As much as I would love to look away on Sunday, I’m a Browns fan. I have to watch. Last week the Browns lost to the Patriots 38-15 and the Ravens lost to the Giants 24-20. This Sunday Cleveland travels to Baltimore for a 1:00 p.m. (EST) game at M&T Bank Stadium for an important divisional game. What am I watching for this week?
Browns Offense Vs. Ravens Defense. Baltimore’s defense is ranked 28th in the league allowing 372 yards per game, 268 yards passing, 104 yards rushing and 23.5 points a game. They are led in tackles by safety Chuck Clark with 40, in interceptions by safety Marcus Williams with three and in sacks by linebacker Patrick Queen and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike with 2.5 each. The Ravens have four games where they’ve had three or more sacks. They are led in quarterback pressures by rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh with 18. Baltimore is top-10 in takeaways with 12 and are a plus-four in turnover ratio. The Ravens play three safeties about 30% of the time and play nickel or dime about 80% of the time. They’ve allowed no opening drive points so far this year. Their problem is their fourth-quarter defense (sound familiar). They’ve allowed over 500 yards and six touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Browns will need to be creative in running the ball, Nick Chubb has struggled the last two games against the Ravens, with 25 carries for 75 yards, zero touchdowns and an average of 3.0 yards a carry. Patrick Queen leads the team in missed tackles with eight, which is the worst in the NFL. If there’s a player in the secondary to target it would be rookie safety Kyle Hamilton. He has allowed an 88% completion rate and two touchdowns. The Ravens defense will try and cover both wide receivers Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, so rookies David Bell and Michael Woods will need to step up, as will all the Browns tight ends. A match of any of the tight ends against Hamilton would have positive results.
Browns Defense Vs. Ravens Offense. Baltimore’s offense is ranked ninth in the league averaging 361 yards per game, 206 yards passing, 156 yards rushing and 26.3 points a game. The Ravens offense goes through quarterback Lamar Jackson. He leads the team in both passing (1277 yards) and rushing (451 yards). His favorite receiving target is tight end Mark Edwards with 39 receptions for 455 yards and five touchdowns. Edwards 39 receptions are double the receptions of the next two receivers. The Browns have to find a way to shut down Edwards, maybe new Browns linebacker Deion Jones can help, if he plays. The problem with the Ravens offense is the fourth quarter (sound familiar). They’ve had 15 fourth-quarter drives and given the ball up on six of them, five on turnovers and once on downs. Bad penalties have been a factor, but so has starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s QB passing rating by quarter; 1st 97.8, 2nd 114.8, 3rd 100.6, 4th 56.3. The Browns defense needs to find a way to contain Jackson and take away Edwards. If the Browns offense can get a lead in the fourth quarter, the defense will need to force the Ravens to continue their fourth-quarter woes.
The Browns offense will have to be ball-controlled. The offense line needs to allow quarterback Jacoby Brissett time to find the open receiver and Brissett needs to find the open receiver. Find a way to get Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the open field. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few designed plays for quarterback Josh Dobbs. On defense, play Jackson like they did last year and don’t let an unknown receiver beat them deep.
Most importantly, head coach Kevin Stefanski needs to call plays designed for a career backup quarterback, not a franchise quarterback. I hope the team shows up in Baltimore angry. Enjoy the game.