Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens - Official Game Thread

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CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-2) WEEK 3 BALTIMORE RAVENS (1-0)
VS.
Date: September 21, 2008 Location: Baltimore, MD
Time: 4:15 p.m. ET
Stadium: Browns Stadium
TV: CBS
Favorite: Ravens by 2½
Radio: WMMS, 100.7 FM Over/Under: 38½
SBN Coverage: Baltimore Beatdown Announcers
Bill Macatee, Steve Beuerlein

The last time the Browns visited Baltimore, they came away with a victory. However, the game was far from a typical win. Phil Dawson attempted a long field goal as time expired in regulation, hoping to tie the game. After bouncing off the top goalpost and then hitting the crossbar and coming out, the referees signaled "no good". We clearly saw on the replay though that the kick was indeed good, and after review, the correct call was made. The Browns ended up winning the game in overtime. This year, the Browns are a disappointing 0-2 to start off the season. We have not been able to defeat the contenders, so now it's even more critical that we do what we did all of last season -- win against the teams that are not contenders. The Ravens have had an awkward start to the season themselves, having defeated a bad Bengals team in Week 1 with a rookie quarterback, and then having their game last week postponed due to stadium damage in Houston.

Will the Browns be able to overcome their injuries to get their first win of the season? Let's kick off the preview with the overall team statistics thus far...

OFFENSE

Category Browns Ravens
Points Scored 8.0 (31st) 17.0 (22nd)
Passing 134.5 (28th) 129.0 (30th)
Rushing 72.0 (27th) 229.0 (1st)
Total Offense (yards) 206.5 (30th) 358.0 (8th)

DEFENSE

Category Browns Ravens
Points Scored 19.0 (12th) 10.0 (2nd)
Passing 242.0 (26th) 84.0 (1st)
Rushing 142.0 (24th) 70.0 (4th)
Total Defense (yards) 384.0 (28th) 154.0 (1st)

 

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Quarterback

Based on his performance this season, Derek Anderson doesn't really deserve to be favored over anyone. Saying that, I think the city of Baltimore is a little too excited/confident in the abilities of rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. He picked up a win in his first NFL start, but he only completed 50% of his passes and failed to throw a touchdown against one of the worst defenses in all of football. If the Browns are able to bring the same amount of pressure that they brought against Ben Roethlisberger last week, Flacco's lack of experience will show, resulting in a big day for our defensive backs. For Anderson, it's all about getting back in sync. With a good performance by Derek Anderson too, the chances of seeing Brady Quinn traded to Kansas City can only improve.

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Running Back

Jamal Lewis isn't having a down season to this point. Last year, most of his big games came against the below-average teams. He struggled against the Steelers, and against the Cowboys we simply fell behind too early. Still, he is the right match-up to pound against the Ravens' defensive front, and the Browns are also looking to get Jerome Harrison more involved in the offense. The Ravens have a good rotation at their disposal in Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and Le'Ron McClain. In Week 1, McClain was more explosive than Rice was, but both of them should receive equal amount of touches to keep the other fresh against our bulky defensive line.

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Receiver

After the first two weeks, the Browns have not been explosive at the receiver position. Kellen Winslow has had a couple of good first halves, but then we go away from him. Braylon Edwards has dropped more footballs in two weeks than even Travis Wilson did during the preseason. Donte Stallworth, our go-to-guy to replace Joe Jurevicius, is still out with an injury. For the third week in a row, we're starting the tiny, non-blocking receiver in Syndric Steptoe. The Ravens have experienced receiver Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton as their starting receivers, and Todd Heap at tight end. With Heap appearing to be on the downside of his career, the Browns are still favored simply due to the fact that once Edwards is "back", this comparison won't even be a contest.

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Offensive Line

Eric Steinbach has been ruled out for the Browns, so it looks like Seth McKinney is going to start in his place at left guard. Against a tough Ravens defense, that is certainly a downgrade that will have adverse effects on the amount of time Anderson has to throw, or the team's willingness to have a formation where two tackles line up on the same side of the field. The Ravens kept Flacco clean in his first start with the help of impressive youngsters Ben Grubbs and Marshall Yanda at the guard positions. How they handle Shaun Rogers will be an interesting matchup though -- Ravens fans seem to believe he'll be more contained than he was last week against the Steelers. Had Steinbach been healthy, the Browns would be favored here.

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Defensive Line

Last week, the Browns' defensive line looked as good as its ever looked. Shaun Rogers was nearly unblockable, and Corey Williams made at least somewhat of an impression. The season-ending injury to Robaire Smith is a tough one to swallow -- he was the team's best defensive lineman last season. However, Shaun Smith should not be a dropoff in production. What does happen is that our rotation is not as strong now, which means Rogers won't be as strong in the fourth quarter. The Ravens would normally be favored here, but even after a two-week break, starting nose tackle Kelly Gregg is ruled out. Haloti Ngata and Trevor Pryce, while solid, do not overcome the Browns having the better player at nose tackle.

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Linebacker

We like to rib on the fact that Ray Lewis is getting older or getting slower, but without question he's still a force to be reckoned with. He gets the rest of the team's defense fired up on any given play and rarely misses a tackle. He had his best game of the season last year against Cleveland, where he recorded 16 tackles and also returned an Anderson interception for a touchdown. Meanwhile, I'm still looking for a leader from the Browns' group. Between Kamerion Wimbley, Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson, and Willie McGinest, you'd expect one of them to stand out a little more than the rest. Leon Williams will reportedly receive a little more playing time over Davis so that Davis can focus on special teams.

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Secondary

With the Ravens missing Gregg, I look for the Browns to try and disrupt Flacco by bringing up a safety to blitz through the middle often, assuming Rogers is able to eat up two linemen. Baltimore is a little banged up at defensive back, but the veteran experience of Chris McAllister and Samari Rolle still remains a decent combination. The critical thing for Anderson will be to stay away from Ed Reed. Reed will not fall for a deep pass over the middle if we're trying to force a play to Edwards -- it has to be a connection that's formed purely due to chemistry.

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Special Teams

I'm going to go ahead and not really count Joshua Cribbs' effort last week as his return game. With all of the winds, coupled with a low-scoring affair, Cribbs only had one crack at a kick return. This week, hopefully he receivers more opportunities to provide a boost for our offense. Phil Dawson is more than prepared to kick in Baltimore, as evidenced by his crazy field goal last season as well as a game-winner in overtime. On the same note, Matt Stover always has some of his better games against the Browns, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets four or five attempts today.


FINAL PREDICTION:
Cleveland Browns 27, Baltimore Ravens 12.
Keeping the Ravens out of the end zone is the goal this week after a solid showing by the Browns' defense against Pittsburgh last week. Offensively, we're just looking for something. It's hard to imagine that we're only averaging eight points a game through the first two weeks. A lot of our points this week won't come as a result of well-executed, time-consuming drives, but instead capitalizing on turnovers by the Ravens' offense. And, if Cleveland fails to come away with a victory this week, I promise that the optimism will begin to shrink heavily.

This is the official gameday topic for the Cleveland Browns in Week 3 as they face off against the Baltimore Ravens. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!

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