While certainly far from perfect, (A.J. Green can attest) the Browns defense is pretty good. In total defense Cleveland is sixth in yards. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game. They are 29th in rushing yards allowed per game, which stinks. The Browns also don’t take the ball away enough to be considered anything better than just good. They’ve only converted six interceptions and six fumbles into possession changes. But they are ninth in points allowed at just 19.6 per game.
As a defense, when you allow fewer than three touchdowns per game, you should be giving your team a chance to win more times than not. We all know the Browns have played a pretty weak schedule. They’ve been fortunate a few times as well. I’m thinking most specifically about getting to miss Marshawn Lynch in the Seattle game. So, I will grant you that. The good news is that the Browns defense is extremely young, so you hope that this year is kind of a baseline. They’re good, not great. This Sunday, unfortunately, the Browns will have a chance to see a Ravens defense which is still truly great.
The Ravens lead the AFC (tied with Buffalo) with 22 takeaways. You know they’re still hitting people really hard as they lead the AFC in fumble takeaways at 10. The Ravens are third in yards allowed in the entire league with 292.3 per game. They are fifth against the pass and third against the run. They are also third in points with a mere 16.5 per game allowed. Those are just the high level stats though.
When you dig into the last five games it gets scary. Most recently against San Francisco, the Ravens held Frank Gore to 39 yards on 14 carries. Against the Bengals, while Cedric Benson did run for two touchdowns, he only gained 41 yards on 15 carries. Those two games were played without Ray Lewis. As of right now, Lewis “hopes” to be back this Sunday against the Browns even though he was held out of practice on Wednesday. The Browns’ hopes are obviously different.
Prior to those two games, Marshawn Lynch “tore up” the Ravens for 109 yards, except it took him 32 carries to get there. Against Pittsburgh, Rashard Mendenhall went for 52 yards on 13 carries. Against the Cardinals, Beanie Wells went for 83 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The Ravens are 4-1 in their last five and have beaten Cincinnati and San Francisco the past two weeks. I don’t have to remind you that those two teams account for three of the Browns’ losses this season. Two of the Ravens’ losses come against teams the Browns beat with Seattle and Jacksonville, but remember the Marshawn Lynch factor. Also, against the Jags, the Ravens gave up a field goal per quarter as the offense was only able to muster a fourth quarter touchdown.
The point is just that it is going to be a tough week for the Browns this weekend, which you already knew. There is a chance that the Browns could win this game the way Jacksonville did by playing stout defense. Even then the Browns will need the same offensive choke job that Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and the offensive line put up that week.
The Ravens defense is susceptible in the passing game where they get gashed at times, but it is really hard to imagine Colt McCoy and this group of receivers finding a way to gash this Ravens defense like Jerome Simpson did for 152 yards, or the way Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and Mike Wallace did in a 23-20 loss to the Ravens.
We’ll see, but I won’t count on it. In the meantime I’ll also be looking at the Ravens defense and hoping that is the destination for this young Browns defense over the next few years as they continue to develop and add talent. Those hopes will require some imagination though as the Browns don’t have any Ray-Lewis-Type prospects on the team unless Titus Brown is something much more than I ever imagined.