The Browns held the Steelers and all world running back Le’Veon Bell to just 35 yards rushing last week. The Ravens only threw the ball three times in the second half against Cincinnati last week in a 20-0 victory over the offensively challenged Bengals. QB Joe Flacco only completed one pass of more than 10 yards. Something will have to give. Are the Browns as good against the run as they showed? If so, they could make it a long day for the Ravens offense.
Flacco threw just 17 times last week but is notorious for destroying the Browns. Last season he threw for nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns in two games.
DeShone Kizer looked very solid last week against a really good Pittsburgh front seven. He will have to be even better today against the Ravens defense which has excellent linebackers. Terrell Suggs seems to be an ageless wonder and CJ Mosley is really coming into his own as an NFL player. Along with youngsters Kamalei Correa and Patrick Onwuasor they are deep and instinctive. The Ravens linebackers all read play action extremely well and also get their hands up quick when rushing which can force even the veteran quarterbacks of the league to throw nearly a handful of interceptions (looking at you Andy Dalton).
The Ravens secondary is also very good. It’s a veteran mix that will prove to be a challenge for the Browns young wide outs. Safeties Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle are extremely talented ball hawks who can also tackle.
Cleveland will have seven wide outs dressed for Sunday’s game after bringing Rashard Higgins up from the practice squad. The Ravens will have only a few corners healthy for the game with Jaylen Hill and Sheldon Price both ruled out. That leaves talented corners Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, and nickel back Ladarius Webb as the only healthy corners. Maybe by adding Higgins the Browns are hoping to beat the talented secondary by using fresh men on a consistent basis against an undermanned unit.
While they may try to use their depth to win in the passing game, it’ll be the running game they determines whether or not the Browns win this game. Isaiah Crowell carries 17 times last week for just 33 yards and looked hesitant at the line of scrimmage. The Browns and especially Kizer will need him to be more decisive. If the line opens holes for him, he needs to stick his foot in the ground and go. They can’t win this game without a solid contribution from Crowell.
The play above accounted for a loss of yards. That is a huge hole to run through by NFL standards.
Kenny Britt’s drop on second and 19 last week may have cost the Browns the game. Yes, there were other factors that contributed to the loss, I get that. On the play before Britt’s drop, Browns center JC Tretter was destroyed by Steelers defensive linemen Javon Hargrave who pushed Tretter back like he was on roller skates for a sack of Kizer and a nine yard loss. On the next play, the rookie QB moved forward in the pocket, went through his progressions, and found a wide open Britt near the first down marker only to see his vet wide out drop it. Drops are a part of the game but that play needs to be made. All the momentum was trending in the Browns direction and that hurt.
The Browns are a much improved team all around. They proved that last week. In order to beat this Ravens team they will have to shut down the run game and keep veteran wide outs Mike Wallace and Jeremy Marlin from making big plays. Look for Greg Williams to use a similar strategy to what he used last week against the Steelers where he sent his safeties back 20-25 yards from the line of scrimmage to keep the corners from getting beat deep. The game plan all but nullified deep threat Martavis Bryant last week.
While I think the Browns have an excellent chance at winning this game, there is just as good a chance that they get blown out. The Baltimore defense is really talented. The linebackers look like they can give a rookie QB nightmares whether they are hitting him or knocking his passes around to cause turnovers. Kizer will have to take what the defense gives him which means Duke Johnson could be the key to a win with Kizer completing dump-off passes to the Swiss Army knife out of Miami. If Duke can break one or two, flip the field, it would go a long way to helping his QB and team.
With all things considered I think the Browns will play well, but fall short in a 16-13 loss in Baltimore.
Fantasy guys to have in this game: Duke in PPR leagues. Corey Coleman and Kizer have a connection and he will likely lead the Browns in targets. He could be a high WR3. You could also run out Maclin or Wallace in deep leagues as WR3 or flex. Javorious Allen is the Ravens version of Duke and also gets carries out of the backfield, he could be a deep flex guy. The real wildcard here is Flacco, who always kills the Browns. He’s a risk due to his back, but could be high reward if you roll with him.
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