The Line and Fantasy: Ravens @ Browns
Sports gambling is picking up steam and fantasy football is as strong as ever. In this weekly column I use drive data to create a baseline for predicting a score. Then adjust that score based on, other factors to make a prediction. In predicting a score we get a point spread and an over/under number. Later, check out fantasy plays pertaining to the Ravens matchup in Cleveland today.
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Week 1: vs. Buffalo
Data prediction: Ravens 24 – Bills 17
My prediction: Ravens 31 – Bills 10
Final: Ravens 47 – Bills 3
Week 2: @ Cincinnati
(Vacation, no article)
Week 3: vs. Denver
Data prediction: Ravens 25 – Broncos 19
My prediction: Ravens 23 – Broncos 20
Final: Ravens 27 – Broncos 14
Week 4: @. Pittsburgh
Data prediction: Ravens 44 – Steelers 20
My prediction: Ravens 31 – Steelers 30
Final: Ravens 26 – Steelers 14
Season against the spread, 2-1. Season over/under, 2-1.
Moving on to the data portion for the Ravens matchup with the Browns before we talk about the game itself.
2018 NFL average – 11.4 drives per team, per game.
Browns – 15.3 drives per game
Ravens – 12.5 drives per game
Browns – 15 DPG
Ravens – 12.6 DPG
2018 NFL average – 2.04 points per drive (PPD).
Browns – 1.67 PPD
Ravens – 2.5 PPD
Browns – 1.58 PPD allowed
Ravens – 1.31 PPD allowed
Predicting Drives per game
(Team offense DPG X Opposing team defense DPG) / League average DPG = Expected drives to occur in the game.
Browns: 15.3 X 12.6 / 11.4 = 16.9 drives in this game
Ravens: 12.5 X 15 / 11.4 = 16.4 drives in this game
Predicting Points per drive
(Team offense PPD X Opposing Team defense PPD) / League average PPD = Expected PPD against that opponent.
Browns: 1.67 X 1.31 / 2.04 = 1.07 PPD
Ravens: 2.5 X 1.58 / 2.04 = 1.94 PPD
Estimated game score based on NFL average drives in a game:
Browns: 1.07 X 11.4 = 12.2
Ravens: 1.94 X 11.4 = 22.1
Predicted spread = Ravens (-9.9)
Predicted over/under = 34.3
Estimated score based on the 16 to 17 drives predicted for this game:
16 drives: Browns 17.1 – Ravens 31 (-13.1), 48.1
17 drives: Browns 18.2 – Ravens 33 (-14.8), 51.2
And the spread is….
Let me start by saying that the amount of drives predicted here seems a bit absurd. The Browns lead the league in drives with 61 while the NFL average is 45 on the season. The Ravens have completed 50 drives, so the Browns have almost a full games worth of extra drives. The Browns are nearly the lowest plays per drive on offense, but also one of lowest plays per drive on defense. The doesn’t necessarily mean three and outs a plenty, it could also mean turning the ball over or scoring early in drives on big plays. Let us take a look at their game last week in Oakland which saw them play 17 drives in regulation and one drive in OT for 18 on the day.
3 and out
2 plays, pick-six
15 plays, FG
1 play, 63-yard TD
4 plays, 70 yards, TD
6 plays, punt
11 plays, 65 yards, FG
2 plays, 31 yards, TD
1 play, fumble lost
3 and out
3 and out
2 plays, fumble lost
3 and out
7 plays, 77 yards, TD
3 plays, 63 yards, TD
3 and out
3 plays, INT
3 and out (OT)
The Browns had the ball for an average of just 1:44 per drive. Some of that attributed to turnovers, some to big plays, once given a short field to score on. They turned it over four times and also had five TD drives. You had Nick Chubb running for a 63-yard score. Baker Mayfield had a 49- yard TD pass. On the short field a 24-yard pass interference call set them up on the two for an easy score. Mayfield had another big completion for 59 yards, with his receiver pushed out of bounds at the one. Nick Chubb busted off another long touchdown run, for 41 yards.
The Ravens present a much tougher challenge defensively than the Raiders do, with one foot out the door from Oakland and looking to the future by trading away arguably the best edge rusher in football, Khalil Mack. Nick Chubb won’t likely bust off one, much less two long runs today. I’d like to think with Jimmy Smith returning to the fold and Marlon Humphrey playing well, that they can hold the Browns anemic receiving group to minimal output. No big chunk plays. I have faith since Brandon Carr and Humphrey with assistance from the Ravens safeties held Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith Schuster in check (for the most part) last Sunday night. Brown scored a TD, but it was pretty good coverage by Humphrey. The Browns have no one close to the skill level of the Steelers receivers on their offense.
