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Cleveland at Baltimore

Cleveland at Baltimore

By Mike Wilkening Pro Football Weekly

If you had made this line three weeks ago, Cleveland would have been favored by a field goal and probably more than that. But the Browns have lost their first two games of the season, looking nothing like the club that won 10 games in 2007. And the Ravens won their opener, playing the tough defense that has defined them this decade. Baltimore is also coming off an extra few days of rest after its Week Two game at Houston was postponed because of Hurricane Ike.

So the Ravens have a few things going for them. But I am going to back the underdog Browns, who played a very good defensive game vs. rival Pittsburgh last weekend, holding that powerful offensive attack to 10 points. They are facing a much more limited and less potent offense this week. The Ravens will keep things relatively simple for rookie QB Joe Flacco and will rely heavily on the running game.

But this isn’t a fail-safe plan. Flacco is going to have to make a key throw or two and avoid mistakes. I’m not convinced he can do that just yet.

On the other hand, I do believe the Browns’ offense is significantly better than it has shown. This is, after all, an attack that keyed a sweep of the Ravens last season, racking up 60 points against this tough defense.

I don’t expect offensive fireworks on either side. Just a little efficiency from Cleveland would go a long way, really.

Wilkening’s pick: Cleveland +2 and Under 38½

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