RAVENS (-1 ½) @ BROWNS
Over/Under @ 42
The Baltimore Ravens have lost three of their last four games by a total of eight points: at Buffalo (23-20), vs. Green Bay (19-17) and at Pittsburgh (19-16). Any of those games could have ended with a win.
How might you feel about the (3-4) Ravens then?
This weekend’s trip to Cleveland will be the Ravens’ fourth road trip in their past five games before they return home for four of the next five. A win this week would set up a show down with the first place Cincinnati Bengals next week at M&T.
But first things first…
Today the Ravens face a physical Browns team and they’ll do so in the trenches without their starting left guard, Kelechi Osemele. Many eyes will be on KO’s replacement AQ Shipley who makes his first NFL start as a guard. The undersized Shipley and Gino Gradkowski could be pushed around by the much larger Cleveland defensive line. If the Ravens attack in the predictable fashion that has characterized them under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, it could be a long day for the O-Line sidekicks.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Joe Flacco has enjoyed success in Cleveland where he has a career 92.6 QB Rating in 5 starts in the Factory of Sadness. Flacco has limited his mistakes when on the road against the Browns, throwing just 1 interception along the shores of Lake Erie in 113 attempts.
The most Flacco has thrown in a single game in Cleveland is 29 times and that is due in large part to Ray Rice’s success against the Browns. While Flacco has had success in Cleveland, Rice has enjoyed some of his own, averaging 127 yards in 5 career starts. He’s also had big runs of 60 and 67 yards in Cleveland.
The running game hasn’t been what it once was and it’s unlikely that Rice alone will put up 127 yards again. That said, the Ravens may have learned something about themselves against the Steelers. Look for them to use the pass to set up the run.
The Ravens defense has allowed just 5 TDs in the past six games and they’ll look to continue their stingy ways against Jason Campbell who was protected well in Kansas City last week. Consequently Campbell limited his mistakes while completing 22 of 36 passes for 293 yards and 2 scores.
The last time the teams faced off in Baltimore the Ravens sacked Brandon Weeden 5 times. Elvis Dumervil has 10 sacks against the Browns in five-career games, his most vs. one team (he had 1 sack in Week 2’s win).
The Ravens will need to disrupt Campbell otherwise he could do some damage with homerun hitter Josh Gordon who is averaging 18.2 yards per catch.
Dating back to last season, the Ravens’ defense has produced at least 2 sacks in 15-straight games. (In those 15 contests, Baltimore has tallied 49 QB drops.) The 15-consecutive games mark the league’s longest current streak of its kind and the longest by a team since the Giants had 2-plus sacks in 16-straight contests spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Joe Haden is one of the finest young corners in the game and he’ll be matched up against Torrey Smith. Smith has done well against Haden dating back to last season, hauling in 17 catches for 228 yards and 2 scores against the Browns during their last three encounters.
The Browns are a confident bunch these days and they’ll be very physical today in Cleveland. Look for the Ravens to use that aggression against the Browns with play action, misdirection and an up-tempo attack that will loosen the Cleveland defense and pave the way to a more effective ground attack. Rice and Bernard Pierce should combine for over 125 yards today.
Defensively look for the Ravens to win first down by choking off the run and then mix things up against Jason Campbell, giving him several different looks across the front seven. Campbell will make mistakes if rattled.
The Ravens own an 11 game win streak against the Browns. Messrs. Flacco, Rice and John Harbaugh have not lost to the Brown in their careers. That streak remains in tact.
RAVENS 24, BROWNS 16
Last Game: 1-0 v. Winner, 1-0 v. Spread
Season Total: 3-4 v. Winner, 4-3 v. Spread