The Cleveland Browns (0-9) are having a difficult season. No matter whom they play, when, or where it does not seem to make a difference in the final score: the other team always ends up with more points. A lot of them, by the way. Given that it’s very, very hard to not be at least near .500 when it comes to against-the-spread metrics, it’s pretty staggering that this team, despite getting boat loads of points from Vegas each week, remain 2-7 against the spread.1
There is, however, one permutation they have not yet attempted: Thursday Night prime time. The Brownies will make a run at their first win of the year Thursday night when they visit the Baltimore Ravens (4-4) in an AFC North tilt, the Ravens being fully decked out in their Color Rush gear courtesy of the NFL’s Marketing Machine.
Are the Browns favored?
You’re cute. The Ravens are ten-point favorites at home. Thursday marks the tenth straight week that the Browns are the underdog, and there seems to be no indication that situation will change anytime soon. How many points is 10? Only one other game has a double-digit spread ((San Francisco is getting 13 in Arizona), with 10 of the other 12 games having spreads no more than three.
The Browns and Ravens clashed in Cleveland during Week 2. A resurgent Josh McCown started like a man on fire, steering the Browns to an early 20-2 lead. Cleveland’s offense would promptly go silent which allowed the Birds to come all the way back for a 25-20 victory. The only silver lining was Corey Coleman who enjoyed a fine game scoring the first two touchdowns of his NFL career. The Browns are now 9-26 against Baltimore and the Ravens have a two-game winning streak against their divisional rivals.
Thursday night games have not been kind to Cleveland. For the past several years the NFL has forced at least one Thursday night game per team despite player complaints about short rest and the risk of injury. Last season, the Browns got clobbered in Cincinnati, 31-10, which was payback for the Browns’ 2014 24-3 victory in The Jungle. Since returning in 1999, the club is just 3-5 in Thursday night primetime games.
The Ravens, meanwhile, are tied with the Steelers for first place in the AFC North. Baltimore opened strong with three straight wins over Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. When the quality of opponents stepped up the Ravens faltered. They dropped four straight to Oakland, Washington, and New York (Giants and Jets). After a bye, Poe’s Boys got back on the winning track with a home victory over Pittsburgh last week.
Despite an up-and-down season the Ravens are still in strong position in the division. The club ranks ninth in team defense (19.125 ppg), which is a far cry from their 26th offensive ranking (19.25 ppg).
Does anyone feel like playing football on Thursday? The Indians’ Game 7 loss is barely a week old. The Cavs lost their first game of the year on Tuesday. Just under 60 million Americans would argue they lost on Tuesday night. The Browns have oscillated between hapless and helpless since August, but there is no stopping the game from happening.
Maybe Thursday night is the magic ingredient this Browns season is missing.
- They covered against the Ravens during Week 2, and again in Wee, 6 against the Titans. That’s it. [↩]