- Over the past six weeks, Cleveland’s defense ranks last in the NFL in success rate against the run
Monday Night Football brings us a big divisional matchup between two run-first teams with clear playoff aspirations. The Browns have had a very successful year thus far, and at 9-3 sit two games ahead of Baltimore in the AFC wildcard race with four to play.
Both the Ravens and Browns are known for their run-first tendencies, and this has the makings of a classic, hard-hitting AFC North battle. The Ravens got back in the win column in Week 13 with a 17-point victory over the Cowboys in Lamar Jackson’s return from the reserve/COVID-19 list, in a game where Baltimore ran for 294 yards. The Browns meanwhile are 4-0 since their Week 9 bye, and have averaged 173 rushing yards per game in that stretch. These two teams are third and fourth in the NFL in rush attempts, and are two of only three teams in the league who entered Week 14 with more rushes than pass attempts.
If this game were played in a domed atmosphere, these teams might run 30 times each. Instead, it’s an outdoor night game in Cleveland with temperatures a few degrees above freezing and wind expected to sustain around 20 mph throughout the game. Once we get above the 15 mph range, we typically see passing games affected, so you can bet these already run-heavy teams will be that much more likely to take the air out of the ball.
Obviously when we know two teams are going to attack on the ground, we can expect the clock to move and the number of possessions each team gets to be limited. But this is an interesting matchup, mostly because we have two of the league’s more explosive ground games. For the season, no team has a higher explosive run rate than the Browns, while the Ravens held that top honor in 2019 and rank 10th this season.
Meanwhile, both teams have struggled at times defending the run. Cleveland in particular has been bad of late, ranking dead last over the past six weeks in success rate against the run. They held Derrick Henry down last week, but a closer look reveals that had more to do with Cleveland building a 38-7 lead by halftime and the Titans abandoning the ground game in comeback mode.
The Ravens have been better, but still below average at 22nd in success rate against the run over the past six weeks. We might be in for a few long runs in this one.
Still, this just solidifies that both offenses will be more than willing to attack on the ground, and even a few big plays in the ground game are unlikely to make this a particularly high-scoring affair. I’m on the under, and I’m also backing the Ravens as they look to build on last week’s win. This team is better than its 7-5 record and they need this game desperately if they want to get back to the postseason.
NFL Expert Picks
1u - Baltimore Ravens -3 @ +100
1u - Under 45.5 points @ -107
NFL Free Picks
Week 14 gets underway tonight with a Thursday Night Football clash between the Patriots and the Rams. We have another chance to see Bill Belichick face off with Sean McVay. The gameweek ends with that huge divisional clash between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football that we're all waiting for! In between we have a full slate of games, with a number of divisional games and big matchups. Elsewhere we're set to see Jalen Hurts' first start for the Philadelphia Eagle who have announced him as the start this week.
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