The 12-2 Baltimore Ravens head to Cleveland this Sunday to take on the 6-8 Browns with revenge on their minds..
The Ravens will be looking to avenge their most recent defeat, a 40-25 setback to the then upstart Browns back in September. Since that day the Ravens have rolled through the competition for 10 straight wins and are looking to clinch the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Browns, on the other hand, have floundered to a record of 4-6 leaving them clinging to a 1% chance of making the postseason.
The Ravens scored a 42-21 victory over the New York Jets last Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium to clinch the AFC North. Lamar Jackson continued to run away with the MVP race going 15-23 for 212 yards and five passing touchdowns. He added eight carries for 86 yards on the ground and broke Michael Vick’s single season record for rushing yards by a QB in a season. Jackson commented:
He also tied the Ravens single season passing TD record and joked:
The Ravens will be taking on a Browns team looking to play spoiler after a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals left them needing a miracle to make the playoffs. The team is a dumpster fire right now with several Browns players allegedly asking the Cardinals sideline to come get them out of Cleveland.
Here’s what to watch for as the Ravens look to clinch home field throughout the AFC playoffs.
1) Corralling Nick Chubb
The last time the Ravens saw this Browns team Nick Chubb ran all over the Baltimore defense, racking up 165 yards and three touchdowns on just 20 carries. The exclamation point of the day came after the Ravens cut the Browns lead to 24-18 early in the fourth quarter. One play and 88 yards later Chubb was back in the endzone extending the lead to 30-18.
Ravens star inside tackle Brandon Williams missed that contest with an injury and after the game had an “altercation” with Earl Thomas who questioned why Williams wasn’t on the field. Many speculated that Williams was dogging it and could have done more to be out there that day. Since then, Williams has turned in the best football of his life and will be looking to help the Ravens rushing defense avenge arguably their worst performance of the year.
Chubb has not slowed down since that week 4 performance. He leads the NFL with 1,408 yards rushing and has added eight touchdowns. Chubb is tied with Jackson for the league lead in 20+ yard rushing plays with 11 and was recently rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection.
This is a chance for the Ravens to make a statement against one of the game’s best backs but if Chubb is able to gain the upper hand it could open things up for Baker Mayfield and a talented passing attack.
2) Can the Ravens get the best of Mayfield?
Mayfield has been an unmitigated disaster this season. He, alongside his hand picked coach Freddie Kitchens, have played a huge role in the crash and burn of what appeared to be a promising Browns season at the start. Mayfield has 3,356 yards with 17 touchdowns and 17 picks so far in the Browns disappointing 6-8 campaign.
With the way the Ravens defense has been playing, it’d be easy to predict that they would be able to shut down Mayfield and his dynamic duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. But consider this. Mayfield is 2-1 against the Ravens in his NFL career and has averaged over 353 yards per game with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Landry had a big day in the first meeting, tallying eight catches for 167 yards with Jimmy Smith missing the contest and Marcus Peters having not yet arrived on the scene in Baltimore. At this time, Beckham Jr. is reportedly asking out of Cleveland and Landry was one of the players cited as asking the Cardinals to come get him out of Cleveland as well.
One thing is for certain with Mayfield, he is going to give you an opportunity to take the ball away. In his 28 career starts he has just nine interception free games and has eight games with 2+ interceptions on his ledger.
Look for the Ravens to force 2+ picks from the turnover prone second year QB.
3) The runaway train
The Ravens continue to defy the odds on the ground, averaging over 200+ yards per game to lead the NFL. The Browns defense currently sits at 27th against the run so far this season, yielding 135.2 yards per game. They are coming off of a performance that saw them give up 226 yards on the ground to the Arizona Cardinals, including 137 yards and four touchdowns from Kenyan Drake.
Drake ranks 27th in the league in rushing this season. Jackson sits at eighth in the NFL and the world’s greatest hype man Mark Ingram sits at 11th with 963 yards on the season. The Ravens also have Gus Edwards who is fifth in the NFL averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Baltimore’s 19 rushing touchdowns are tied with Carolina for the NFL lead and the Browns have given up 15 rushing touchdowns on the 2019 NFL season.
The Ravens winning formula should remain the same on Sunday. Come out on the opening drive and punch the Browns in the mouth. Snatch their will to compete early and continue to run often throughout game.
The Browns do have the league’s 6th best passing defense so it could be tough sledding for the passing game despite last week’s explosion through the air that saw Miles Boykin, Mark Andrews, Seth Roberts, Marquise Brown, and Ingram catch touchdowns.
If the Ravens are able to impose their will early, as they have been able to do all season, the Browns will quit and the Ravens will run away with this one!
Jake McDonnell: Ravens 28 Browns 23
Nolan McGraw: Ravens 35 Browns 16
Ian Schultz: Ravens 33 Browns 16
The Ravens are far too motivated with far too much to play for to slip up against the woeful Browns. While Cleveland will be treating this as their Super Bowl and will be chomping at the bit to sweep the NFL leading Ravens, the running game of Jackson, Ingram and Edwards will quickly take the energy out of the Browns early and the Ravens will be able to clinch the #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs for the first time in team history.
Image Credit: Washington Post