The Browns will play their final home game of the season on Sunday against the 12-2 Ravens, who open as 10-point favorites. The stakes are high for both teams as the Ravens can lock up the one seed with a win, while the Browns will need a win, (and a lot of help) to keep the hopes up of ending their 16-year playoff drought. Lamar Jackson is the clear favorite for MVP and the Ravens will be eager to avenge their earlier loss against the Browns.
This is the toughest challenge of the season for the Browns and it will require disciplined football and good play-calling, something the Browns haven’t had all season. There is a path to victory for the Browns, though it will be a difficult one.
On every path for the Browns to win this game, they will need to dominate the line of scrimmage. Both the Browns and the Ravens are in the top-10 in rushing yards per game in 2019 and if the Browns are able to force Lamar Jackson to throw the football, rather than allow the Ravens to run constantly, that will give them the best chance to win the game. On the offensive side of the football, it needs to be the Nick Chubb show, the NFL rushing leader, who had a career game with 165 yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens in Week 4. If the Browns are unable to get him and Kareem Hunt some space to run, it will be a long Sunday afternoon for the Browns.
The Ravens have the best rushing attack in the league and a big part of this is that the Ravens average over six yards a play, putting their offense in short-yardage situations. The Browns need to force negative plays, leading to throwing situations for the Ravens. The Ravens are the third-best team in the NFL on 3rd down percentage, but they have converted just 27.6% of their 3rd downs over the last three games, worse than all but Jacksonville, while the Browns have converted 52.6% of their third downs over the last three games, second-best in the NFL.
The Browns need to use the rushing game to set up the passing game. In the showdown in Week 4, Jarvis Landry had the best game of his time in Cleveland, catching eight passes for 167 yards. If the Browns are forced into passing situations, the Ravens defense will be able to contain Odell Beckham Jr. and Landry. If the Browns come out throwing and then, once down, switch to the run, they will lose, probably badly.
Also, it is important to keep an eye on Odell Beckham Jr. and Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey held Odell to just 20 yards in Week 4, before the two tumbled to the ground, with there being allegations of Humphrey choking Beckham, so the two will be carefully watched by the referees. On the same side of the ball for the Browns, tight end David Njoku was a healthy scratch after a confrontation with head coach Freddie Kitchens. Backup tight end Ricky Seals-Jones caught his 1st career touchdown against the Ravens and having Njoku get back to business is a key to victory.
The Browns will need a Christmas miracle to beat the Ravens, though miracles can come true. It will require an abundance of factors coming together, though if they can the Browns may be able to give the Dawg Pound a Christmas present.