I’m running out of clever leads for this thread each week. I’ll leave it this week with one sentence: will the REAL 2008 Cleveland Browns please stand up, and remain standing? Not so fast, Derek.
The Browns are again taking a crack at pulling back to .500 as well as at getting some revenge for the drubbing in week 3 against the Ravens in Baltimore. Can they do it? Will Anderson continue not to throw the ball to the other team? Can they finally string two “decent” games together? Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they can confuse the Ravens defense. I am sure the Browns defense has been preparing for trick plays and weird lineups consisting of both Troy Smith and Flacco. I am not concerned by that. If the Browns offense sputters, can’t run, and has Derek Anderson setting his receivers up to get murdered like he did in the first game against the Ravens, then the Browns are in big trouble. The Browns offensive line needs to be solid (probably again with out Tucker) and Derek Anderson needs to be religious about doing something in his first two reads. Holding the ball and / or locking on a receiver against the Ravens will be more deadly than most weeks. Yes. I just said “more deadly” as if deadly wasn’t deadly enough. Deal with it. If there was ever a game where Brady Quinn might get the call at halftime, I would think this would be the one. The Ravens defense is formidable and could frustrate DA early. Combine this with the fact that the Browns feel like they have a shot still, and this game could be the perfect storm where a QB change is finally deemed necessary.
Scott: …the Browns of New York/Jacksonville games show up, leaving the Browns of Washington debacle duct taped in the trunk. The first game against Baltimore, McGahee and McClain ran all over us. If we can contain these two (and perhaps the legs of the would-be Troy Smith), ultimately forcing the rookie quarterback to throw, I think we’ll be in great shape. I hate to rely on huge games from Shaun Rogers each week out, but at this point, I have no other choice. We’ll need a solid game out of the o-line, which will once again be without Ryan Tucker. And finally, it depends on which Derek Anderson shows up. The calculated passer, or the three-hopper across the middle. If it’s the latter, we’re in for a long day.
DP: …Derek Anderson doesn’t throw the ball to the other team three times inside his own 20 yard line, purely and simply. The Browns defense has shown some signs of solid improvement, and last week’s showing against Jones-Drew and Taylor was cause for some optimism that they can again make the opposing QB have to beat them under the right circumstances. Before the first Browns/Ravens game, I wrote: “The offense needs to score early and force Baltimore to play catch-up. … Our o-line needs to dominate the line of scrimmage, create some holes for Lewis, and open up a play-action passing game for Anderson and company. Defensively, the … Browns need Rogers to again create some pressure up the middle. They need to make Joe Flacco remember that he’s a rookie by mixing things up and forcing him to make decisions on the move, rather than sitting in the pocket and getting comfortable.” That’s still pretty much true. If the Browns can get ahead like they did against the Jaguars, negate some of the Ravens’ running game, and force Flacco to beat them, I think the Browns walk out of the stadium at .500. If DA-as-turnover-machine shows up again, I suspect we’ll see an opportunistic Ravens’ D making life hard on him again, as well as a worn out Browns defense unable to get off the field against the run.
Rick: …they show Baltimore something new. The familiarity between these two teams has led to an overconfidence for the Ravens I believe, especially their defense. They don’t respect what our players are capable of. The gameplan on both sides of the ball need some wrinkles. Get them on their heals. Get Harrison involved off the edge. Use Cribbs more. Defensively, Shaun Rogers must have help stopping the run. I believe in our corners. You wouldn’t have a hard time convincing me that Brandon McDonald is better than Eric Wright. Let those two cover man to man, and let’s get some pressure on Flacco and the running game. Unleash Pool and Sean Jones for blitzes. Let’s use Alex Hall’s speed, creating a 4-3 of sorts.
Mike…the defense maintains their momentum they’ve been building over the past month. If so, the Browns will be in this game – no matter which version of D.A. decides to show up this week. Right? Also, the offense has to calm down, stop showing up Anderson after every overthrow and keep thinking about the next play. It’s obvious Anderson isn’t going anywhere (unless he gets hurt) for a while and the teammates on “team-Brady” are just going to have to suck it up and play.
Now, for the other side of the coin. What do the fans of our once and formers think about this game? We reached out to several Ravens bloggers across the Interwebs to get their takes on the game this Sunday. Without further ado…
The Ravens Will Win If…
……Joe Flacco avoids turnovers and the Ravens can control field position.
New coach John Harbaugh has this team firing on all cylinders, and a lot of that credit has to go to offensive coordinator and Dolphins pariah, Cam Cameron.
KEEP ‘EM GUESSING
Baltimore’s running game is solid. Way too solid. Not necessarily better than it was with Jamal Lewis, but different. Ja-Lew needed at least 15 carries to wear down a defense. But now Baltimore’s running game can explode at any time. It has a breadth of talent and diversity never before seen in Baltimore. Le’Ron McClain, Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. Hell, even Troy Smith, Joe Flacco and wide receiver Mark Clayton have done damage on the ground. Not to mention the aerial wrinkles. Joe Flacco catching a pass from Troy Smith?!!
Ray Lewis, his fellow linebackers, and the defensive line are all playing at an extremely high level, even with superstar DT Kelly Gregg on IR for the season. But Baltimore’s defensive secondary continues to be a weakness. Like last season, the team has struggled with injuries and poor play. Chris McAlister may be out for the season with a bum knee. That’s not going to help. It’s important that the Ravens avoid giving up the deep ball. Keep the Browns playing dink and dunk long enough, and eventually Baltimore’s defense will make a play.
