|Ravens at Browns Point Spread Odds, Trends, Injuries & Matchup|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:18|
AFC North Clash
Cleveland, OH - Teams suddenly have needed to get much more creative in order to try and stop Baltimore's offense. The Ravens insist intentional eye gouging is one unusual tactic an opponent has used.
With their offense heating up, the Ravens face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in a rematch of a controversial contest from last month between the AFC North rivals.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Browns -1 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Browns -1 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Baltimore (4-3) has averaged 28.0 points en route to winning two straight, moving within one game of Pittsburgh for the division lead. The offensive outburst has helped the Ravens bounce back from a three-game losing streak, which began following a 28-10 victory over the Browns (3-4) on Sept. 21.
Controversy surrounding that matchup - Baltimore's highest-scoring game until beating Oakland 29-10 last Sunday - incited a review by the NFL.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh sent tapes to the league's office in New York asking for a review of two separate incidents in which he thought Browns players were intentionally gouging the eyes of Baltimore running back Willis McGahee, but the NFL found no evidence to support the accusation.
McGahee was cut on his right eyelid, poked in the left eye, and forced to leave the game twice.
Baltimore, which rotates three different running backs, rushed for 151 yards in that contest and is averaging 165.5 yards per game during its last two wins, including a 192-yard effort versus the Raiders sparked by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's innovative play calling.
Using two quarterbacks in a single-wing set, Baltimore gained 75 yards in four plays - including a 43-yard completion from backup quarterback Troy Smith to starter Joe Flacco.
On the first two snaps Smith took, he ran between the tackles. The third time, he ran around end and pitched to Ray Rice for a 21-yard gain. Then came his pass to Flacco, who lined up as a wide receiver on the left side.
"There's a lot of other things we're practicing that we are going to show as time goes on," Harbaugh said. "We think we're creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense; we think we've been that."
Rice, a rookie running back, enjoyed his most productive day in the NFL. The second-round draft pick out of Rutgers set a career high with 101 total yards, and accounted for five first downs in the second quarter alone. Rice's 15 receptions are second on the team behind Derrick Mason's 34.
Their contributions become even more vital with wide receiver Demetrius Williams sidelined for the rest of the season. Williams was placed on injured reserve Wednesday due to a bone spur around his left Achilles' tendon.
Although he caught a 70-yard touchdown pass against Oakland, the third-year wideout didn't practice last week and has long been operating at less than 100 percent. Williams played in all seven games this season and had 13 catches for 180 yards.
Losing a playmaker on offense isn't as tough when a team has a fearsome defense. The Ravens are tied with the Steelers for second in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 15.7 points per game.
In last month's matchup with the Browns, Baltimore turned two of Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson's three interceptions into TDs during a 50-second span of the third quarter.
Anderson has played better in recent weeks, though, throwing for 830 yards and five TDs with one interception to help the Browns win three of their last four games after an 0-3 starts.
Even with Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow suspended, Anderson passed for 246 yards and a TD in a 23-17 victory over Jacksonville last Sunday.
Winslow's one-game suspension for criticizing the team's handling of his staph infection was rescinded, but he still didn't travel to Jacksonville. Winslow rejoined his teammates Monday after the Browns won for the second time this season without him.
"I'm ready to move on and just play football," said Winslow, who has 21 receptions for 187 yards and a score in the five games he has played.
With Winslow out last Sunday, backup tight end Steve Heiden led the Browns with 73 yards receiving - 51 of them coming on a fourth-and-1 catch to set up Cleveland's second touchdown.
Winslow recorded two catches and a season-low 14 yards versus the Ravens in September. He has not caught a touchdown pass in six career games against Baltimore.
The Browns have won their annual home game against Baltimore in three of the last four years.
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Posted: 10/29/08 6:20PM ET