Browns vs. Ravens predictions: Ebony Bird round table
Darin McCann makes his pick:
Home field, Jackson and Brown will be the difference against the Browns
The Baltimore Ravens open their divisional slate this Sunday with a home game against the second-place Cleveland Browns. A win gives the Ravens a two-game lead at the quarter-season mark, while a loss drops them into a tie with the Browns, and a disadvantage in a potential tie-breaking scenario later in the season.
While the Cleveland defensive backfield is banged up, it is imperative that the Ravens impose their will on the Browns in the run game. The strength of the Browns defense is the ability of that defensive line to get upfield in a hurry, and the best way to slow that down is by gashing them with the run.
Look for Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards to form a tandem battering ram up the middle in hopes of loosening up that front, and some splashes of Justice Hill on the outside to make those linemen run from sideline to sideline, as well. And though he stated earlier this week his preference for passing the football, Lamar Jackson’s legs must be active this game, as well. That constant threat he offers is a tool for the rest of the offense in terms of causing opponent linebackers and safeties to freeze for that split second to identify who has the ball.
In the passing game, assuming the Ravens can create one-on-one matchups through the fear of the running game, look for Marquise “Hollywood” brown to bust loose this week. We’ve seen teams attempt to jam him in the line, and roll safeties over the top of him deep, but this presents an opportunity to hit Brown on those intermediate routes across the middle of the field, as well as quick slants. The Ravens might use Brown in some bunch formations to buy him that step he needs to come across the face of the defender.
On defense, the Ravens must shut down the Browns run game. Kansas City had good success running against the Ravens defense last week, but I’m guessing that had more to do with the respect the defense was affording Patrick Mahomes. This figures to be a tighter offensive game plan for the Browns, who are in desperation mode and can’t afford to unravel quickly through turnovers or three-and-outs. They need to play mistake-free ball this week, and the Ravens need to put a stop to their run game and force Baker Mayfield into making mistakes.
• Brown catches at least seven balls for more than 110 yards.
• Gus Edwards runs for a 15-plus yard touchdown.
• Matt Judon continues his run, and sacks Mayfield at least once.
• Jackson throws for 200-plus yards, runs for 50-plus yards, for more than 320 total yards, and three total touchdowns.
Ravens 34 Browns 26