The Johnny Manziel era could be coming to an end in Cleveland after the latest transgression by the 2014 first-round draft pick prompted the Browns to demote him to third string. With Manziel in quarterback limbo, Josh McCown will reclaim the starting job when Cleveland hosts the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night in a matchup of teams trying to avoid the AFC North cellar.
Manziel’s latest stumble occurred one week after he was named the team’s starter. A video of the second-year quarterback partying in Texas during the Browns’ bye week surfaced and Manziel reportedly lied to coach Mike Pettine over when the incident took place. “When you have a great opportunity in front of you, it is important that you demonstrate that you can handle the responsibility that comes with it,” Pettine said. Baltimore also will have a change under center after Joe Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s win over St. Louis.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: The Browns opened as 1-point home favorites and a have been bet all the way to -3.5. The total held steady at its opening number of 41.
Ravens – TE N. Boyle (probable Monday, foot), DE B. Urban (questionable Monday, bicep) G K. Osemele (doubtful Monday, knee), WR M. Brown (doubtful Monday, back), T E. Monroe (doubtful Monday, shoulder), QB J. Flacco (out for season, knee), RB J. Forsett (I-R, arm).
Browns – DB D. Whitner (probable Monday, concussion), WR B. Hartline (probable Monday, concussion), LB N. Orchard (questionable Monday, hamstring), QB J. McCown (questionable Monday, ribs), OL J. Bitonio (questionable Monday, ankle), CB J. Haden (doubtful Monday, concussion), WR A. Hawkins (out Monday, concussion), WR Y. Gabriel (out Monday, concussion), DL R. Starks (out Monday, knee).
WEATHER REPORT: It will be cloudy at gametime, with a 67 percent chance of rain as the night rolls on. Temperatures will be in the low 40’s and there will be a 10 mile per hour wind blowing across the field from east to west.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Ravens (+6.5) – Browns (+5) – home field (-3) = Browns -4.5
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Johnny Manziel got named as the starter for the rest of the year, then was videoed at a club violating the terms of his probation during the Browns bye week. But how bad are the injuries in Baltimore, now that Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett have been sidelined? 17 different Ravens are now on season ending injured reserve.” Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (3-7, 1-7-2 ATS, 5-5 O/U): Flacco has started every game since he was drafted by Baltimore in the first round in 2008, and his injury paves the way for backup Matt Schaub to make his first start since the 2013 regular-season finale with Houston. The Ravens suffered another key injury last week as running back Justin Forsett fractured his right forearm and was replaced by rookie Javorius Allen, who rushed for 67 yards and added five receptions for 48 yards. All of Baltimore’s games have been decided by eight points or fewer, with the last three settled by a combined eight points.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (2-8, 4-6 ATS, 7-3 O/U): Cleveland has lost five in a row since squeezing out a 33-30 overtime victory at Baltimore, a game in which McCown threw for a franchise-record 457 yards and became the first Browns quarterback with three straight 300-yard games. A rib injury to McCown opened the door for Manziel, who guided Cleveland to only 19 points in road losses at division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati prior to last week’s bye. McCown has two capable targets in receiver Travis Benjamin and tight end Gary Barnidge, but Cleveland’s ground game is 31st and the defense ranks 30th.
* Ravens are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven meetings in Cleveland.
* Road team is 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings.
* Under is 7-3-2 in the last 10 meetings in Cleveland.
* Under is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is siding with the Browns in this AFC North matchup, with 58 percent of wagers backing Cleveland. The public is slightly favoring the under, with 52 percent of the wagers on it.