The Browns are going to have to grind to stay in this game. They’ll need to protect the football a lot better. The double-digit play drives that they only had two of last week, they will need some more of those to keep the Ravens offense off the field, and to give their own defense a rest. I think their best hope would be getting Duke Johnson going out of the backfield as a pass catching specialist. In doing so, maybe he makes a few guys miss in the open field and extends drives by moving the chains. The splash plays I don’t think are going to be there.
On the Ravens side, they have met all expectations. Blowing out Bills like a good team should. Tough road game in Cincy, were not going to go 16-0 anyway. Took care of business at home against Denver, and weren’t fazed going into Pittsburgh. This looks like a Ravens team from the era of going to the playoffs every year. Handling business with very little in surprises along the way. What did Ravens teams of that era do to young quarterbacks? They feasted. Baker Mayfield is ready for a rude awakening, “welcome to the NFL, kid” type of day. This isn’t the Big 12 anymore.
I think the Browns struggle to score, but a penalty or a self-inflicted wound in a road game by the Ravens maybe gives Cleveland one trip to the endzone. The Browns will be amped up to start but the Ravens will silence that quickly. As bad as I think the Browns will be, I think there is something to be said for their defensive efforts, notably keep Drew Brees and the Saints out of the end zone in the Super Dome in week 2. Maybe they aren’t that good, but not as bad as the defense that gave up blow after blow to the Raiders. The Ravens do enough on the road here, but not blowout fashion. I’ll say somewhere around the data suggestion but closer to a realistic drive number. Ravens 23 – Browns 10. Mayfield looking like a deer in headlights by the end. Ravens to cover, but taking the under, even though points have been out of control this season.
Quarterback: Joe Flacco continues to shine. Only Mitchell Trubisky and Jameis Winston/Ryan Fitzpatrick are on byes so you may not be streaming a QB to start. But I’ve said it for a couple weeks, Flacco needs to be rostered!! 4% of people are listening!! He was owned by 26% last week, now it’s 30%. Week 7 bye weeks are Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russ Wilson and Derek Carr. If you own one of them, grab that Flacco streamer now, before it costs you a waiver claim if you don’t plan ahead. Flacco has the Saints at home in week 7. Baker Mayfield is not a play yet especially against one of the top D’s in the league.
Running back: I’ve been saying it for a few weeks, play Alex Collins and Buck Allen at your own risk. Collins is one fumble a way from losing a starting job perhaps. He coughed it up on the one yard line last week. Allen and Collins both got 12 touches in the game. Both are getting their scores though when the Ravens get to the red zone. In four games, Buck Allen has four scores to Collins’ three. I wouldn’t start any running back today against the Ravens defense. But if you have to in deep league, Carlos Hyde is the bell cow. Nick Chubb should be rostered as the rookie showed his big play ability. Duke Johnson hasn’t put up the reception numbers PPR owners want to see. I think the Browns should target him a lot today, but will they is different. He’s a sit.
Wide receiver: The Browns have targeted just three WRs all year. Jarvis Landry is the clear leader with rookie Antonio Callaway second and Rashard Higgins behind him. The Ravens spread it around a little more with not much difference in the target share between Michel Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. Have to wonder in what could be a garbage time game in the fourth quarter if the WRs will get as many targets as they have. But if that is the case, they will be putting up the points early. John Brown looks like the best bet to put the ball in the endzone and pick up large chunks of yards, despite all three getting around the same amount of catches. I’m not liking the Browns wide receivers matchups at all.
Tight end: Rookie Hayden Hurst makes his debut with the Ravens, but it’ll be wait and see how much he gets used. One of Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams will probably be inactive. Mark Andrews has been a tough cat with the ball in his hands. But as a group aren’t putting up stating tight end numbers in fantasy roles. David Njoku is an auto-start on the Browns, but still has been a disappointment for fatasy owners who drafted him just after the elites like Rob Gonkowski and Travis Kelce. Njoku is 22nd in fantasy points for TEs.
Defenses: Got to love the Ravens matchup here. Why would you ever roster the Browns defense?
Kickers: Justin Tucker is the (expletive) man. Greg Joseph for the Browns is perfect on four kicks in two games since taking over for Zane Gonzalez. Joseph likely has limited chances though. Weather doesn’t look like a factor today.