimore Ravens -2 Points