The Ravens kick off the 2020 season at home against the division-rival Cleveland Browns. RSR staff predict what we’ll see…
The Cleveland Browns have not won a season opener since 2004, and that was at the expense of the Kyle Boller-led Ravens who couldn’t even register a touchdown during their 20-3 defeat. Will it happen again this Sunday? Don’t count on it Browns trolls.
One thing you can count on: bad tackling. No NFL team has done much in the way of tackling without the benefit of a preseason. Teams during a COVID-19 season just don’t want to add the risk of self-inflicted injuries to the unprecedented pandemic-related threats. Adding to the Browns’ challenges during prep time for this game is a brand new coaching staff. The new system hasn’t yet been put to a real test.
Is first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski accomplished enough to turn the rudderless Freddie Kitchens’ Browns into a flawless diesel against a (14-2) team that returns most of its starters and its entire coaching staff?
No need to answer.
Here’s how things will unfold…
— The Ravens will take an early lead and eventually force the Browns to the air, effectively taking away Cleveland’s best player, Nick Chubb. And it will only serve to widen the margin.
— Lamar Jackson throws for three scores against a patchwork secondary and runs for another 100 yards and a score. The touchdown will come on a QB scramble from 40+ yards out.
— Mark Andrews grabs seven passes for 105 yards and a TD while Nick Boyle and Marquise Brown haul in the other two scoring tosses. Brown’s inaugural trip to pay dirt in 2020 will be from 45+ yards out.
— Despite the Browns’ attempts to squash the Ravens rushing attack, Lamar & Co. still push the yardage total to 200+ yards and nearly 500 yards in total offense.
— Wink Martindale’s strategy to rub out Chubb works as he’s held to under 55 yards. That said, the Browns will do a little stat padding during mop up time to narrow the margin of victory to 17.
Ravens 37 Browns 20
— Both teams are going to use a run-heavy offense, especially with no preseason games to perfect some of the timing with the passing attack. Nick Chubb is the best running back on the field, but the Ravens are deeper. Chubb will have a solid game but he’ll be challenged to break 100 yards against the Ravens’ revamped defensive line. The Ravens running attack will amass over 150 total yards with Lamar Jackson contributing to that number.
— Jackson will look for Hollywood Brown downfield several times in the game. Those two will be able to make several plays early before the Browns start making adjustments. Look for Brown to have a solid day.
— Baker Mayfield will do a better job managing the offense under new coach Kevin Stefanski. If he can avoid turnovers, the Browns could pull off the upset. However, Cleveland is starting rookie tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., which could be a huge mistake against Calais Campbell, who will be looking to make a big first impression in Baltimore.
— The Ravens have more continuity with their players and staff, which ultimately will be the difference in this game.
Ravens 27 Browns 23
The biggest wild card in this game will be the unknown that is the Kevin Stefanski-led Browns. Cleveland has all the tape they could need of this Ravens team, especially understanding that there’s been minimal turnover on the roster from 2019. But the Ravens? They have to piece together a 2019 Browns team under different coaching, based on what Stefanski did with the Vikings last season as Offensive Coordinator, any information they could gather from Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods’ time with the Broncos and 49ers in recent years, and maybe watching some Falcons tape to get a feel for new tight end Austin Hooper.
In essence, the Ravens have a guessing game ahead of them. Nevertheless, Baltimore showed the NFL in 2019 that their offensive game plan revolves heavily around “we are going to run it, you aren’t going to stop us, and just when you think you’ve figured us out? Lamar is airing it out.” I expect much more of this, especially with the addition of rookie J.K. Dobbins, but I also expect a curveball thrown in here with the Ravens installing a hurry-up offense to use intermittently throughout the game. Ideally, the Ravens trot out a long, clock-eating, run-heavy drive to wear out the opposing defense, followed by a high-tempo air assault. With the speed the Ravens have in Hollywood Brown, Devin Duvernay, a slimmed down Willie Snead, the aforementioned Dobbins, and the threat of Lamar Jackson blowing by defenders?
