Training camp seems so long ago. The 2-2 pre-season record—complete with solid offense and a shred of hope for competitive Browns football—seems like eons ago. The Browns visit Balmer to play their once-and-formers, who are coming off a disappointing loss to Cincinnati and are probably hungry for blood. Gee, I can’t wait!
The Browns kick off a stretch of seven straight weeks during which they will not be favored in—or expected to win—any games. First up is the Ravens. The Browns have yet to score any points in the second half; they’re tied with the 49ers for 24th in the league at 14.0 points per game through two games. Baltimore has allowed 12.0 points per game so far in their first two games. Brian Daboll better have packed his Big Boy Pants for the trip to Baltimore. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they find a way to play over their heads. On paper they handily lose every category except maybe special teams. With the way teams have been keeping the ball away from Josh Cribbs so far this season, that could be a wash again this week too. The Browns will need to play exceptionally on defense. Joe Flacco hasn’t played particularly well this year, but it is hard to bet against a guy who has Ray Rice running for him along with Boldin, Mason, and Heap out there catching passes. The Browns will have to win field position battles on defense and special teams because I just don’t see this offense moving the ball consistently for a whole game against the Ravens D. So the Browns will win if they get lucky or if the Ravens fail to show up and take them lightly. Hard to imagine a Ray Lewis team doing that.
Scott: …everything goes exactly right. No drive-killing penalties, no turnovers, continued solid efforts on defense and flexible play-calling on offense. The Browns will need to run the ball at least 35 times if they plan on even competing in terms of time of possession. They’re best bet on offense is to stack the box and keep Ray Rice from succeeding. Flacco is coming off of an awful game, why not make him prove that he’s out of said funk? Sure, the Ravens have plenty of weapons in the passing game, but if the Browns want to win, they’re going to have to make the Ravens attempt to win through the air. Oh…and did I mention no penalties and turnovers? They may want to also implement a unicorn into their offense, just for good measure.
DP: …Hell freezes over. I can’t think of any other circumstances under which the Browns win. And, shoot; even if Hell does freeze over, I’d pick the Ravens to come out with a late field goal to take the win. Seriously; this Browns team couldn’t run the ball against the Chiefs. No defense in the NFL is going to respect the Browns’ passing attack right now; they just won’t. With that said, the Ravens have got to be keying on the run, and their defense is light-years better than Kansas City’s. The Browns haven’t scored a point in the second half yet this year. I worry they won’t be able to score any in the first half on Sunday, either. It’s the same old story on defense for the Browns: they show flashes, they play well, but their offense is so inept that they’re on the field far too long and wear down. Baltimore has the weapons on offense to make them pay for that. I’d love to come up with some kind of perfect storm scenario in which the Browns have a chance to win this game, but I’m just not that creative.
Rick: …they can take advantage of Raven miscues. I don’t think the Browns can sustain long drives against Baltimore’s defense. They will need short fields and an accurate day from Phil Dawson. That’s where the defense will have to step up and get some takeaways. Cribbs, Harrison or even James Davis is going to have to come up with a big play as well. I give the Browns about a 10% chance of winning this game honestly. What I am interested in seeing is whether or not the Browns have made any improvement defesively against the run. Baltimore has killed us on the ground throughout the past few years. While they have upgraded the passing game, they are still a dangerous team with Ray Rice running the ball. Can the Browns keep them under 100 yards rushing? It’s the Browns vs the Ravens on CBS next! Sigh.
Andrew: …Joe Flacco doubles his performance from last week and throws 8 interceptions. If that happens, that leaves the Ravens with only about 4 possessions or so with which to score. If the Browns hold them to FGs on 2 of them and force them to punt the rest of the time, and then convert FGs on 3 of their 8 interceptions, they might be able to squeak out a 9-6 win. Stranger things have probably happened. And yes, it’s week 3 and already I’m having a hard time answering these with a straight face.
TD: …a miracle happens. If magically Brian Daboll remembers what made the Browns successful at the end of last year – running MULTIPLE sets out of the Wildcat. Play to your strengths – throwing deep outs to Brian Robiske and Mohammad Massaquoi is not a strength. Defensively, they must stop Ray Rice’s home run abilities running the ball and hope take their chances that Joe Flacco doesn’t beat them deep.
Now, for the other side of the coin. We reached out to a few Ravens bloggers, and Bruce Raffel at Baltimore Beatdown was kind enough to remind us how potentially lopsided this game could be. I’d love to get all angry and take issue with his frank assessment, but I think he’s right unfortunately. Without further ado…
The Ravens Will Win If…
…”they show up” is not really joking in this assessment, as the Baltimore Ravens are a much better team than the Cleveland Browns. Despite only scoring 10 points in each of their two games, the Ravens offense is filled with playmakers and players who could easily combine to contribute to a blowout of the Browns in the Ravens first home game of 2010. If the Ravens offensive line opens holes for Ray Rice and the other running backs, then the Browns will keep creeping towards the line of scrimmage and that is where the Ravens revamped passing attack should be able to do damage.
The Browns have played a relatively solid defense their first two games, but no offense to the Bucs and Chiefs, those are not exactly high scoring offenses. The Ravens now have the receivers to help make Joe Flacco progress to the next level, although he certainly didn’t show it last week in CIncinnat. But make no mistake about it, the defenses that the Ravens faced in the first two game at the Jets and Bengals are among the top units in the league and the combination of the angry, frustrated home team and our passionate fans could make the Browns exactly what the doctor ordered.
Expect the Ravens to open up the offense and test the Browns secondary. Defensively, the Ravens have already proven they are one of the top defenses once again in the league, having not surrendered a touchdown this season. There is every indication that streak might continue this weekend, as if the “true” Ravens actually do show up, this game should be a convincing victory for Baltimore and propel them with confidence towards next week when they meet the Ben Roethlisberger-less, yet still tough Pittsburgh Steelers for another one of their classic battles
What say, there, fuzzy britches?