I went out on a limb to predict that the Cleveland Browns would stun the Baltimore Ravens today to hand them their first loss at home on the season. I will pick up tomorrow with my typical edition of "The Sunday Five," but today I bring you "The Saturday Five" to highlight five things that can go in Cleveland's favor today.
It is expected that Greg Little will be in the starting lineup, and Mohamed Massaquoi will probably be in there too. With Joshua Cribbs still hampered by a groin injury and Jordan Norwood out with a concussion, the Browns need someone available to be the No. 3 receiver. There are only two options: Carlton Mitchell and Rod Windsor. Mitchell has been waiting so long to get an opportunity to play. If Windsor gets ahead of him on the depth chart, it'll be a clear sign that Mitchell won't be back next year. The Browns have an opportunity to surprise the Ravens' secondary utilizing Mitchell's speed and size, maybe against rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith. At the very least, we might finally know what Mitchell's future on this team is by the end of the game.
Another guy I'm excited to see is tight end Jordan Cameron. For as much support as I have had for Evan Moore, it's probably more beneficial to see Cameron in action at this point of the season. I want to know if Cameron has the toughness to make a catch over the middle, knowing that the Ravens' secondary will be looming to deliver a big blow. Cameron only caught passes at the line of scrimmage last week before being quickly wrapped up. I don't think Cameron can be relied upon to be as good of a blocker as Alex Smith was, so we might see newcomer Dan Gronkowski in the lineup to block quite a bit.
This game has all the makings of the Browns' defense thriving after how embarrassed they were three weeks ago. First, it won't be raining in Baltimore, so Cleveland's defense should be more apt to defending the run. If the Ravens over-emphasize the run, a struggling Joe Flacco will be without top receiver Anquan Boldin. The Browns will likely shadow Torrey Smith with two defenders, meaning Sheldon Brown shouldn't have to worry about Smith's speed as much. The tight ends will be a concern, seeing as how open Todd Heap was last week. Kaluka Maiava will have to up his coverage skills; he had a particularly bad game against the Ravens a few weeks back.
I don't know if the coaching staff will actually go through with this, but with Cribbs' groin issues, they should let Buster Skrine have a chance to return kickoffs. The Ravens are without Billy Cundiff, who was known for his touchbacks. Shayne Graham might not have as much distance on his kicks, allowing Skrine (or Cribbs) an opportunity to take kicks out of the end zone. I want to evaluate Skrine as a returner, not so much to see what Skrine has to offer, but to see how someone else compares to what Cribbs has been doing on kickoffs. If Skrine gets the opportunity, maybe he breaks a big one to help give Cleveland a push.
Which team does Cleveland want to see get the No. 1 or No. 2 seed between Baltimore or Pittsburgh? By virtue of the Texans collapsing to the Colts, no matter who Cleveland beats or loses to, chances are, they won't be able to prevent both Baltimore and Pittsburgh from getting the second seed. At this point, I don't really care about that: it would just feel great to beat one of them. It might hurt the Browns' draft position a little bit, but good drafting teams make due with what they have to work with in terms of draft position.