Overview: The first time these two teams met, the Browns were just over 10 point underdogs. The Browns aren’t exactly playing their best football of the season right now, but surprisingly the Browns are only 3.5 point underdogs right now. At the time, I thought the spread was crazy because it was so high. During that game the Browns trailed 14-10 at halftime and even had a 17-13 lead on a Seneca Wallace to Ben Watson touchdown to start the fourth quarter. Of course the Ravens scored ten unanswered points to finish the Browns off 24-17.
The Ravens come in pretty hot. They have won four out of their last five with the only loss coming to the Steelers. Those same Steelers are the only ones ahead of the Ravens in the standings as we speak. Right now the Ravens are on track for the final wildcard spot over the Jets due to tiebreaker advantage. Of course that could all change in an instant if the Browns find a way to play spoiler.
Airing it Out: The last time I wrote about the Ravens I said that Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown were going to have to play physical with Boldin and Mason. Of course we know how badly Wright (and T.J. Ward to some extent) were victimized by Boldin and Flacco in that game.
Now that Wright is out for the year, Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown will have to do better than last time. It also wouldn’t hurt if the Browns somehow found a way to get to Joe Flacco this time. Last game Flacco was untouched and had a QB rating north of 128 to show for it.
Running it Down: ”Ray Rice is good.” That is how I started this section last time. Now, he is over 1000 yards for the season. So, I was right. The Ravens finally have Willis McGahee back too. Want to dream about a two-headed running attack for the Browns next season? Watch Ray Rice and Willis McGahee this weekend. McGahee is an elder statesman at 29 in the NFL, but last game because Ray Rice was up over 150 yards rushing, the Ravens also had Willis rocking for 53 yards on only seven carries. What a luxury in the NFL.
In the Trenches: This is what I wrote last time.
“No need to mention the Ravens defensive line. They are good and will present problems for the Browns’ running and passing schemes. The offensive line for the Ravens is also solid. The Browns haven’t been real fiery in the pass rush so far this year, and I don’t really expect them to keep Flacco on his back starting this week either. I am hoping that the Browns will be able to hold their own on running plays so that the linebackers can fill the appropriate gaps and keep Ray Rice under control.”
I don’t think there is a reason to re-write it to be honest.
Special Teams: Special teams will wait until next year when Josh Cribbs is healthy. There is no reason to count on getting anything from this phase of the game with the man playing so injured.
Prediction: The Browns won’t win this week, I don’t think. The Browns will play a tough game and could even find themselves leading at some point early. Ultimately though, unless the weather wreaks havoc on the Ravens’ pass offense, the Browns won’t find themselves on the winning end. I predict Good guys 10 and really really bad guys 24.
As always, I hope for a post-Christmas miracle and that I am wrong.