On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
- Lamar Jackson has had a phenomenal season, to the point where you almost have to look at how Baltimore has played since their 40-25 loss to the Browns back in Week 2. The Ravens are 10-0 since then, with Jackson being unstoppable as both a passer and a runner. The system that John Harbaugh put in place for him is just perfect. On the season, Jackson has thrown 33 touchdown passes to 6 interceptions, and has 1,103 yards rushing with another 7 touchdowns.
- As silly as this may sound (because it really applies to any quarterback), the best way to beat Jackson is to jump ahead early and put him in a bit of a position he’s not comfortable with. That’s what happened in his back-to-back losses to Kansas City and Cleveland.
- Baker Mayfield had a season-high in passing yards against the Ravens back in Week 4 (342 passing yards), but their defense has added Marcus Peters and played better in the secondary since then. For Mayfield, it has been a season in which he broke out of his disastrous early-season woes, but now has been stuck in mediocrity since then. He never lacks confidence, but he has to improve as a quarterback this offseason.
- We aren’t counting Lamar Jackson in this category, but Mark Ingram has been a great asset for them in this system. He hasn’t had 20 carries in a single game this year, but has 963 yards rushing (5.0 YPC) and 10 touchdowns. Backup Gus Edwards isn’t bad too, with 515 yards rushing (5.2 YPC) and 2 touchdowns. Neither back makes much of an impact as a receiver, as pass plays in this offense are usually built off of fakes to the running back.
- It’s hard to believe that Nick Chubb’s best game of the season came against Baltimore, when he had 20 carries for 165 yards (8.3 YPC) and 3 touchdowns. An 88-yard score was a big reason for that average. Chubb leads the NFL with 1,404 yards rushing. Kareem Hunt has 30 receptions in 6 games, which would come out to 80 receptions over a 16-game season. Call me crazy, but while Hunt has been very effective when the ball comes his way, I feel like the team could be leveraging his abilities even more than they have been.
Wide Receiver / Tight End
- Marquise Brown remains the Ravens’ top wide receiver. He has 43 catches for 563 yards and 7 touchdowns. His involvement has tapered off over the second half of the season, though. Willie Sneed catches about 2 passes for 15 yards each week.
- Tight ends are the bread-and-butter for the Ravens’ receiving game. Mark Andrews still leads the team with 58 catches for 759 yards and 8 touchdowns. Hayden Hurst has 27 catches for 305 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Jarvis Landry had 167 yards receiving against Baltimore in Week 4, but you may remember that Odell Beckham was held to 2 catches for 20 yards. That was sort of the beginning of the talk about, “well, the Browns won, but Odell didn’t do much.” Compounding matters is the fact that Cleveland has not had a constant third receiver all season. It danced between Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, and KhaDarel Hodge.
- David Njoku is in the same doghouse that Higgins is in apparently. He was a healthy scratch last week, so who knows if he “responded” enough during the week to warrant playing. Ricky Seals-Jones had two touchdown catches last week.
- The Ravens’ starting offensive line features LT Ronnie Stanley, LG Bradley Bozeman, C Patrick Mekari, RG Marshal Yanda, and RT Orlando Brown. Stanley and Yanda were both named to the Pro Bowl after exceptional seasons.
- The Browns will have to decide between Chris Hubbard and Kendall Lamm on Sunday to start at right tackle. My money is on Hubbard, since Lamm has been limited during the week at practice.
Defensive Line / Linebacker
- The Ravens run a 3-4 defense, with DT Brandon Williams, NT Michael Pierce, and DE Chris Wormley. Williams was not available the first time these two teams met, and his presence will help shore up the Ravens’ run defense considerably compared to the first match-up.
- It’s funny to see the contrast in linebacker usage to the Browns; while Cleveland uses two guys all game, the Ravens have a true rotation of all their linebackers, including RUSH Jaylon Ferguson, MLB Josh Bynes, WLB Patrick Onwuasor, WLB L.J. Fort, SAM Tyus Bowser, and SAM Matthew Judon. Judon made the Pro Bowl and leads Baltimore with 8.5 sacks and an impressive 29 hits on the quarterback.
- Mack Wilson logged his first interception of the season last week. Joe Schobert will need a bit of a makeup game from when he couldn’t recognize the Cardinals’ run game last week.
- The Ravens are much deeper at the cornerback position now than in Week 4, as nickelback Jimmy Smith is back and Marcus Peters was acquired from the Rams to go along with Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr. Humphrey was the player who had the choking incident with Odell Beckham. Peters and Humphrey have both made the Pro Bowls. Baltimore’s starting safeties are FS Earl Thomas and SS Chuck Clark. Clark represents yet another change from the first time these two teams met, and Thomas also made the Pro Bowl.
- We’re at a point in the season where the defense just looks spent, and the secondary has underachieved all season. What’s funny is that the last time these two teams met, the Browns’ secondary featured Terrance Mitchell, T.J. Carrie, Eric Murray, Jermaine Whitehead, and Damarious Randall as the starters, and they had a pretty good outing. Only one of those guys (Randall) will see meaningful snaps this time around.
- Justin Tucker is the Ravens’ kicker. He is 23-of-24 on field goals this year and 51-of-53 on extra points. Austin Seibert missed his first non-Dawg Pound kick last week, which puts him at 23-of-27 for the season.
- Sam Koch is the Ravens’ punter. He is 10th in the NFL with an average of 46.1 yards per punt, and 28th in the NFL with a net average of 39.6 yards per punt. Jamie Gillan’s net average is a bit higher at 40.8 yards per punt.
- De’Anthony Thomas is the Ravens’ kick and punt returner, while Dontrell Hilliard still has those duties for the Browns. Neither teams gets the edge there.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The only way the Browns can win this game is if they out-score the Ravens in a shootout, much like the last time these two teams met. I’d love to think that Cleveland has Baltimore’s number, but the truth is that Baltimore’s defense has several key players on defense that they didn’t have last time, while the Browns are depleted and defeated defensively.
Last week against the Cardinals was almost like facing the poor man’s Ravens team, and Cleveland failed miserably. I can’t imagine how many yards Lamar Jackson will rack up on the ground in this one. My personal strategy would be to stack the box every play and make Jackson beat the Browns through the air (which he can do easily still, but I’d rather him earn it that way).” Ravens 34, Browns 21.
Thomas Moore: “Throughout the years, no matter how disappointing the Browns were, the team always had the capacity to throw fans a surprise during the season. This weekend’s game seemed like the perfect opportunity for that to occur, then last week against the Cardinals happened.
I truly want to find a way that the Browns can pull this out and send the fans home happy in the home finale. But the only thing I can come up with is that it seems unlikely that the Ravens will end the year with 12 consecutive wins. Sadly, that is not enough to feel comfortable saying the Browns will win.” Ravens 28, Browns 10.
BigTownBrown: “Since the last time these two teams have played the Ravens have not lost, the Browns however have lost a few more things than just games.... hope from fans...
That all changes this week as the Browns beat the snot out of the Ravens in front of the home crowd!!!! Baker Mayfield looks super poised as he should have all year-round! We FINALLY unlock OBJ as he catches 13 balls on 13 targets. The Browns offense is going to be electric in this one and it’s too much for the Ravens to overcome!!!
Sike!!! It’s fun to hope!!! But the boo birds will be out early and offen. ” Ravens 50, Browns 0.
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.