Before I dive into the Ravens’ upcoming matchup against the Browns, let me first recap the gut-wrenching loss to the Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Credit where credit is due, the Steelers have an incredible offense that will be able to put points up on almost any defense aside from Jacksonville (did I really just type that?). Every time the Ravens play the Steelers and Big Ben has the ball, I wet myself. The first line of defense is you have to be able to stop Le’Veon Bell because if he gets going, then it is over. You might as well just try to start digging as many holes on the field as you can and hope he falls in one. Even if you do indeed stop the run, then Antonio Brown breaks all of your corners’ legs with his routes and dances on your grave which is exactly what happened on Sunday. Without Jimmy Smith, Brown absolutely torched Brandon Carr all day long with simple 9 routes down the sideline and Big Ben is the best in the game with the deep ball. I’m sure most of us watched the game, so I will leave it at that and everyone knows the rest.
Coming out of that game, I had so many mixed emotions. On one hand, the offense that looked anemic through the first 12 weeks of the year put up 38 points in Pittsburgh against a good defense and have now scored 82 points in their last two games. On the other hand, our defense that has been rock solid all year gave an 11 point lead in the 4th quarter and a total of 39 points. This is the same exact way we lost to the Steelers last season and then built our defense the entire offseason to make sure it didn’t happen again. Welp, it did and I felt like the guy who was slowly run over by the steamroller in Austin Powers watching that last drive. NOOOOOOOOOOO!
Nevertheless, we put up a tough fight in a tough environment against a good team and hopefully we will take care of business so we have a chance to get payback in the playoffs.
I can only imagine how tough it must be for the players to get pumped up to play the Browns after such a physical battle on Sunday which ended in heartbreak. For that reason, this game scares the shit out of me. The Browns are 0-13 and extremely hungry for that first win which actually should have come on Sunday against the Packers, but the Browns are gonna Brown. They have been in a bunch of close games throughout the year, but seem to make one costly mistake at the end to lose the game. When the Ravens come to Cleveland though, they always come to play and make it tough. The last four games in Cleveland have all been one-score games that come down to the last play, which is exactly what the Browns are hoping for this time around. Letting bad teams hang around in the 4th quarter is a recipe for disaster, so the Ravens need to dominate the first half. Through studying the last two games as well as our first game with the Browns, here is how I think we need to attack the Browns on Sunday:
Offense: It is pivotal for the Ravens to get the ground game started early and often. The Browns have the sixth-best rush defense in the NFL so it won’t be easy because they are stout up front, which is exactly why we need to take it out to the perimeter. Against the Steelers, the stretch runs and sweeps worked to perfection and allowed Alex Collins to get the defense moving laterally, make one cut and get up the field. Collins is sneaky fast and physical which takes defenders by surprise, so we need to use that to our advantage. Once we establish the run, then the play action will naturally fall into place where Flacco operates efficiently. I expect a big game out of one of the Ravens’ receivers on Sunday against the 21st ranked passing defense in the league. Watch out for Woodhead to get gritty splitting out of the backfield too because he seemed to finally get going a bit against Pittsburgh.
Defense: Pressure, pressure, pressure! On Sunday night, the Ravens defense simply did not play fundamentally sound football which is uncharacteristic of them all year. I expect them to get back to the basics against the rookie Kizer and dial up pressure to make him beat us. Kizer has been playing much better than he was the first time we saw him in Baltimore so it will not be easy by any means, especially with Josh Gordon using his freak ability to roll a joint and catch the football all over the field. The Ravens hopefully learned their lesson against Antonio Brown and will double Gordon any chance they can, but that will also leave Corey Coleman with a one-on-one. Coleman may get a little overshadowed by Gordon, but he can ball and can hurt the Ravens all over the field if they aren’t careful. By keeping the pressure on Kizer, it will limit his time to read the field and let routes develop so he will likely take a bunch of sacks. He will quickly get tired of getting sacked and know he has to get the ball out quickly, leading him to fall for our disguised coverages and pick sixes.
Predictions: Alex Collins will have 110 yards and 2 touchdowns (I have him in fantasy so he better). Mike Wallace will have over 100 yards as well with a touchdown. Ben Watson gets into the action with a touchdown of his own. Flacco has over 250 yards with those two touchdowns. Marlon Humphrey and CJ Mosley both get interceptions, one of them in the second half with the Browns driving.
Ravens win 34-16.