The fourth quarter begins with a bang. There are no more bye weeks. There is a complete 16-game schedule and a compelling finale.
The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, both popular NFL teams with West Virginia bettors, command the national stage on Monday Night Football. Each begins the final 25% of its season as a high-quality team.
Here are this week’s odds at the top WV sportsbooks:
Browns-Ravens Betting Outlook
This game is extremely bettable, with Baltimore opening as a slight favorite and Cleveland riding a hot hand.
The 9-3 Browns are one of the league’s top stories, winning four straight and surging toward their first playoff berth since 2002. What a turnaround from a combined 1-31 in 2016 and 2017.
The 7-5 Ravens have dropped a notch. After going 14-2 last season, they were expected to learn from a playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans and run toward a Super Bowl title. Instead, they’re fighting for a playoff spot.
There’s another underlying element to this game: The Ravens shellacked the Browns, 38-6, in the season opener. The NFL is a day-by-day, week-by-week progression. So, despite that setback, Cleveland has two more wins than Baltimore now. And this time, they have the home field for possible revenge.
The Browns are better than when they were ransacked by the Ravens and then the Steelers before hitting this hot streak. Can they take the next step?
Ravens come off win over Cowboys
The Ravens got back on track, as expected, with a good-enough 34-17 triumph over the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday night.
Baltimore rushed for nearly 300 yards, wore Dallas down and showed offensive potency.
Lamar Jackson will need to have the type of game he did against Dallas, notching 94 rushing yards and a touchdown, for Baltimore’s offense to thrive.
The drawback for Baltimore was the lack of pressure from its defense. That was enough to skip past Dallas, but the Cowboys nearly scored on a first-half Hail Mary and missed three field goals.
The Cowboys easily could have scored nearly 30 points against the Ravens. The Browns will be licking their chops if the Ravens can’t bring pressure.
Browns fresh from Titans victory
Cleveland enters the matchup off a coming-of-age victory against the Tennessee Titans.
After three narrow wins over the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars — by a total of 10 points — the Browns roared to a 38-7 halftime lead over the 8-3 Titans. The 41-35 final was cosmetic, since Cleveland had more than enough points in the bank before Tennessee rallied.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield had his best game of the season with four touchdowns and his first 300-yard game. Rashard Higgins may be the new go-to, stepping in for Odell Beckham Jr., (lost for the season) along with Jarvis Landry. And what about Donovan Peoples-Jones cutting loose for a 75-yard touchdown pass?
All of this complements Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the best backfield tandem in the NFL. Credit the Cleveland offensive line, too. Scoring props on Mayfield and the league’s best backfield duo of Chubb and Hunt will be popular with gamblers.
Steelers look to regroup against Bills
A monster run has ended, and another phase begins for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who find themselves in the rare position of underdog against the hosting Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Steelers are 11-1, having been surprised by the Washington Football Team on Monday, 23-17.
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Play WV that the Steelers had generated significant support for a prop for them to go 16-0.
“We put it up five weeks into season and at first it was a big number, in the area of 20-1,” he said. “Week by week, people kept playing it $20, $50 and $100 at a time. The odds went down, of course, (to about 4-1 before the Steelers lost) but a lot of people played it.”
Avello considers the Kansas City Chiefs the NFL’s top team, with the Green Bay Packers and perhaps the Bills having enough firepower to win a shootout with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs are heads and shoulders above the field to win the Super Bowl: +210 at DraftKings.
The Packers and Steelers are +800. The Bills are +1700.
And the New Orleans Saints, now holders of the longest NFL win streak this year, with nine in a row, are +500.
Saints face Eagles as favorites
New Orleans coach Sean Payton may be getting Drew Brees back when the Saints invade the Philadelphia Eagles as substantial favorites. The celebrated quarterback has missed three weeks with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.
But Brees hasn’t even been missed.
The Saints are 8-0 without him dating back to last year. And in the three games he has missed this year, New Orleans is 3-0 with three covers. The offense has been good enough and the defense has been stellar, allowing just 28 points.
The Saints have the longest winning streak in the NFL, at nine games.
On the other side of the ball, a new era may begin in Philadelphia. The Eagles named Jalen Hurts as their starter.
Hurts, the Eagles’ second-round draft pick, inspired their offense in the second half of their 30-16 loss against the Green Bay Packers. He is mobile, a stark contrast to the slow Carson Wentz, who has also been beleaguered by the lack of line support. Philly has been sacked at least three times in 10 consecutive games and the wheels have spun off of its season. The Eagles once led the division at 3-4-1, but have lost four straight.
Can Patriots repeat their triumph in LA?
The New England Patriots have a scheduling quirk, launching Week 14 Thursday night against the hosting Los Angeles Rams, in a familiar stadium.
Both the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers play in the new SoFi Stadium, where the Pats just thumped the Chargers 45-0 in the league’s largest margin of victory on Sunday.
New England has suddenly won 4 of 5, improved to 6-6 and would greatly enhance its playoff chances with a SoFi sweep.
New England quarterback Cam Newton remains an excellent “anytime scorer” consideration, which pays about even money. He’s also a threat to gain the first touchdown, which pays handsomely. Newton has 11 rushing touchdowns this season.
Around the NFL
Kansas City visits the Miami Dolphins, now tied with Pittsburgh for the AFC’s top record and first-round bye.
The Las Vegas Raiders, who gained a much-needed miracle victory over the still-winless New York Jets, host the Indianapolis Colts.
The NFC East-leading New York Giants and Washington Football Team try to keep their momentum. New York, winners of four straight including a road victory over the Seattle Seahawks, hosts the Arizona Cardinals. Washington, off the win in Pittsburgh, visits the San Francisco 49ers in Glendale, AZ. (The 49ers’ own stadium is closed by local COVID-19 restrictions.)