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Monday Night Football Preview – Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (11/30)

Johnny Manziel might have been starting Monday night’s game for the Cleveland Browns against the Baltimore Ravens, if he had just been able to keep himself out of nightclubs. At least that is the narrative we are getting from the Browns’ side as their latest plan to allow Manziel to be the starter for the rest of the season has been shelved, at least for the time being.

Johnny Manziel might have been starting Monday night’s game for the Cleveland Browns against the Baltimore Ravens, if he had just been able to keep himself out of nightclubs. At least that is the narrative we are getting from the Browns’ side as their latest plan to allow Manziel to be the starter for the rest of the season has been shelved, at least for the time being. As he is being “punished,” it is back to Josh McCown as the starting quarterback as this team hosts the game at First Energy Stadium at 8:30 PM ET. ESPN will televise, of course, and even after the opening kickoff, BetAnySports customers are able to continue the wagering through the considerable facilities of Live Betting Extra.

Apparently Manziel was partying at a club in Austin, having traveled during the bye week. Maybe he wasn’t taking his grand opportunity as seriously as coach Mike Pettine wanted him to. Maybe it’s because he was brandishing as bottle of champagne, several months after his rehab stint. Whatever the case, the Browns feel fairly confident with McCown behind center, if for no other reason than that McCown threw for 457 yards in the previous meeting between these teams, which resulted in a 33-30 overtime victory for Cleveland.

In that game Joe Flacco was the starting quarterback for the Ravens. And up until tonight, he has started 122 straight games, going back to his rookie season. But such is not the case tonight.

In the reduced juice Monday night football betting odds posted at BetAnySports, the Browns are the favorites:

Cleveland Browns -4.5

Baltimore Ravens  +4.5

Over 41 points  -105

Under 41 points -105

Flacco tore his ACL toward the end of last Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams. Indications are that he was out there for one more play after the injury, as the Ravens positioned themselves for the winning field goal. When you look at this team, even though they are 3-7 and completely banged-up, they have been battling; in fact, they have won two of the last three, and in the game they lost, to Jacksonville, the NFL admitted that it blew a call on the last play that allowed the Jags to move up and kick a field goal.

Now take a look at what the Browns have done of late. In their last four games, McCown and Manziel have each had two starts. And as BetAnySports patrons may well know, they have lost those games by margins of 18, 14, 21 and 21 points. This is a decided difference from the Cleveland team that was engaged in a few thrillers early in the campaign. But right now there is the air of more change in the atmosphere. Has Pettine handled the Manziel situation right? Some critics would say that this team should have gone to Johnny Football sooner. In the end, the poor record (2-8, both straight-up and against the pointspread) may get him fired anyway.

Veteran Matt Schaub must step in for Flacco. If you recall, he was basically run out of Houston after throwing a few pick-sixes in the disastrous 2-14 season a couple of years ago. But at least he is not a raw rookie thrust into a pressure situation. Rookie Buck Allen (of USC) will assume the running back duties, as Justin Forsett broke his arm last week. We already know that Steve Smith’s season (and career) are over. So yes, this would look like a skeleton crew in Baltimore. Schaub will operate against a secondary that won’t include cornerback Joe Haden, who is going to miss this game after failing in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

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