Originally written September 27, 2012 on Just Cover Blog:
Tonight had such great potential, what with replacement refs and the Cleveland Browns on the field at the same time. But, no, the NFL and the real refs just had to settle their squabbles in time for tonight. After three weeks of chaotic deliberations of the rule book, the real refs will take the field. I feel a bit robbed. I was looking forward to a team being granted four timeouts in a half tonight. Or the Browns coach Pat Schurmer inexplicably challenging an obvious blown call that favored his team. With the Browns and replacement refs on the same field, the possibiliies were endless this evening. Now, its just another AFC North slugfest, one that will probably be dominated by the hometown, Super Bowl contender Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore, 2-1, is favored by -12 over the winless Browns. The Over/Under is set at 44. But, we are here to break down those player props, so lets get right to it. Joe Flacco, Over/Under 21.5 completions, 250.5 passing yards, 1.5 TD passes……Flacco’s completion total in the opener was 19.5, and he went over with 21. It was 21.5 on Sunday against the Pats, and he went over with 28. In between those starts he completed 22 passes against Philadelphia. He’s had games of 299 and 332 passing yards and has also had at least two TD passes twice. He’s  pulled that last feat in seven of his last nine games going back to last season. Through three games in 2012, Flacco has been an over machine on the prop board. And, dont look now, but Little Joey Flacco is the AFC’s top ranked passer. The worst of his three starts was clearly the road game against Phily. He needed 42 passes to move 232 yards, barely completed half his passes and threw his only pick of the season. His two home starts have been impressive. Against the Browns, he’s actually testing a pretty solid secondary. How the pass defense takes on Flacco, especially with CB Joe Hayden still sidelined on suspension, is an obvious key factor in tonight’s game. At home, they’ve been down right tough. Vick and Ryan Fitzpatrick had a lot of struggles. Both were held to below six yards an attempt. Vick threw for over 300 yards, but needed 56 attempts and barely completed half his passes. The Bengals Andy Dalton did a number on them in the Browns only game going 24/31, 308 yards and three scores. Browns pass D struggled in their only road start, Flacco has stuffed the stat sheets in both his home  games this year. I get the feeling if you take Flacco on those individual overs across the board, that you’ll get at least two out of three. Ray Rice, Over/Under 99.5 rushing yards, 4 catches, 39.5 receiving yards…..Usually you can find a rushing/receiving yards combo prop for backs like Rice. Maybe a book will release on of those throughout the day, but for now we can find props that separates those stats. Rice is the epitome of the straw the stirs the drink. Flacco has improved his game, but without arguably the best dual threat back in the NFL shouldering a ton of the offensive burden, this Raven offense would be stuck in 2008. He’s had 99 and 101 rushing yards in the last two games. He needs to go over the century mark rushing to go over this total. As great as he’s been, he’s only had 14 career 100-yard games. Half of those, however, have come since the beginning of last season. He has caught more than 4 balls in 12 of the Ravens last 20 games, with exactly four catches two other times. On Over 4 catches, you would have only lost 30 percent of the time during this stretch. He’s had at least 40 receiving yards in 13 of those games. Percentages there say skip the rushing prop, but take the over on catches and receiving yards. However his history against the Browns paints a different picture. In eight career games, he’s averaging 96.9 rushing yards a game, the highest against anyone that he’s had at least three games against. He hasnt been used much in the passing game against Cleveland, catching only 20 passes in those eight games for 138 yards and just 17.3 yards a game. Now that you’re confused, what are you going to do? Anquan Bolden, Over/Under 4 catches, 55.5 receiving…….Bolden hasnt caught more than four catches in a game yet this year, but he does have two games with exactly four. The only time he’s had more than 55.5 yards was the 63-yard effort in the opener against Cincy. He only had five games a year ago with more than 4.5 catches and seven with more than 55.5 yards. He also added a 6-catch, 101-yard day against the Pats in last year’s playoffs. Torrey Smith, Over/Under 3.5 catches, 57.5 receiving yards……What an amazing, inspiring effort out of Smith on Sunday night against New England. His brother had died in a motorcycle accident hours before, and Smith honored him with six catches, 127 yards and two scores. Bravo. In 14 regular season games a year ago, he went over tonight’s catch total six times, the yardage total just five times. Before the game against New England, he only had four catches combined the first two games with 