Baltimore v. Cleveland, Week 4
This week’s guest prognosticator is Jeff Zrebiec from The Athletic. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @JeffZrebiec
To me, this game is scarier for the Ravens than many of their fans seem to be making it. Maybe, it’s because I watched Sunday night as the Browns, even with essentially their entire starting secondary out, gave a very good Los Angeles Rams offense a ton of problems. Maybe, it’s because I just think the Cleveland offense is too talented to look this blah for long. Or maybe, it’s because with all the questions about head coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield, I fully expect the Browns to look like a desperate team.
Mayfield played well against the Ravens last year, and that was a far better Baltimore defense than what he’ll be facing Sunday. The Browns had Breshad Perriman last December, but no Odell Beckham Jr. With two bookend pass rushers and some interior talent as well, Cleveland also appears to be far better equipped defensively to deal with the challenges Lamar Jackson presents. Still, I can’t get myself to pick the Browns in this game. You don’t beat quality opponents on the road with undisciplined play. You can only depend so much on a patchwork secondary. And while I suspect Mayfield will make some big plays and have a decent day, I also think he’ll give the Ravens an opportunity to make plays by holding onto the ball a little bit and trying to fit it into tight windows.
As for specific predictions, the Ravens will get their first touchdown from Seth Roberts. With their injuries, the Browns’ defensive backs are giving outside wide receivers plenty of cushion and they’ll be determined to take away the deep ball to Marquise Brown, just like the Kansas City Chiefs were. Roberts will benefit.
Earl Thomas, who has gotten some criticism the past two weeks, will make a game-changing play at some point, whether it’s a big hit that forces the ball lose or an interception.
And finally, the game will come down to the final possession, just like it did last year when the two teams met in Week 17. There will be some anxious moments at M&T Bank Stadium, but in the end, I have the Ravens holding on…
PREDICTION: Ravens 27, Browns 24
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled, Baker Mayfield is a Train Wreck. The article went viral and I was destroyed by offended Cleveland fans in a very profane way. At the time, the Browns were tied for first place in the AFC North at (0-0). They come to Baltimore this week sporting a (1-2) record.
A loss would put the Browns two full games behind this week’s hosts. A convincing Ravens win would be like a foot to the throat of Cleveland. And those big personalities that dress in the orange and brown might get a little testy. And it could start the unraveling of a season.
That train wreck could very well come to fruition.
Will it happen? Maybe not this week…
• Mayfield has struggled this season behind a suspect offensive line that has given up 11 sacks in 3 games. Let’s make that 15 in four games as the Ravens take down Rex Ryan’s favorite quarterback four times for a total loss of 30 yards.
• The Browns will try to get the ball out quick so expect a steady diet of bubble screens, quick outs and slants. Marlon Humphrey will beat Jarvis Landry to the ball on one such slant for a pick. Look for a lot of press coverage from the Ravens corners.
• Mayfield will have some success downfield and he’ll eclipse the 300 yard mark against a philanthropic Ravens secondary between the 20’s. But the red zone D will be stingy and will hold the Browns to 1 for 4 inside the 20. One of the failed red zone attempts will finish with a missed 36-yard field goal by Austin Seibert.
• OBJ will turn in a 100+ yard performance including the only TD pass from Mayfield from over 40 yards out. Nick Chubb gets the other Cleveland TD on a 6-yard scamper.
• Lamar Jackson will throw his first pick of the season, a costly one in the red zone. But he will bounce back with 225 yards passing and a couple scores, plus a score on a run from 20+ yards out.
• The difference in this one will be the Ravens red zone offense will out-duel that of the Browns. Oh, and the Ravens will not go for 2-points at all during this game.
Final Score: Ravens 24, Browns 20
— The Browns have been underwhelming, but the Ravens should still be wary of of this game. OBJ and Jarvis Landry have the potential to exploit the weaknesses in the Ravens secondary. The Ravens are also going to need more of a pass rush to keep Baker Mayfield from getting comfortable in the pocket and slinging passes downfield.
— The Browns have a fierce pass rush led by Myles Garrett (six sacks). But if Jackson can scramble out of the pocket and get to the next level, he could have a big day on the ground. The over/under for Jackson running the ball is 12 (IMO). I’d take the over.
— This is a huge opportunity for the Ravens to open a two-game lead over the Browns. The Steelers (0-3) and Bengals (0-3) play Monday night in Heinz Field.
