ESPN senior writer Mike Sando asks NFL insiders to pick winners in select games each week. Three evaluators joined the panel for Week 17. This weekend's games: Bears-Vikings, Eagles-Redskins, Chargers-Broncos, Browns-Ravens and Colts-Titans.
Sunday: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS | Point spread: BAL by 6.5 | Insiders pick: BAL (3/3)
Rookie quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield face challenging defenses with a playoff spot on the line for Baltimore. It's a compelling matchup, even though the upstart Browns have been eliminated from the postseason.
"This might be the game of the week," one of the insiders said. "I'm interested in how Gregg Williams schemes Lamar Jackson. Baltimore takes little shots, three and four yards at a time, and then in the second half those little shots feel like big ones. Jackson's feet are such a weapon, but every game, there are one or two chances to pick him off. Can Cleveland capitalize on those?"
The Browns rank second in turnovers collected with 30. The Ravens have collected only 14, which ranks 30th. However, Baltimore is fourth in ESPN's defensive efficiency metric (Cleveland is 11th by that measure).
"I think Baltimore's defense will be too much for Baker," another insider said, noting that Mayfield struggled for stretches against Houston. "If Cleveland can somehow get ahead and make Baltimore throw, that could be trouble for the Ravens, but if Baltimore can dictate the game and play physical football, it is just hard to beat them."
The Ravens have held nine opponents beneath 20 points this season, tied with Chicago and New Orleans (surprise!) for most in the league. NFL teams have won those games 86 percent of the time this season. Baltimore is 8-1 in those games, with the only defeat coming against the Browns, 12-9 in Week 5. Joe Flacco was the Ravens' starting quarterback that day. He attempted 56 passes, 31 more than Jackson has ever attempted in a game. The rookie has 134 attempts in six starts.