The Quest For a Postseason Berth
It seems like such a long time ago when the Ravens and Browns met in the season opener, a game won convincingly by the hosts, 38-6. The Ravens were able to take a 24-6 halftime lead and force the Browns into being one-dimensional. And that same plan could go a long way tonight if the Ravens are to advance to (8-5) on the season.
Tonight’s game is a pivotal one for the Ravens. Over the past two weeks they’ve shown signs of shaping into form after their devastating COVID-19 breakout. Two weeks ago, they showed grit and determination and had a chance to upset the then undefeated Steelers despite their JV team being completely outmanned. Last week against the Cowboys, despite a few very errant throws, Lamar Jackson seemed to show his MVP form from 2019.
Can the Ravens bring it together tonight, on the road, against a hot Cleveland Browns team?
• In Week one v. Cleveland, Lamar had a passer rating of 152.1, throwing 3 TD passes and connecting on 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards. But then, he enjoyed perfect conditions. Tonight, the forecast calls for 34 degrees at kickoff with wind chills of 19, thanks to steady 20 mph winds. Mark Andrews’ return helps but expect a little rust from the Ravens TE. Lamar posts a stat line of 16 of 27 for 212, 1 TD and 1 INT for a passer rating of 81.1. Lamar will gain 45 yards on the ground but most of those come on the tail end of scrambles.
• Andrews posts pedestrian numbers with 5 catches for 40 yards; Marquise Brown posts a score and his numbers will be get a boost when the Ravens play catch up in the 4th quarter. He’ll finish with 6 catches for 90 yards.
• J.K. Dobbins starts fast with 55 first half yards but he adds just 20 in the second half. He’ll score the Ravens other touchdown.
• Baker Mayfield’s hot hand continues, going 22 of 30 for 270 yards and 2 scores.
Browns 27 Ravens 23
— The Ravens will see a much-improved Browns team they dominated 38-6 in the regular-season opener. Cleveland is riding a four-game winning streak and playing with confidence.
— Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had one of his best games of the season in the opener. He completed 20 of 25 pass attempts for 274 yards with three touchdowns (152.1 rating). He also ran for 45 yards on seven carries. Jackson will be hard-pressed to match that production with a sagging passing attack that is now ranked 32nd in the NFL. Still, if Jackson can avoid costly turnovers, Baltimore will be in a position to win this game.
— The Ravens will rotate four running backs — J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram and Justice Hill — with the hope of wearing down the Browns. Baltimore ran for 111 yards in the first meeting. The key will be improving on that performance in this game.
— Nick Chubb (799 yards) and Kareem Hunt (739 yards) will get plenty of opportunities on Monday night. Cleveland’s running attack is second behind the Ravens with 157.8 yards per game. The Browns managed 138 yards rushing in the first game against the Ravens. If they run for more yards than that, then Baltimore is in trouble.
— The Ravens need Calais Campbell to play after being ruled questionable with a calf injury. Overall, Baltimore is ranked 13th against the run, allowing 111.6 yards per game. Defensive end Derek Wolfe is having a solid season. Nose tackle Brandon Williams will need to have one of his best games.
— Baker Mayfield has thrown for 2,442 yards with 21 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He has shown dramatic improvement since that first game. Mayfield has multiple playmakers, including Jarvis Landry (54 receptions, 676 yards, two touchdowns) and Rashard Higgins (25 receptions, 400 yards, three touchdowns). Marlon Humprey and Marcus Peters cannot afford any PI penalties, and the Ravens need to stay organized in the secondary.
— This is a huge game for both teams. The Ravens are trying to make the playoffs for the third straight year. Cleveland is trying to end an 18-year playoff drought. But Baltimore finds a way.
Ravens 28 Browns 26
Can the Ravens paint Cleveland purple? After Pittsburgh again looked awful and got smacked around in Buffalo, Cleveland is just 1.5 back and with an AFC North title still very possible, will be plenty motivated. The Ravens are playing for their playoff lives, but also got some good news yesterday with Las Vegas and Miami both falling. Their margin for error remains razor thin though.
I think the pressure will be evident on both squads early on, and things will be tight through a quarter – two punts and nary a score for either team.
The teams get their feet under them after that, but this is still a bit of a grind-it-out, defensive battle, with both teams looking to control the clock and time of possession with their strong running games.
The Ravens & Browns post similar rushing totals from their RBs: ~130 yards each, with Hunt & Dobbins finding paydirt.
The difference will be the quarterbacks. Lamar continues to look more like his MVP self, and adds 50 rushing yards of his own, a touchdown to Mark Andrews, and protects the ball. Baker, on the other hand, turns it over twice in the second half.
Ravens 24 Browns 20
Week 14 @Ravens Prediction⬇️
This is a "must win" for Baltimore.
— Matt Wise (@TheMattWise) December 14, 2020
This game will be exactly as the line suggests, a toss-up. You could make compelling arguments as to why both teams could come away with a ‘W.’ The Ravens, however, need this game more than the Browns do. Cleveland sits in a good spot when it comes to the AFC playoff picture at 9-3. Barring a huge collapse, they should be playing in January. Baltimore isn’t as fortunate. They can only afford, at MOST, one more loss and don’t want to go into their last three games having to win out.
The Ravens are getting healthier and Lamar Jackson looked like he was getting closer to the MVP Jackson we saw last season in the Ravens’ win against the Cowboys. As many have mentioned, he looked like he was having fun again. I think that will be bad news for Cleveland. The Ravens will continue to dominate on the ground and grind out a win in a low-scoring game in Cleveland.
The Browns are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games. Baltimore is 8-2 straight up and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games against the Browns.
My Pick: Baltimore -1