— I expect a close game between Cleveland and Baltimore that will be decided in the final minutes.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Browns 30
I’m a little worried about the match up against the Browns. Historically it seems like the Ravens find ways to lose games where there’s an opportunity to distance themselves in the standings.
On offense the Ravens need to continue taking what the defense gives them. The Browns defense features a strong front led by Myles Garrett who already has 6 sacks this season. The good news is the Ravens offensive line is coming off a solid outing against the Chiefs and I look for the chemistry to carry over into Week 4.
The Browns have three starting defensive backs listed as questionable. Greg Roman knows he needs to get Miles Boykin going and what better way than to do it against Greedy Williams who was on the wrong end of a Boykin highlight in the Citrus Bowl. Boykin delivers his best game as a pro with 5 snags for 65 yards. Mark Ingram continues his hot start running for over 100 yards and a score. Hollywood Brown’s speed proves to be too much for the Browns’ hamstrings and catches a long touchdown.
On defense the Ravens will have their hands full again with Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry. Luckily, the Browns starting offensive line hasn’t been great and it should allow the pass rushers to get to Baker Mayfield early and often. Marlon Humphrey will shadow Beckham and keep him contained. Landry has a big game with over 100 yards and a score. Nick Chubb also has a big game bailing Mayfield out as a receiver out of the backfield. Ultimately, the defense plays better than Week 3 and holds the Browns under 20 points.
The Ravens take advantage of the opportunity to extend the divisional lead.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Browns 16
The Cleveland Browns have yet to show that “super team” that everyone clamored about all offseason. The talent is most definitely there but as with most teams with a new nucleus, it is taking time to come together.
Baker Mayfield has struggled mightily to start the season, which shouldn’t really be a surprise to many. However, he is one game away from putting it together, and there’s no reason it can’t be this very week.
The Ravens are going to need to bring heat. This is a bad offensive line so there’s little excuse not to win one-on-one matchups. Mayfield also holds the ball a bit. He’s a more athletic Big Ben, in my opinion.
As for the Browns defense, their front seven is fairly stout. They’ve been solid against the run but there’s weaknesses on the back end. If Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are still dealing with their hamstring injuries, look for the Ravens to use Hollywood Brown to test them early and often.
I expect this to be a close, rough battle between the two AFC North foes, but in the end, the Ravens hold on.
Prediction: Ravens 27 Browns 24
This game worries me a little bit. Is this the game that the Browns struggling offense figures it out? Is this the game that the Ravens struggling defense figures it out? I think the Browns subpar offensive line may be the difference.
The Browns front seven will be Lamar’s toughest test so far this year. The difference will be Lamar’s legs and deep shots down the field.
- Myles Boykin finds his groove with a 50 yard plus touchdown.
- Hayden Hurst will be a steady target with Mark Andrews foot injury keeping him quiet. Five catches for 60 plus yards.
- Lamar will keep his streak alive throwing no interceptions. More importantly, his streak of no fumbles this year also continues.
- OBJ will score at least one touchdown
- Earl Thomas will be the beneficiary of the league’s leader in interceptions Baker Mayfield with one pick.
- Matt Judon gets a sack for his fourth consecutive game.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Browns 23
The Ravens got a great early season test last week and it showed there was still some work to be done to solidify their place amongst the NFL’s elite. This week doesn’t offer that same level of challenge but it does represent an opportunity to separate from their division foe.
They’ll take it seriously and come out firing early. Marquise Brown will rip off a big catch and run to set up Mark Ingram for a short TD run. After a Browns drive stalls, Lamar Jackson will connect with Miles Boykin on a back shoulder fade for another score.
The Ravens 4 man rush bounces back versus a struggling Cleveland offensive line and rack up 5 sacks. OBJ will make a couple plays, going over 100 yards and make it look more interesting but ultimately the Ravens will control this one.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Browns 17
This game does worry me more than it probably should. While the Browns are 1-2 on the year, if you take out the first game against the Titans, the defense has been playing pretty stout. They have a very good D-line and if both Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward are healthy, they have two very good young corners. There is also the OBJ and Jarvis Landry factor, which if you have been tuning in the past two weeks, this Ravens secondary has not exactly been playing up to par.
With all that being said, I still think the home crowded is the difference in this game for the Ravens who will pull out a tough, hard fought victory, where the game will not be decided until late in the 4th quarter.