GO MELLOW ON THE YELLOW
Baltimore’s offensive line has been a question mark. It’s surprisingly solid in the sense that it doesn’t often breakdown and allow a ton of sacks; however, there are still too many boneheaded penalties being committed by Baltimore’s offensive line. Holds. False starts. Poor decisions that bring to mind the Brian Billick Era. To beat the Browns, Baltimore must not sacrifice field position or negate big plays.
Joe Flacco is a rookie, and it’s his first visit to the Dawg Pound. Like any rookie in any hostile environment, there’s always the chance that the wheels fall off early with no sign of recovery. Flacco’s numbers this season are terrible (3 TDs, 7 INTs) but they also don’t tell the whole story. He has managed games well, and for the most part has stayed cool despite his mistakes. It’s important that he continues that trend if he wants to win in his first visit to the Dawg Pound. An early lead certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Matt Loede is the senior editor of Ravens Gab. Matt has been in the sports media for over 10 years, with experience covering MLB, the NBA, and of course the NFL. On NFL Sundays you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio, Associated Press, and other stations around the country. Born and raised in Cleveland, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.
…they have that killer instinct on defense that they have had in their four wins this season. They are like a bunch of sharks, and when they smell blood, they know when to go for the kill. The Browns know that all too well from the third quarter of the teams’ first meeting in week three. Baltimore needs to put pressure on Derek Anderson, and then they can force some poor throws and some turnovers. A couple of turnovers and the Ravens can make life tough on the Browns offense.
Joe Flacco has been solid enough the past two weeks to get wins, and showed two weeks ago that even on the road that he has enough poise as a rookie to win. Playing in the Dawg Pound in front of a loud hostile crowd won’t be easy, but he has to avoid mistakes and make a play or two against the 30th ranked defense. Expect to see a lot of the running game from Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain and even some Ray Rice. If the Ravens can run for about 175 or more, they will win.
As far as matchups go, the Ravens O-line has to be aware of Shaun Rogers and what he brings to the table. If they have to double team him, so be it. He’s been the biggest (for real) playmaker on defense for the Browns the past few weeks, and the Ravens have to account for him at all times. Stop him and run to the outside, and it’ll be easy pickins for the Ravens run game, meaning they leave Cleveland with a win.
Brian Malan is from Baltimore, Maryland, and is currently a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, working toward a degree in Political Science. Brian has been a Ravens fan since 1996 when they were moved from Cleveland to Baltimore, and is a regular contributor to sbnation’s website Baltimore Beatdown under the name Mr MaLoR. Baltimore BeatDown discusses anything that has to do with the Ravens.
…the purple and black can control the clock, win the turnover battle, and play smart. In order for the Ravens to walk out of Cleveland at 5-3 and on a plane down to Houston for our rescheduled week 2 game against the very explosive Texans, we will have to concentrate on a few aspects of both our teams.
First thing to look at is how will our defense match up against what seems to be a very different offense that was beaten to death in week 3. The Ravens are currently #1 against the run, as well a #3 against the pass, but as of right now the defense is missing 4 starters (Kelly Gregg DT, Samari Rolle CB, Chris McAlister CB, and Dawan Landry, SS). The previous 2 weeks, mediocre QB’s (Chad Pennington and Jamarcus Russell) have both been able to move the ball pretty well. If the Ravens are going to win this football game on the defensive side, they are going to need to pressure Anderson. If we give him enough time and Fabian Washington is not able to contain Braylon Edwards long enough, our day could be over. If Rolle is unable to play this weekend, then Frank Walker will have to take his spot and handle Donte Stallworth and maybe even Cribbs. They have to keep Winslow out of the middle of the field and be physical with him all day.
As for the running game, I will give credit to the offensive line over there in Cleveland. Having Thomas and Steinbach on the left side is one of the best combinations of blocking in this league. However, I cannot see Jamal getting over 75 on us. If we can hold Jamal to under 75 yards, and force Anderson to make more throws then he wants to, this could be our game. Suggs is also going to have his hands full on the left side, but if we can get pressure up the middle from Ngata, Bannan, and a few linebackers, Anderson’s day might be over.
For the Ravens’ offense to play well against that very underrated defense, we are going to have to play smart, hold onto the football, and Joe (of Troy) is going to have to get the ball out of his/their hands quickly. That is a mammoth front line that the Browns have over there with Williams and Rodgers, they are both going to be a very tough test for our young, inexperienced, and banged up offensive line. I am expecting a good amount of offensive plays to be run out of the shotgun by the Ravens, and I assume that Cam Cameron has a few tricks up his sleeve this week and it may get a little interesting at times. Flacco will have to make fewer throws while scrambling and stay poised in the pocket as the Browns have a very young but talented secondary that could easily be a game breaker. If we can get the ball spread out to Mason, Heap, and Clayton, that should open up some room for our three headed monster of McGahee, McClain, and Rice.
Penalties and a lack of intelligence is also something the Ravens are going to need to work on. Last week against Oakland, 7 of the team’s 8 penalties came against the offensive line. These calls negated two touchdowns in the red zone. The Ravens must play smart, stay optimistic if we make a mistake, and take what the Browns give to us. If all goes well, I expect a 27-13 Ravens’ victory. The game is going to start fast and there will be some vicious blows exchanged between these two teams. This is the AFC North, we play tough football up here, and it should be a fun Sunday for both of us.
What does everyone else think?