Bring on Baltimore – The Ravens Come to Town

It would seem that, following a ludicrously embarrassing 38-24 defeat in Arizona last week, the Browns had other things in mind. Perhaps that was Week 17, and everyone was thinking about their vacation plans next week while they got slaughtered by a three-win team.

Nope, not quite. Quite the opposite, actually. In come the Baltimore Ravens, with the NFL’s best record. At 12-2, the Ravens are riding a whopping ten-game win streak which has seen them overcome behemoths such as the Seahawks, 49ers and even the Patriots.

The Browns were actually the last team to even beat Baltimore, taking them down in a dominant fashion in Baltimore, 40-25, in Week 4. So, with that, let’s see how things stack up as the Browns shoot for a sweep:

The Visiting Ravens:

The Ravens are coming off a 42-21 dismantling of the New York Jets last Thursday. It was business as usual, with Lamar Jackson casually tossing five TDs as the “running back who can throw” talks have been further silenced. It has been a standout year for the recently announced Pro Bowl QB, as he leads the league with both 33 TDs and an overall QBR of 81.7. His TD:INT ratio of 33:6, or exactly 5.5 TDs for every interception he throws, has also been stellar. However, the trump card that has aided significantly in opening up passing lanes for Jackson has no doubt been his stellar athleticism and ability to move the football on the ground. In that area, Jackson has notched an incredible with 1,103 yards on 159 total carries. Given Baltimore’s lack of receiving talent, it is abundantly obvious that Jackson is carrying the team’s offense from unspectacular to NFL-best levels; this is why he is a contender, arguably the favorite, for MVP.

Believe it or not, but here we have Week 16 action and the Ravens have absolutely nobody who has started a single game for them this season on their injury report. Barring any unfortunate setbacks in that regard, the Ravens will likely head into Week 17 in a position to rest their starters, bringing a healthy team into their AFC Divisional game. Of course, the thought that Baltimore would rest anybody in a game against the Steelers of all teams remains to be seen, but the overall dynamic is this; the Ravens are really good and really healthy.

The Hometown Browns:

At 6-8, the Browns season, while not technically mathematically over, is realistically done. If you were to wake up from a 15 week-long coma, saw the Browns record, and assumed they might still have a shot at the playoffs when you see they blew out Baltimore earlier this season, it would take about 30 seconds of watching highlights from last week’s game in Arizona to quickly bring you back to reality. If you’ve managed to avoid watching this team off of said coma, know that I happen to envy you.

The Browns, no thanks to their horrible medical/training staff, have accumulated a lengthy list of key injuries every week of the season, and this one is no exception. For the tenth week in a row, Odell Beckham Jr. (Groin) and Jarvis Landry (Hip) have been limited in practice all week, though they’ll certainly play this week. Alarmingly, Pro Bowl snub of the year in center JC Tretter (Back) is likely to sit this week out, as he has failed to practice all week. Joining him in that distinction is defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (Back) who has also watched the team practice all week. Cornerback Denzel Ward (Ankle) has been limited in practice this week. Finally, to the surprise of not a single soul, defensive end Olivier Vernon (Knee) has been limited in practice week and his status for this weekend is… who are we kidding, we know he isn’t going to play this weekend.

In Week 4, the Browns destroyed Baltimore in Baltimore. At 2-2 and leading the AFC North, it seemed that the Browns’ season had finally taken a large turn for the better and that the team would proceed to pose a serious threat to win the division. For the Ravens, they had largely looked exposed after playing a very soft opening three weeks of a schedule. Lamar Jackson, the “runningback who can kind of throw” looked to be brought back to Earth and the Ravens seemed to be a fringe playoff threat at best. Then, both teams immediately did about the most dramatic 180 degree turns possible and here we are.

Given that the Browns haven’t swept the Ravens since 2007, this will be an opportunity for the team to end their season with some momentum. That said, it’s worth questioning if that’s even a good thing at this point. Given the recent announcement of how Cleveland would retain head coach Freddie Kitchens barring a disastrous end to the season, given how obviously futile Kitchens is, would it even be ideal to end the season with momentum and prompt the team to retain him?

Either way, the Browns will attempt to keep their chances at not having a losing season alive, with what would indeed be an exciting win against the Ravens, this weekend.

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