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Week 14 will conclude with a Monday night matchup of AFC North rivals, as the 9-3 Cleveland Browns will host the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have been struggling, losing three in a row before rebounding with a win against the Cowboys last Tuesday, while the Browns have won their last four games, capped off with an offensive explosion against the division-leading Titans.
Here is a preview for Monday's game between the Ravens and Steelers, with an in-depth look at both teams and a free pick for who's going to win. Currently, Baltimore is a 2.5-point favorite on the road.
2019 was a year to remember for the Ravens, as they cruised to a one-seed in the AFC, and quarterback Lamar Jackson dominated en route to winning his first MVP award. At first, 2020 seemed like it would hold much of the same, with Baltimore winning five of their first six contests. But what followed would prove to be difficult, as Jackson and the Ravens lost four out of six, including two losses to the rival Steelers. Now with four weeks to go, Baltimore is on the outside of the playoffs looking in but can still find a way to get in if they end on a high note.
Led by the league's top rushing offense, the Ravens are averaging 26.3 points, 13th in the NFL. However, their top run offense is countered by the league's worst passing offense, which averages 169.2 yards per game. Baltimore does convert 43.6 percent of their third downs, though, the eighth-best mark in football.
Defensively, Baltimore is fourth with 19.3 points allowed and just outside the top-10 with 355.5 yards allowed. They are fairly even against the run and pass, ranking 13th and 14th respectively, while also having the league's third best third down defense. Elsewhere, the Ravens have 28 sacks as a team to go along with seven interceptions.
It's been a while since the Browns played meaningful games in December. And yet, at 9-3, they are very close to punching their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2002. Although a Week 1 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens looked like more of the same, quarterback Baker Mayfield and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt helped lead them to four straight wins. Cleveland struggled in the middle of the year, losing to the Steelers and Raiders and barely beating the Bengals. But they have won four in a row since and will hope to end the year with a couple more wins.
The Browns are averaging 25.5 points per game, 15th in the NFL, on just under 372 yards. They have an imbalanced offense like Baltimore, having the second-best running offense in terms of yards but sit 27th in passing yards. Cleveland also converts on 43 percent of their third downs, the 11th-best mark in football.
As for their defense, Cleveland is only 22nd with just under 27 points allowed, as well as 20th with 379 yards allowed per game. They fare better against the run than the pass but have the 23rd-ranked third down defense. However, the Browns also have 30 sacks, 10 interceptions, and the fourth-highest turnover differential in the league.
Entering the game at 7-5, the Ravens are 6-5-1 ATS. They are also 3-2-1 ATS on the road, a slight downgrade from their 4-2 overall record. But Baltimore has won 10 of their last 12 road games dating back to last year, and they're also 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against the AFC North. They're particularly dominant against the Browns, beating them in 16 of their 20 meetings the last decade and also going 10-2 ATS when playing them on the road.
Meanwhile, the Browns are just 5-7 ATS despite being 9-3 overall. They're also 5-1 at home, but 3-3 ATS in those games as well. Although they've been winning, Cleveland is just 1-5 ATS in their last six games against AFC opponents and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games overall.
Both of these teams have similar identities on offense; run the ball and then run it some more. But if these teams need to throw, I trust the Browns more. I like Cleveland on more rest to treat this as their biggest game of the year, pulling out the win at home against a hated rival.
Pick: Browns +2.5