- LJ has a solid day passing, throwing for 240 and 3 TD (Snead, Hollywood and Boykin). Though he will spend some time on his back as the Browns will consistently providing pressure sacking him 3 times and multiple QB hits
- The Ravens will keep feeding Ingram as the run will set up the pass. Though he will not find the end zone this week, he will finish the day with 85 rushing yards
- Two Justin Tucker field goals as well, including a 55 yarder as time expires in the first half
- The defense, mainly the secondary, will leave a lot to be desired. Baker throws for 300 yards, OBJ goes for over 100 yards and a 2 TDs and Landry will have 75 yards and a TD.
- The run defense will be up to the challenge as they hold Nick Chubb under 40 yards on the ground
- Earl Thomas will once again have his foot put right in his mouth and as one OBJ’s TDs will go for over 50 yards due to ‘mis-communication’.
- But in the end, the home crowded and an all-out blitz will force Baker to throw a late interception, which seals the Ravens victory just before the two-minute warning.
Final Score: Ravens 27 Browns 24
I think the Ravens show up pissed off and hungry, foot on the throttle and never letting off. Not only have they been stuck listening to all of the sports world giving the Browns undying praise for months on end, but since last Sunday, those voices grew louder suggesting the Ravens can only beat bad teams after the Chiefs took them down.
The Browns may have more stars, but the Ravens have the home cooking, the fire and passion, and a team that will give the Browns all they can handle come Sunday.
Offensively, the Ravens will make heavy use of the short passing game and motions to get Lamar Jackson into an early rhythm and keep the Browns defensive line off-balance and chasing all day long. Look for another big day from Hollywood Brown (7/112/1) and a Justice Hill emergence game in the passing attack (4 receptions for 64 yards). Come second half, we’ll see a ton of Mark Ingram pounding away as he finds pay dirt again for his 6th touchdown in 4 games a Raven (he had 6 in 12 games with the Saints last season).
On defense, the Browns will have some success in the pass game, but it won’t be Beckham, as Humphrey is on the shadow and shuts him down all day. Instead, Jarvis Landry will be Baker’s go-to and do some damage with 100+ and a score.
Fret not- because that’s the worst of it, Ravens fans. Expect Baker to be heavily pressured and sacked 4 times (Judon x2, Tony Jefferson, Ferguson’s first NFL sack) and throw a pair of picks (Hump, Peanut), while Nick Chubb will be held under 50 yards on the day.
The Ravens open the scoring gap in the second half early, and never look back.
Oh, and 2 more 2 point attempts makes the score wonky as hell.
Prediction: Baltimore 29, Cleveland 17
With Ravens fans coming back down from the high of the first two weeks of the season last week versus the Chiefs, a lot of Baltimore fans have been looking forward to beating down on the team receiving the most praise from the offseason.
This Browns team is not as bad as their record shows. They have had bad luck on the injury and play-calling fronts. I am not going to get into the Baker Mayfield insult train, because it is dumb. The guy is talented, and he is just going through a rough patch, as all great quarterbacks do.
The Ravens offense is going to be the most intriguing part of this game. Lamar did not play well last week; he made poor decisions (that just turned into a positive ending), missed some open receivers, and had poor pocket awareness against an average pass rush. So it is going to be interesting to see if we see him throw the ball another 40 times against an injured secondary, or if they are going to return to their original formula. I expect Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram to combine for 200 yards and three scores. Lamar will have his ups and downs yet still throw for 250 yards and 2 scores. I expect him to make a poor decision or two against a terrific Brown’s defensive line, but the offense will win the day.
On defense, this is a battle of the tackles. The Browns offense line isn’t their biggest weakness, but it is still a weakness. It is a true statement to how bad your tackle play is when Greg Robinson is your best player. Nick Chubb will struggle to gain yards on the day because of Michael Pierce’s continued excellent play, only managing 75 yards. I expect each one of the Ravens edge defenders to have a decent day, as Baker will be under stress throughout the afternoon. He will only be able to manage 250 Yards and 2 scores if they get to him quickly. My worry is that Kitchens figures out how to use play action to his advantage and attacks like KC did last week, but that feels like a big if.
Baltimore will bounce back, and Cleveland will have another week to go home and figure out how to use their superb talent to actually win.
Baltimore – 35 Cleveland – 20