The Cleveland Browns are somehow the team to beat in the AFC North? How did that happen? The Baltimore Ravens have to beat the Browns to win the division. After the 47-42 victory from the 2020 season, this could be intense.
The Browns and Ravens are both coming off 11 win seasons. The Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs and lost to the Buffalo Bills. The Browns knocked out the Pittsburgh Steelers and gave the Kansas City Chiefs a major run for their money. Both teams got better this offseason.
You can never discount the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially if Ben Roethlisberger still has something left in the tank. The AFC North will remain the toughest division in the National Football League. The way this offseason has gone, the Browns and Ravens look like the teams vying for the division crown.
The good news for the Ravens is that Baltimore has a track record of giving Cleveland bad days on the gridiron. The Ravens have won four of the last five games against the Browns. The Ravens’ all-time record against the Browns is 33-11.
In the 2019 season, it looked like the Browns may have switched the tables when they beat the Ravens 40-25. It was an awful day for the Ravens but it didn’t have any staying power. The Ravens won the rematch in Cleveland by the score of 31-15.
The Ravens opened the 2020 season by crushing the Browns 38-6. The Browns gave the Ravens their best push in the 47-42 classic in Cleveland. It looked like the Browns had the win until Lamar Jackson returned to the game for a miraculous touchdown on fourth down.
For the Browns to win the division they have to get over the hump that is the Ravens. They have gone toe to toe with the Steelers. The Browns have won two in a row against the Steelers, one of which carried the weight of being a playoff game. The Browns have won in three of their last five meetings with the Steelers.
That’s the main thing the Ravens have over the Browns. Every team has a hurdle that’s a bit harder to get over than the others. For the Ravens, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs. In games against your biggest obstacle, everything is harder and there is a tension that’s hard to operate through.
Neither the Browns nor the Ravens fear each other. These are two good teams who want to clobber each other. They’re welcoming the fight in Cleveland, it’s just that the power dynamic possession arrow is purple at the moment.
While the Browns probably have the most loaded roster in the NFL (it’s nearly flawless) the Ravens have the difference makers. Lamar Jackson is a player the Browns have rarely had an answer for.
Mark Andrews has had some of his best games against the Browns. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters do it in different ways, but they both change games by taking the ball away. The Browns may have a roster without any glaring needs, however, it’s unclear if they have an answer for Ravens they’ve never had an answer for.
The Browns and Ravens both had strong showings in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Browns knocked it out of the park. They added a lot of talent to their defense in the draft. The Browns look like a team that should be able to duplicate their 11 wins of a year ago.
When the Browns hired Andrew Berry to be the general manager, it may have been the best hiring of an executive the NFL has seen for a while. He’s turned that roster into a stacked team. The Browns feel like they’re just getting started. They’ve finally begun to build a contender and it’s not a warm and fuzzy thought in the Charm City.
When the Browns hired Kevin Stefanski, the Browns culture changed. He was a maturing presence that took a struggling team with a talented roster and made it a winner. The Browns have the right people in place for a change. It’s not going to get easier to beat Cleveland any time soon.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the wild card of the division at the moment. They’re the team that has a chance to be a surprise. While the Bengals roster isn’t as packed as the Ravens or the Browns, Joe Burrow has a lot of talent around him in that offense.
The Bottom Line:
Things are going to be incredibly interesting in the AFC North. The battles between the Ravens and the Browns will probably be what decides the season. It feels inevitable. We will learn when those games will be played this week, as the NFL schedule is set to be announced on Wednesday, May 12.
The first thing Ravens fans tend to do when the schedule comes out is to check to see when the big showdowns are with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This year, it may be more notable when the Ravens face off with the Browns.