The high point of the Cleveland Browns’ disappointing season was their 40-25 victory over the Ravens in Week 4.
Since then, the preseason AFC North favorites have dealt with almost nonstop controversies, culminating this past week with coach Freddie Kitchens having to clarify that he does, in fact, care about his job, and running back Kareem Hunt accusing teammates of taking plays off.
Just another week in Berea, Ohio.
Now, the Browns can at least salvage a moral victory by preventing the Ravens from clinching the top seed in the AFC playoffs at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Maybe the Ravens will get a feisty Cleveland team on Sunday, playing for a last ounce of pride.
The Browns can cling to that glimmer of hope.
Second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has gone 2-1 against the Ravens and 11-14 against everyone else. Mayfield has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of those games against Baltimore, with five touchdowns and five interceptions for an 86.1 quarterback rating.
Despite his struggles this season, the Ravens are not taking him lightly. Mayfield threw for 342 yards with a touchdown and interception in Cleveland’s victory earlier this season.
“Baker Mayfield is very talented, can make all the throws, is very elusive in the pocket,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He can run the RPO system really well, also. They have excellent receivers. They have some really good pass-catching tight ends and a big, strong offensive line. So, that’s a talented group.”
Perhaps more troublesome for the Ravens will be containing running back Nick Chubb, who leads the NFL with 1,408 yards. He gashed the Ravens for 165 yards with three touchdowns in that 40-25 victory. Hunt was still serving a suspension at the time, but he will be in the lineup to further boost that ground attack.
“They’re both in the backfield together quite a bit,” Harbaugh said. “They block for one another. They run routes and flare passes and screen passes out of the backfield quite a bit. They’ll line up at wide receiver. They’ll run perimeter screens with them. They’ll run them up-field on routes, both of them.
“Nick is a big, strong back. He’s exceptionally fast. I mean he’s a 4.3 guy, right? He’s very quick-footed. He’s 227-230 pounds, one of my favorite backs coming out in the draft that year. I think he was my top back. Just saying, I really liked him. He’s a legit player for sure, and so is Hunt. They both are.”
The Ravens enter this matchup has 10-point favorites. The teams have trended in opposite directions since that warm September day in Baltimore.
Nonetheless, you’re not going to hear the Ravens talking about any type of revenge factor this week. The coaches and players are focused on the implications of the game in front of them, and that last matchup will only be discussed in the context of the film room.
“You look at it from a football standpoint – just what they did, what we did or didn’t do – and try to apply it to this game, what we might get or might not get schematically and how we match up, things like that,” Harbaugh said. “You look at it that way, practically.”
Still, deep down, there would have to be some sense of glee of clinching home-field advantage in Cleveland. The Browns were the most-hyped team coming into the season and have completely failed to meet expectations.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have quietly gone about their business and are the most-hyped team entering the postseason.
The situation worked out well for the defending AFC North champions.
Now, the Ravens need to take care of business in Cleveland and leave even more wreckage for the Browns to clean up this offseason.