This week, the Cleveland Browns will take on the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers within a span of five days. How is that for a brutal schedule? For now, let's break down Sunday's game against the Ravens, which will be played in Cleveland.
|QB||Let's take a look at some statistics.
Player A: 56% completion rate, 2737 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT
Player B: 58% completion rate, 2332 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT
Those are your starting quarterbacks for this week's game: Player A is Joe Flacco, and Player B is Colt McCoy. Both have had issues with their accuracy and/or dropped passes to say the lease. In terms of this season, I don't think either of these quarterbacks outshines the other. I give the Ravens the edge though because Flacco has had several quality seasons, and he does have a pair of good outings against the Steelers this year.
|RB||As exciting as it was to have Peyton Hillis back last week, the Browns still have some depth issues behind him. Montario Hardesty is expected to be back to 100 percent, but will that really be the case? Only time will tell. Either way, Ray Rice consistently gets the job done for the Ravens, and our defense never seems to be able to stop the little guy. Ricky Williams has been averaging a nice 4.0 yards per carry behind him as the backup.
|WR||There have been times where Anquan Boldin has really stepped his game up this season to "take over." I don't expect him to have a three-touchdown game against Cleveland like he did last year though. Rookie receiver Torrey Smith uses his speed to get down the field, and it has to be a concern that Sheldon Brown could be in coverage on him. While I still like Brown as a cornerback, I don't know if he can keep pace with him often enough.
Jordan Norwood has been a spark plug for Cleveland to give them some big-play credibility at the receiver position the past two weeks. Overall, though, this receiving unit has a lot to prove, especially with the number of drops Greg Little had last week.
|OL||The Ravens' offensive line has been "gelling" as of late, according to reports. You know what, though? I think you can say that the Browns' offensive line has been "gelling" for the past 3-4 weeks as well. While I still think a few positions are in need of an upgrade next season, I don't feel like Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston are as hopeless against the Ravens as I would've thought about a month ago.
Ahtyba Rubin is playing very well in my book, perhaps even better than I liked him in the 3-4. I think its safe to say that he didn't have a problem with the transition to the 4-3. The Browns have a question mark at right defensive end, where Jayme Mitchell is expected to start but may be part of a rotation. The Ravens have the always-dangerous Haloti Ngata at defensive end, who could cause havoc if he goes up against Pinkston.
|LB||The Browns never had a chance at winning this category, but losing veteran linebacker Scott Fujita doesn't help. While the dropoff from Fujita's talent to Kaluka Maiava's talent might be minimal, we can't underestimate the leadership component that Fujita brought. Meanwhile, even if the Ravens are without their leader (Ray Lewis), they have plenty of pieces in place to pick up the slack. For example, there is some guy named...Terrell Suggs? Ever heard of him? On top of that, the Ravens have not ruled Lewis out for the game yet.
|DB||The Ravens' secondary has been good this year, and the important thing for them is that they have stayed pretty healthy. Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith has also contributed well as the third cornerback, giving them some good depth at the position. Ed Reed intercepted McCoy twice last year, and he'll have to learn to steer clear of the safety this time around. The Browns, meanwhile, are dealing with a "somewhat" slumping Joe Haden and a still-absent T.J. Ward.
|ST||Both teams are even overall. Billy Cundiff booms touchbacks out of the end zone often, but if he doesn't, Baltimore is vulnerable in kick coverage. The Browns will hope that Christian Yount has a smooth first outing as the new long snapper.
The Ravens are 6-0 at home, but only 2-3 on the road, having lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Seattle. The Browns defeated two of those teams. For all of the advantages the Ravens have per position, that doesn't take into account the "X-factor." For whatever reason, the Ravens have played down to their competition on the road, and the same could very well happen against Cleveland. Overall, Baltimore's defense remains pretty consistent though and they should be able to help the team squeak out a victory.
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 114-61
CHRIS' RECORD AT PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 7-4