The final week of the 2018 NFL Schedule as teams fight for a chance to make the playoffs while other teams get set for the offseason. On Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens will square off in a key AFC North matchup. A win for the Ravens on Sunday earns them the AFC North title while eliminating the Pittsburgh Steelers. A win for the Ravens all but eliminates the Ravens while opening up the AFC North for the Steelers.
For these two teams this will be their second meeting of the season after the Browns picked up a 12-9 win at home during their week 5 matchup. In that matchup, the Ravens defense struggled to slow down the Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield connected on 25of 43 passes for 342 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In that contest the Browns won the turnover battle 2-1 while winning the time of possession battle.
Now as they get set for the final regular season, the success of both the Browns and Ravens falls into the hands of their 2018 NFL Draft first round picks. Can Mayfield deliver a winning season to the Browns, their first since 2007 (10-6) or can Jackson continue his hot steak (5-1 since taking over as starter) while landing the Ravens in the playoffs?
Here are the keys to the game for both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens matchup on Sunday December 30th, 2018 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.
NFL Keys to the Game
Cleveland Browns – All on the Shoulders of Gregg Williams
Since taking over as head coach of the Browns, the team has been surging led by both solid play on the offensive side of the ball as well as on the defensive side of the football. On Sunday, the Browns will have a difficult task in slowing down rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and the run option offense that the Ravens have implemented since the Browns early win against them. Williams who has been known as a defensive mastermind will need to stop Jackson something that no team has been able to achieve since he took over.
Baltimore Ravens – Win the Turnover Battle
As the Ravens have turned to a new quarterback and a new style of offense their success has come with their ability to control the time of possession as well as winning the turnover battle. That said the Jackson has struggled to hold onto the football fumbling since taking over as quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals. In six games as starter, Jackson has fumbled 10 times. On Sunday, the Ravens will need to limit the turnovers while forcing the Browns offense into mistake while helping them to win the turnover battle. If the Ravens fail to win the turnover battle they will not win this contest.
NFL Betting Trends
Cleveland Browns - The Browns have been a solid option for sports handicappers for most of the season as the team has posted a 9-6 record against the spread. Despite the success on Sunday this test will come on the road where the Browns have covered the spread in just four of their first seven road contests. Over their last five road games against teams with a winning home record the Browns have posted a 3-1-1 record against the spread. The team has also responded covering the spread in five of their last six contests following a week where they failed to cover.
Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have been a fairly inconsistent team this year despite sitting with a 9-6 overall record leading to the covering the spread in just eight of their first 15 contests this season. Along with that once dominate home team has covered the spread in just three of their first seven home matchups this season at M&T Bank Stadium. The success doesn’t stop there as the Ravens have covered the spread in seven of their last ten contests in December. Despite the success the team has struggled against teams in the AFC North (1-5 against the spread) as well as teams that struggle on the road (1-6 against the spread).
Head 2 Head – The series has been one sided with the Ravens winning seven of their last ten overall matchups including three of their last four matchups at M&T Bank Stadium.
What’s next for these two teams?
Cleveland Browns – Entering the offseason with a pretty positive outlook after finishing with just one over the previous two seasons. A win would give them a winning season with an 8-7-1 record while a loss would give them a 7-8-1 record.
Baltimore Ravens – With a win a trip to hosting a first round playoff matchup as AFC North champions. A loss without a ton of help could have them entering what many expect to be a busy offseason of roster changes.