That’s a hard task for any defense.
Flipping the field, the Ravens once again have their hands full with the Chubb-Hunt backfield tandem, a second season of Odell Beckham Jr. paired with Jarvis Landry, and I think like 12 Tight Ends, led by Hooper. Needless to say, the Browns didn’t shy away from giving Mayfield a litany of weapons (and in turn, no more excuses). While the Browns are loaded in the receiving threat department, I think the Ravens secondary matches up well. I do expect a lot of attention from Mayfield to Hooper whenever he sees rookie Patrick Queen in coverage, but I expect the first-round rookie to fare well. In terms of the Ravens’ defensive front against a Browns unit that could be without starting Center JC Tretter, and starting a pair of rookies? Expect Calais Campbell to have a field day.
Game Prediction: The Ravens offense picks up where they left off, imposing their will on opposing defenses, with an opening drive touchdown pass from Jackson to Mark Andrews. On the ground, we’ll see a carry split favoring Mark Ingram, but with Dobbins doing the most damage as he breaks the century mark with 110 total yards and a receiving touchdown (Lamar likes to get his new guys into the end zone quickly). The Ravens will rumble for 150 yards on the ground, paired with 250 yards through the air to the tune of 27 points on the day. Touchdowns by Lamar (rushing), Andrews and Dobbins.
Defensively, Campbell and Matt Judon spend the afternoon pestering Mayfield and interrupting his rhythm, with a sack from each. While the Ravens add two more sacks on the day, the biggest takeaway will be the stingy secondary, allowing just 200 yards passing, with a pair of picks on the day (Marcus Peters, DeShon Elliott). Chubb will find pay dirt once – he’s too good not to – but overall the Browns will be held under 120 total rushing yards, as the Ravens stymie Stefanski’s debut as Head Coach.
Ravens 27 Browns 17
The Browns took great pride in being one of the only two teams to beat the Ravens last year. That won’t be happening this year. With a new coaching staff…yeah I know when isn’t there a new staff….and no preseason, it’s going to take them some time to figure things out. This game will resemble Week 1 against the Dolphins last year more than it will either Ravens-Browns matchup from 2019. Expect a whooping.
— Lamar Jackson throws three touchdown passes and runs for another one. He runs for just over 50 yards.
— Mark Andrews doesn’t waste any time, getting his first touchdown of many.
— Mark Ingram will be the main man in the backfield, rushing for over 80 yards and one touchdown.
— Hollywood Brown has over 100 yards and one touchdown.
— Miles Boykin will be the recipient of a red zone touchdown.
— DeShon Elliot records his first interception as a starter.
— Patrick Queen is as advertised with one pass defense leads the team in tackles. His speed will be apparent as he flies to the ball.
— Calais Campbell wrecks the line of scrimmage with several hurries and a couple QB hits but doesn’t record a sack. We will ask ourselves “why wasn’t he always a Raven?”
Ravens 38 Browns 10
The new and improved Baker Mayfield does not get the start he and the Dawg Pound were hoping for, as he throws two picks and no touchdowns. Humphrey and Peters get one pick each.
Lamar Jackson goes beast mode on the Cleveland defense, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 75 and another touchdown.
The Ravens win this game by three scores.
Both the Browns and Ravens have to be licking their chops for this game in Week 1, but it won’t live up to the hype.
— Cleveland believes they have the best running game in the NFL, and they’ll want to challenge the team that held that crown last year. Baltimore ends any thought of that, with additions Campbell and Wolfe leading a charge to force Mayfield to throw by holding the Browns under 75 yards on the ground.
— Lamar Jackson won’t run as much this year, but he will break off a 60+ yard TD scamper late in the game to seal the deal. Of course, that will go along with three TD passes, one each to Brown, Andrews, and Duvernay.
– Marcus Peters intercepts Baker Mayfield twice, while Patrick Queen forces a fumble on the first drive of the season. Judon also notches 1.5 sacks in a strong defensive showing.
Ravens 34 Browns 16