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Late for Work 10/21: What Pundits Expect in Ravens-Browns Game

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Ravens Are Unanimous Pick to Beat Browns

The Ravens have alternated wins and losses every week this season, and if that pattern continues, they'll defeat the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

All 47 of the pundits we looked at are predicting that to happen.

The Browns (2-4) come to Baltimore on a three-game losing streak, including a 38-15 thrashing by the New England Patriots in Cleveland last week. However, that's their only lopsided defeat.

The Browns' three other losses have been by a combined six points. They held leads in all three, including double-digit advantages in two.

In Week 2, they held a 13-point lead against the New York Jets with 1:55 remaining before losing 31-30. In Week 4, they held a three-point lead against the Atlanta Falcons midway through the fourth quarter before losing 23-20. In Week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers, they built an early 14-point lead and took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter before losing 30-28.

The Ravens (3-3) obviously don't have to be told what it feels like to blow double-digit leads, as they've done it in all three of their losses. Is this the game when Baltimore turns that around and closes out Cleveland?

Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:

The Ravens will score a convincing victory.

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "The Ravens could enter full-on crisis mode if they lose to the floundering Browns at home. But they're the better all-around team with the right offense to gash Cleveland's tender middle and keep running back Nick Chubb off the field. For once, they will not have to sweat until the final seconds."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "These two are off to slow starts, but the Ravens have lost three games they led by double-digits in the second half. That won't happen in this one. Lamar Jackson will have a big game against a Cleveland defense that is bad right now. This won't be close."

Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton: "Unlike the Dolphins and Bills, the Browns don't have an explosive offense. Sure, they can run the ball down their opponent's throat, but teams usually abandon the ground attack while down multiple possessions because of the urgency in a race against the clock. Furthermore, the Bills and Giants forced crucial late-game turnovers while on the comeback trail to beat the Ravens. The Browns have just five takeaways — only five teams have fewer. With the 23rd-ranked passing attack and maybe one extra possession, Cleveland would struggle to overcome an early deficit. Take Baltimore to start and finish strong against a division rival at home."

The Ravens will win, but it could be close.

The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: "It'd be no surprise to see the Ravens blow the Browns out. Baltimore feels like a good team that is coming up small in high-leverage situations. But given how well the Browns run the ball (setting aside last week against the Patriots), I think this one could be tight."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "I'll take the Ravens because I think Lamar Jackson is due to break out from his mini slump and the Browns seem to be really banged up, but I don't feel great about the prediction. I do fully expect it to be close. The Ravens will make sure of that."

Jackson and the Ravens offense will exploit a vulnerable Browns defense.

Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano: "After getting frustrated by the Giants' upstart defense last week, particularly late in the game, Jackson should find the Browns defense inviting. There really is no excuse for Baltimore not to move the ball and score some points. Even if the Browns use their running game to grind the game out and limit the Ravens' opportunities, Jackson should have enough time to take a lead. The big question, though, is whether he can get out in front enough because Baltimore has choked away leads in every game this season. … But in this game, what matters most is that the Ravens are playing a Browns defense that is no stranger to fourth-quarter mishaps."

Sporting News’ John Bender: "Both defenses are bad, but Cleveland has been a little worse on that side of the ball. Lamar Jackson will take advantage, and he improves to 6-2 as a starter against Cleveland."

Pro Football Network’s Adam Beasley: "The Browns' defense is 28th in yards per play, 26th in yards per carry (5), 27th in yards per pass (7.2), and 31st in points allowed (27.2). The Ravens' offense is third in yards per play (6.2), first in yards per carry (1), 10th in yards per pass (6.8), and fifth in points scored (26.3). The Browns should be able to move the ball against a Ravens defense that is 27th in EPA per play (.07), but in the end, who do you trust more: Lamar Jackson or Jacoby Brissett?"

The Ravens' running game is coming together and could have a big day.

Zrebiec: "Over the past four games, they're averaging just under 180 rushing yards, and there's still a sense they've left yards on the field with [Offensive Coordinator Greg] Roman not sticking to the run enough. That certainly bodes well for Sunday against a Cleveland Browns defense that is allowing 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. Only five NFL defenses are surrendering more yards per carry, and only eight are giving up more rushing yards per game."

