Ravens-Browns meet in AFC North Showdown. Are the Lions the real deal? Have the Jags turned a corner or will Dallas roll over them on Sunday?
Baltimore Ravens (9-4) @ Cleveland Browns (5-8) (Browns -2.5)
This is the 2nd game in a Saturday triple header for week 15 – 9:30pm UK kick off time.
It’s a vital AFC North matchup and it’s going to be a physical, bruising encounter. The Ravens need this game to maintain top spot in the division (by virtue of holding the tie breaker over the Bengals). The Browns need it to stay in the hunt for a wild card spot in the playoffs.
Once again, Baltimore will be without star QB Lamar Jackson (knee) but the good news is backup, Tyler Huntley (concussion) has been practicing this week and looks to be in line to start. While for the Browns, WR Amari Cooper is expected to be good to go despite dealing with a hip issue.
Don’t expect this to be a shootout – it won’t be! These are two teams that enjoy running the ball. Both are in the top 5 rushing teams in the NFL this season. The difference, is the Ravens top rusher is Lamar Jackson (764 yards) and while Tyler Huntley is built in a similar mould, there is only one Lamar Jackson. Meanwhile, Nick Chubb is once again the top rusher in Cleveland (1153) and he leads the Browns with 12 touchdowns as well.
While Cleveland’s defense has been disappointing this season and ranks 27th in points allowed, it’s worth noting Baltimore have struggled to put points on the board recently. In fact, they’ve scored over 16 points just once in their last 4 outings! Throw Myles Garrett into the equation, who leads Cleveland with 12 sacks, against a backup QB and you have the formula for a home win.
Essentially this game comes down to who will run the ball better and which QB can make a play when his team needs it most. Without question I feel better about DeShaun Watson than Tyler Huntley. That may well be the difference that decides the outcome.
PICK: Cleveland Browns -2.5
Detroit Lions (6-7) @ New York Jets (7-6) (Jets +1.5)
Back in May when the schedule was released, if you’d said this week 15 matchup would have been one of the best on the slate, we’d probably have been laughed at. Yet, here we are, 4 weeks of the regular season remaining, and the Lions and Jets have it all to play for.
Right now, the Detroit Lions are one of the hottest teams in football. They’ve won 5 of their last 6 – including last weekend’s take down of the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings. Meanwhile the New York Jets find themselves on the outside, looking in at a wild card spot in the playoffs and come into this matchup having lost their last 2. This is a pivotal match in their season.
It’s the Lions’ number 4 ranked offense against the Jets number 3 ranked defense.
The good news for the Jets is that Mike White is expected to start at QB despite taking several huge shots to his ribs last weekend against Buffalo before heading to hospital as a precaution. Second year QB Zach Wilson has been promoted to backup over Joe Flacco.
For Detroit, it’s all good news. Rookie DE Aidan Hutchinson leads the team with 7 sacks. QB Jared Goff maybe playing the best football of his NFL career – in his last 5 games he’s thrown for 8 TDs and 0 interceptions. While the 1, 2 punch of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams in the backfield has become a potent combination. They’ve combined to score 20 TDs so far this season! It’s apparent why Detroit are narrow favourites for this game and yet there’s just something about the 2022 New York Jets that makes them impossible to rule out.
The problem with teams on the rise is that occasionally they slip on their way to the top. We saw it with the Jets just a couple of weeks ago when they lost in Minnesota, having upset Buffalo and thrashed Chicago in the space of 3 weeks leading up to that game. Now here come the Lions, fresh off of having their way with the Vikings. The whole world talking about this team and their potential. Standing in their way, the Robert Saleh coached New York Jets. A team which ranks 6th in scoring defense (18.7 ppg). A team which has the 5th most sacks in the NFL (39). A team which plays hard, physical football.
It’s another test for this burgeoning Detroit Lions team. The last time they played in a game against opponents with similar defensive traits, they lost in Dallas. That was 7 weeks ago. This is a different team but it’s still another check point on the road to success, they’ve yet to pass. Against a hungry and desperate Jets team, there’s every chance they don’t pass it this week.
PICK: New York Jets +1.5
Dallas Cowboys (10-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8) (Cowboys Over 26.5)
Have the Jacksonville Jaguars finally turned a corner? Well, after wins over Baltimore and Tennessee in the last 3 weeks, they hope so and to back those up with victory over Dallas would suggest they certainly have! To have a game winning touchdown drive against the Baltimore Ravens and then go into Tennessee and have their way with the Titans isn’t something Jags’ fans are used to seeing with this team. Second year QB Trevor Lawrence appears to be maturing before our eyes and at running back, Travis Etienne is a home run threat from anywhere on the field. That’s the good news. The bad news, which gives pause for thought, is those two big wins sandwiched an embarrassing 40-14 defeat in Detroit. Those two wins came against two teams averaging fewer than 19 points per game in the last month. Detroit’s offense is hot – they’re averaging 28.5 points per game over the season!
Well, that’s why it’s bad news for Jacksonville. Now they face a Dallas team who, since Dak Prescott returned from injury, are averaging 35.7 points per game over their last 7 games. That’s the number 1 ranked scoring offense in the NFL over that period. Combine that with a defense which ranks 3rd overall, 2nd against the pass, 3rd in scoring (17.6 ppg) and is 2nd in takeaways. This is a step up in class.
True, people will point to last weekend’s game in which Dallas were far from their best and it took an 11 play, 98 yard touchdown drive to overcome the lowly Houston Texans but the point is, they found a way – even when they were poor!
Jacksonville’s issue is they’ve shown flashes this season and then they take a step back. That’s why their record is 5-8 and yet, if they were to upset the Cowboys, they are still in the playoff hunt. More than that, they’d still be in the AFC South division title race!
It’s an intriguing matchup but Dallas have playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars have given up at least 20 points in each of their last 8 games and I see no reason why the Cowboys shouldn’t score at least 27 on Sunday.
PICK: Dallas Cowboys over 26.5 points