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2019 NFL Week 4: Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens -7

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Martland

September 29, 2019, 10:00 AM PST

Our power rankings framework sees the Ravens as about 8 points better than the Browns at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium Sunday. As such, we are comfortable getting behind the homeboys minus 7 or better.

Supporting the signal from our primary NFL handicapping system, we note that moderately-favored playoff-caliber home teams have fared well ATS facing non-playoff competition from their division. Per Pro Football Reference, teams in this spot are 176-133-5 ATS (57%) since 2003.

Further, while we noted last week the strong historical bias toward underdogs to cover in week 3, this tendency essentially totally evaporates by week 4. Since 2003, the ATS split between NFL favorites and underdogs is almost exactly 50%/50% in the fourth week of the season.

More fundamentally, except against the worst teams in the League, Cleveland has looked inept on offense this year, posting 13 points versus both the Titans and Rams. In fact, by DYAR, the Browns QB (Baker Mayfield) is the fourth worst qualified passer in the League.

And while the off-season additions of elite receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. and running back Kareem Hunt drew plenty of interest, research suggests such horse trading does not immediately materially improve performance.

Bottom line: Between the 2016 and 2018 NFL seasons, the Browns 18-30 ATS record is the absolute worst in the NFL. Further, Cleveland's 1-2 SU/ATS showing so far this year is consistent with that history of a bottom rung team. On the other hand, the Ravens have fairly consistently demonstrated improvement since going 5-11 SU in 2015. Baltimore's effort culminated in a 10-7 final SU record last season and a playoff berth for the first time since 2014. Our power rankings work and historical context seem to be aligned in indicating that the present is a solid spot to lay the chalk and back Baltimore at home.

Happy betting!

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