If the game is close, Browns All-Pro DE Myles Garrett could be a difference-maker.

Pro Football Focus’ Timo Riske: "With the best edge rusher in the league on their side, [the Browns] could even complete the upset if they can keep it a close game until late in the fourth quarter."

Table inside Article
Source Prediction Commentary
ESPN 8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens
Baltimore Sun 5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens “The Ravens could enter full-on crisis mode if they lose to the floundering Browns at home. But they’re the better all-around team with the right offense to gash Cleveland’s tender middle and keep running back Nick Chubb off the field. For once, they will not have to sweat until the final seconds.” — Childs Walker
USA Today 6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens Ravens 27, Browns 23 “It’s sad yet fitting that the analytically driven Ravens’ numbers are so much better than their record. Despite the big leads they’ve built, very little about their season has been consistent. Rashod Bateman’s return should help, but the Baltimore defense struggles to get big stops because of a lack of edge-rushing pressure. Look for Nick Chubb to get back on track, but the Browns’ poorly coached defense will cost them again.” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network 10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
Sporting News Ravens 30, Browns 20 “The Browns' run defense is in shambles and Myles Garrett is hurting again. Their linebacker and secondary play have been a major disappointment. That should work out well for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' traditional running game. The Browns also have no real answers for Mark Andrews or downfield shot plays off play-action. Jacoby Brissett will be rattled with Nick Chubb contained again.“ — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens “These two are off to slow starts, but the Ravens have lost three games they led by double-digits in the second half. That won't happen in this one. Lamar Jackson will have a big game against a Cleveland defense that is bad right now. This won't be close.” — Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk 3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens “The Ravens are struggling to finish games against teams they should beat, and I’m tempted to pick the upset, but I suspect Lamar Jackson will just have too much for the Browns’ weak defense.” — Michael David Smith
Sports Illustrated 5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens
FanSided Ravens 28, Browns 22 “The Ravens could absolutely run away and hide from a struggling Browns team, but Baltimore has been brutal at holding and protecting big leads.” — Matt Verderame

Ravens Are a Different Team With Rashod Bateman on the Field

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who has missed the past two games with a sprained foot, returned to practice as a limited participant the past two days, which is encouraging news. The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer pointed out that the Ravens offense is significantly better with Bateman on the field.

"For all the hubbub over the addition of practice squad wide receiver DeSean Jackson, whose signing was finalized Wednesday, Rashod Bateman remains the team's most important wideout," Shaffer wrote. "With Bateman on the field this season, according to the play index site nflfastR, the Ravens have averaged 7.9 yards and 0.28 expected points added per drop-back. (EPA is a measure of efficiency that accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position.) Only the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs have averaged more than 0.28 EPA per drop-back overall this season, according to analytics site

"With Bateman off the field this season — he's missed two-plus games since spraining his foot in the loss to Buffalo — the Ravens have averaged just 5.4 yards and minus-0.08 EPA per drop-back. Only 13 NFL offenses have a negative EPA rate on drop-backs this season."

When Jackson was asked this week what Bateman's return will do for the offense, he said: "Oh, man, it'll do a lot for us. That's our No. 1 guy. He runs great routes; he's a fast receiver. He's our top guy, so we definitely need him back out there, but he [should] just take his time. When he comes back, I feel like we're going to need him at the perfect time."

Analytics Model Projects Ravens to Win Nine Games

An analytics model by The Athletic's Austin Mock projects the Ravens to finish with nine wins and gives them a 60.6 percent chance of making the playoffs and 3.1 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

Mock's model is based on data as the season progresses. He runs that simulation 100,000 times after each day of games to determine Super Bowl odds and projections.

The Ravens' projections are nearly identical to AFC North rival Cincinnati. The Bengals are projected to win 9.2 games and given a 58.8 percent chance of making the playoffs and 3.2 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

Only four AFC teams have better odds to make the playoffs than the Ravens: the Buffalo Bills (99.7 percent), Kansas City Chiefs (93.8 percent), Los Angeles Chargers (69.9 percent), and Tennessee Titans (69.2 percent).

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