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Browns vs. Ravens – Week 4

The Cleveland Browns head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in the NFL Network’s nationally televised Thursday night game of the week.

Should be a lovely time.

How will the Browns respond after a team-wide poor showing on Sunday against Buffalo? In some ways, having a short week could be a blessing for the Browns as they get a chance to wash the losing taste out of their months quickly.

Plus, facing a division foe should help with the game planning. As the teams face each other twice a year, there really shouldn’t be anything the Ravens can throw at the Browns that they are not expecting.

Of course, being the Browns, none of that may matter.

For the full preview, head over to The Cleveland Fan.

Browns vs. Ravens – Week 13

The Cleveland Browns are at home on Sunday against Baltimore for their penultimate home game in the 2011 NFL season.

The Opposition

Baltimore record: 8-3 (1st in the AFC North)
Offensive rank: 17th overall/13th passing/27th rushing
Defensive rank: 3rd overall/5th passing/3rd rushing
All-time record: Ravens lead 17-7; the Browns are 4-8 at home against the Ravens
Last meeting: Baltimore won 20-10 in Week 16 last season
The line: Browns (+7)

What to Watch For

The Browns have been making progress on offense the pass three weeks and actually scored a first-quarter touchdown against the Bengals last week – a first for the season.

But this week is going to be different.

The Ravens come in with the third-best defense in the league, and have been resting since Thanksgiving, when they decimated an over-rated San Francisco team. Baltimore held the 49ers to just 170 yards and sacked quarterback Alex Smith nine times.

Which means this is a particularly bad week for the Browns to struggling in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus:

After a sub-par, by his standards, start to the year where he allowed nine total pressures through the first four games, Joe Thomas (+10.6) has been back to his best and has allowed just one sack and four pressures since.

Sadly, nobody else along the offensive line can come close to Thomas’ level of play but none have been more disappointing than left guard Jason Pinkston (-12.8). Pinkston has allowed 24 total pressures in the passing game and sadly has been worse as a run blocker with a grade of -9.8 in that regard.

That’s not what you need going up against a very talented Ravens defensive line. You already know about Terrell Suggs (+27.3) and Haloti Ngata (+15.0), both among the very best defensive linemen in the league. However, what’s impressed so much about the Ravens’ defensive line this year is the supporting cast. Paul Kruger (+6.2) is relishing his role as a pass rusher lately, with no game more impressive than the Week 11 win over the Bengals where he had five pressures on 28 rushes. And then you have Pernell McPhee (+13.1), who has delivered a PFF grade of +3.0 or better in four of the last six games.

And if that is not enough, Baltimore safety Ed Reed likes to torment quarterbacks in the AFC North, especially the Browns. In his career, Reed has more interceptions (10), more return yards (356) and more TAINTS (3) against the Browns than against any other team.

Reed picked off Browns quarterback Colt McCoy twice in the team’s last meeting, but McCoy has avoided multiple-interception games this season and that needs to continue on Sunday.

“In this division, you’re going to face a tough defense every week,” Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said. “Cincinnati’s a really good defense; Baltimore’s really good; Pittsburgh’s really good. This is just one more test for us. We’re excited that we get to play at home. That’ll be good for us and we want to get one week better. We felt like we got better, we just didn’t finish like we wanted to last week.

“I think it’s important for us, as a young team, to really focus on some of the positives things that we did and build off those and then, correct the things where we were short, where we messed up or we didn’t finish and then, put it behind us and move forward.”

One way the Browns can do that is to start completing some passes down the field.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, McCoy has thrown a league-high 76.1 percent of his passes 10 yards or fewer downfield this season. He averaged a career-low 4.4 yards gained on his 34 pass attempts at the Bengals last Sunday. McCoy’s average yards per attempt is 5.9, the lowest of any qualifying quarterback.

Whether its McCoy, the fact that the receivers are average, at best, or the struggles along the offensive line (probably an equal combination of all three), the Browns need to start moving the ball through the air better.

The one thing the Browns have working in their favor is that the Ravens have stumbled all year following big wins. They’ve lost on the road to Tennessee (after beating Pittsburgh), Jacksonville (after beating Houston) and Seattle (after their second win against the Steelers).

So there is a precedence, and hope, no matter how slim.

The Prediction

The Browns have never beaten Joe Flacco as the Ravens have won six games in a row in the series.

That includes four games over the past two seasons where the Browns lost by an average of 18.5 points a game.

If the Browns don’t turn the ball over, limit the stupid penalties, and force the Ravens into a couple of turnovers that result in short fields for the offense, the Browns have a chance. You know, the same game plan from every other week this season.

It seems hard, though, to see that happening. But we do like the Browns to keep the game close, so we’ll take the good guys plus the points.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 7-3-1.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns vs. Ravens – Week 3

The Browns travel to Baltimore to hang out with Avon, Stringer, Wee-Bey and the gang, and to take on the Ravens in an attempt to avoid their fourth 0-3 start in the past five years.

The Opposition

Baltimore record: 1-1
Offensive rank: 25th overall/21st passing/26th rushing
Defensive rank: 2nd overall/2nd passing/13th rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 7-15-0, with a 3-8-0 mark in Baltimore
Last meeting in Baltimore: Browns lost, 34-3
The line: Browns (+10.5)

What to Watch For

After failing to score in the second half in their first two games, it will be interesting to see what the Browns can do offensively against Baltimore. The Ravens are only giving up 12 points a game, have been difficult to run against and have yet to give up a touchdown.

“You get into a third and long situation against this team and it’s really, really hard to pick up,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said in his Friday press conference. “You have got to stay on track and get some positive plays. You have got to understand that you’re going in there and you’re going to get some negative plays, but you’ve got to try to stay on track with this team and keep pounding it, keep hitting the completions and keep moving. When you get a chance to hit your shot, you hit it. They’re tough.”

One thing that could play into the Browns’ hands is that it looks like they will be without Jake Delhomme again this week as well as Brian Robiskie, which weakens an already soft receiving group. If the team can’t pass it will be forced to run, which the Browns should be doing anyway.

In addition, it looks like the offense will remember Josh Cribbs, as they plan to give him more opportunities out of the Flash package. Opposing teams can work to limit Cribbs in the kicking game, but they can’t do anything about the Browns giving him the ball on offense, except try and stop him. “I think more touches for Josh would be a good thing,” Daboll said in the understatement of the season so far.

Having a mobile Seneca Wallace at quarterback can’t hurt, either, as the Ravens will surely bring pressure defensively, especially against the John St. Clair and Floyd Womack on the Browns right side of the offensive line.

Defensively, the Browns have to hope Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco continues his poor play. The Ravens have only scored 10 points in each of their first two games, and Flacco threw four interceptions last week against Cincinnati. The Browns secondary will be tested this week; hopefully the front seven can get some pressure on Flacco and help out T.J. Ward, Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown.

The Best Browns vs. Baltimore Game I’ve Ever Seen

Easily the 2007 game in Baltimore where Phil Dawson tied the game at the end of regulation and then won it in overtime. Seems more like 30 years ago rather than just three.

Here’s the Plain Dealer’s game story. Video from the game is available here.

The Prediction

It’s hard to see a way for the Browns to win this game based on how they’ve played the first two weeks. Certainly they won’t have a chance if they don’t score in the second half.

If they can force multiple turnovers, control the clock, get a defensive score and a special teams score, then they may have a chance. If not, we could be giving the NFL Sunday Ticket a good workout.

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