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Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens: Position Breakdown & Notes

This week, the Cleveland Browns look to salvage their season against the Baltimore Ravens. This is the first division game of the season for the Browns, which means they can sweep their first two losses under the rug if they are able to come away with a victory. With the injury report Cleveland has and the number of players who are banged up though, is there enough talent/continuity on the team to upset a struggling Ravens team?

Here are some notes heading into the game, followed by my positional breakdown and prediction for the game:

  • Terry Pluto has a great article up this morning with some inside information on what some members of the Ravens think about this week's game against the Browns. The praise for our defense is at least encouraging to hear.
  • Although I am picking the Ravens to win, I am trying to pump myself up with some confidence as a fan heading into this game. When 1:00 PM rolls around on Sunday, I know the ramifications that this game has, and hopefully all of the players and coaches on our team do as well. If we can beat Baltimore in front of their home crowd, the emotion from that victory would honestly be enough to topple the two losses faced over the first two weeks.
  • I'd like to stress again that the Browns have not been a horrible team over the first two weeks, and were winning both games mid-way through the fourth quarter. The thing that has been missing is the ability to put just one more score on the board in the second half. The Browns are missing some starters this week -- D'Qwell Jackson, Shaun Rogers, Brian Robiskie, Jake Delhomme, and possibly a few others -- but besides Rogers, we honestly have players who can step in and manage the ship just as well for a week.
  • Assuming Cribbs plays, he needs to be the featured guy on offense. Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll have talked him up all week; it better not be a ploy to "fool" the Ravens. If you read Pluto's article though, it does mention that Baltimore has spent significant time gameplanning for the Wildcat in practice.

Position-by-Position Breakdown

Pos Adv  Reason
QB - I've never been a fan of Joe Flacco's, but it is difficult to make a case against him in favor of the unproven Seneca Wallace. Wallace's mobility isn't necessarily an advantage against the Ravens' defense; I fear that Baltimore will purposely force him out of the pocket to force him into some bad throws. Hopefully Flacco doesn't pick Week 3 as the time he gets in sync with T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
RB - While Ray Rice hasn't had a breakout game over his first two weeks, there's no doubt he's a dynamic running back. He poses the additional threat of catching the ball out of the backfield, something our linebackers really haven't been tested with yet. Jerome Harrison's status is in doubt, so the Browns might give Peyton Hillis a big workload against the Ravens. If James Davis plays, hopefully he makes the most of his opportunities.
WR - Brian Robiskie has officially been ruled out for the Browns, although I guess that won't be a huge loss considering he only has two catches in two games. I'm more hopeful that Evan Moore plays after a minor concussion last week. Either way, the Ravens have more veteran threats in Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Todd Heap; they just need to work out some of the chemistry issues.
OL - I have to give the Browns an advantage somewhere, right? The Ravens have a tough bunch of players, led by left tackle Michael Oher, but right tackle Jared Gaither will miss his third consecutive game. Tony Pashos subbed in for one series last week while John St. Clair shifted over to guard. I'd like to see Pashos get some more reps at right tackle this week against his former team.
DL - Defensive lineman Shaun Rogers has been ruled out for the Browns, which is a big blow. Although he didn't play a lot over the first two weeks, he played enough to generate some pressure and push the offensive line back. Baltimore feature an intimidating bunch up front, and once again the key matchup will be whether Joe Thomas can containing Haloti Ngata. Either way, Wallace is going to have to make his decisions fast.
LB - I fear the Ravens defense, and I'm watching the game on a television screen. I don't care how "old" Ray Lewis is, the guy is still the leader of the defense and is accompanied by the frightening Terrell Suggs. Cleveland's linebackers have held their own their own over the first two weeks and have impressed me with not allowing opponents to break tackles. D'Qwell Jackson is done for the year, so it looks like Eric Barton and David Bowens were worth keeping after all.
DB - Although Baltimore ranks good against the pass, a lot of it has to do with their front seven wrecking so much havoc up front. The Browns' secondary has played very well thus far to the point where I feel confident they can cover the Ravens' trio of receivers. The only person I am a little worried about is Abram Elam in coverage; Flacco can throw a nice deep ball when he is on and I anticipate it being in Elam's direction.
ST - If Joshua Cribbs doesn't play, this ranking would shift to "even." Cribbs hasn't had many return opportunities, but I hate that some fans are using the excuse that "he's not motivated now that he has a contract." Those same fans will be hugging the guy next to him and screaming Cribbs' name when he finally does break the big one.

The Ravens were embarrassed with their offensive performance against the Bengals last week, and when you think about how the seasons have started for Baltimore and Cleveland, they aren't very different. Both teams have played very well on defense but have been terrible on offense for the most part. With all of the injuries the Browns have and the Ravens playing in front of their home crowd, they have a better shot at piecing things together this week.

FINAL PREDICTION: Baltimore Ravens 20, Cleveland Browns 10.