51- and 57-yard games. Dennis Pitta, Over/Under 4 catches, 49.5 receiving yards……Do we continue to ride the Pitta Train? In three games this year, the Ravens tight end has had games of 5, 8 and 5 catches with at least 0 yards in each contest. A year ago in 18 combined regular and postseason games, he only had more than four catches four times and just once did he go for at least 50 yards. He’s certainly on a career-best streak. He needs to maintain that pace to hit these overs tonight. Jacoby Jones, Over/Under 2.5 catches; Ed Dickson, Over/Under 2 catches…..We’re seeing props for both Jones and Dickson. Jones has had a pair of 3-catch games already this season and the game he didnt was in Week Two against Phily, but the one catch he did have that game went for a 21-yard score. A year ago with the Texans, he had six games of at least three catches and four others with exactly two. He’s moving up in the Ravens pecking order at WR and perhaps the extra targets tossed Jones way might be worth a flier on this over.  As for Dickson, he’s off to a slow start this year due to the emergence of Pitta on the tight end depth chart in front of him. He only has five catches this year. After just 11 catches as a rookie in 2010, he did have at least three catches in half the Ravens games a year ago. But as long as Pitta remains hot, you have to wonder how many chances to former Oregon Duck will really get. Trent Richardson, Over/Under 57.5 yards, 3 catches…..You’re a rookie. Your first 50 carries havent gone spectacturaily well, avergaing just 3.5, a mark that falls below three if you take out your single longest run. You have a rookie QB. You dont have a lot of talent around you. And, now, you get to go up against the Baltimore Ravens. Ouch. As for the catches prop, Richardson has been targeted 15 times already and after just one catch in the opener has had four and six grabs in the last two games.  Moving on to Richardson’s main skill of running the football, he is only averaging 58.7 rushing yards per game.  He had a great game in Week 2 against the Bengals, rushing for 109 yards and adding another 36 receiving. He did next to nothing in Week One and Week Three, rushing for 37 and 29 yards, on 2.16 yards per carry, against Phily and Buffalo respectively. Hey, maybe he’s got one of those every other week pattern thing going. Good luck with that against Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed 70 rushing yards per game to their opponents leading rusher this year. Ben Jarvis Green Ellis had a good day on them, LeShean McCoy did alright, but needed a ton of carries just to break 80 yards, but the the Steven Ridley/Danny Whitehead tandem did zilch for the Pats on Sunday night, barely averging 2.0 ypc. All of those teams had dangerous options elsewhere on the field for the Ravens to tend to. The Browns dont. Richardson only had 12 carries a week ago, after 19 each in the first two games. I dont think he’ll break out against the Ravens, but if his usage resembles those first two games, he could reach this over on volume touches alone. But I’m still not buying that because I dont want to take any overs with the Browns against a good team. Or really any NFL team. Baltimore is both. Brandon Weeden, Over/Under 21.5 completions, 220.5 passing yards…..Why is Weeden’s completion total on the board the same as Flacco’s? That seems to scream for Under money. Weeden was awful in his rookie debut against the Eagles, with more than twice as many incompletions as completions, four picks and passer rating of 5.1. But he’s quietly put together good to ok efforts in the last two starts. He had had 26 and 27 completions against the Bengals and Bills, averaged 280 yards passing, completed nearly 65 percent of his passes and tossed three scores to just one pick. Tall task tonight not only against Baltimore, but having to do it without leading receiver Mohamed Massaquoi whose out tonight with an injured hamstring. I have no clue why Weeden doesnt have a TD passes or a TD+INTs thrown prop on the board. Greg Little, Over/Under 3 catches, Benjamin Watson Over/Under 2.5 catches, Josh Gordon, Over/Under 2 catches…..With Massaquoi out, somebody as to step up and reap some statistical benefits. Here are the trio’s numbers so far in 2012. Little has seven grabs on 13 targets, Watson has three catches on 10 targets and Gorden six catches on 13 targets. Little has cuaght more than 3 passes in 11 of 19 career games. But he’s also been a bit pouty about his role in the offense lately. He caught five passes in Week 2, but just a combined two in the other contests.  Watson has gone over 2.5 catches once this year and did so in seven of 13 games a season ago, with five other games of exactly two grabs. As the Gordon, the rookie out of Baylor, his game log on catches reads 2, 1, 3. I dont know if I can trust Little given his grumpiness. But Watson and Gordon should get at least three catches given their assumed increase in targets this evening due to Massaquoi’s injury.
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