The Browns and Ravens both come into Sunday's game at 1-1. The Browns, as we know, lost a tough one in Pittsburgh week 1. They then shocked the Saints last week. Baltimore will be hitting the road for the first time this season after losing to the Bengals in week 1, and trouncing the Steelers last Thursday.
Cleveland will be looking to gain some more momentum heading into their bye week after the Ravens game. Sidebar: I hate the week 4 bye.
Anyways, let's take a look at 3 reasons we'll beat Baltimore on Sunday.
1. Browns' Pass Rush vs. Ravens' O-line
On paper, the Ravens' offensive line has been playing great. PFF grades them as a +10.0 for pass blocking so far this year. That's good for 2nd in pass blocking efficiency, per PFF. Additionally, Joe Flacco wasn't sacked last week against the Steelers.
While that may sound like a large obstacle to overcome, and it is to extent, I believe the Browns' front-seven is up to the task.
Former-Raven Paul Kruger, has looked like a different played under Mike Petine's scheme. Through 2 games this season, Kruer has 2 sacks. He got a sack in week 1 last year, but then it took him until week 7 to get another (and that was just a half). Does this mean he's primed for a breakout year? Maybe. But one thing's for sure, through two games he's certainly looked like the player the Browns were hoping he would be last year.
Jabaal Sheard has also played well early on this season. Pairing Sheard and Kruger, with a D-line that's improving in health, should lead us to believe this front-seven can really start to turn it up.
While it does appear that the Ravens O-line has played very well, the Browns pass rush is going to be hungry against a division rival. With Kruger facing his former team, whom he did not register a sack against last year, look for him to have a big game. And look for the Browns pass rush to be a key factor in securing a W.
2. Needle Starting To Point Towards Cleveland
In the second meeting between the Browns and Ravens last year, the Browns beat the Ravens in Cleveland, 24-18. They'd lost to Baltimore 11 times in a row before winning that game. A few of the games prior to last year's second contest could've also tilted in favor of the Browns.
As showcased by the first two games this season, this ain't the Browns we're accustomed to seeing recently. Under Mike Pettine this team has a demeanor about them we've not seen for a long time. A victory last year after a long drought against the Ravens is just the beginning, the winds are starting to blow in Cleveland's direction. The Browns will be sure to build on, and take advantage of that Sunday.
3. Brian Hoyer
The Bengals plan against the Ravens in week 1 was to air it out. They did just that and amassed over 300 yards through the air against the Ravens. The Steelers didn't put up a fight hardly at all, so looking at that game is a little more difficult.
For the Browns to find success against the Ravens, they'll rely heavily on QB Brian Hoyer. The Browns' signal caller put together a brilliant game-winning drive last week against the Saints. Hoyer now has 2 game-winning 4th quarter comeback drives as a Cleveland Brown. And that's in 5 starts. He's also 4-1 in those 5 career starts for the Browns. Even if you don't count the game he was injured in last year, he's still 3-1.
However you may feel about Hoyer, the fact is, he keeps the Browns in the game and makes plays when he has to. No one expects him to put up 500 yards through the air. He is what he is, and what that is long-term, I'm not sure. Right now, the way this team is built, he may just be exactly what the Browns need. We'll need a balanced attack Sunday to beat the Ravens, but furthermore, Hoyer will have to play the way he has recently in order to get the victory.
Bullet #1 was about the pass rush. Bullet #2 was about the Browns closing the gap on the Ravens, and how last year's win may be the linchpin. One of the main reasons the Browns beat the Ravens in the second game? They sacked Flacco 5 times. And bullet #3 was about the QB, Brian Hoyer. All three will need to play a part Sunday to beat the Ravens.
I expect the pass rush to get after Flacco, much like they did in last year's victory. The stadium will again be rocking, especially after last week's victory against the Saints. And Hoyer is going to come out and lead the team to victory.
Am I drunk on Hoyer-kool-aid? Possibly. But, damn, it tastes good.
What do you guys think? Why are you optimistic for Sunday's win?