The Cleveland Browns hit the road on Sunday night to play the Baltimore Ravens in an important AFC North Division game.
The Browns are coming off a bleak win (is such a thing possible?) over the Detroit Lions, while the Ravens needed a last-second touchdown drive to take down the three-win Chicago Bears.
The Browns have been getting healthier — just ignore quarterback Baker Mayfield’s weekly injury — and are welcoming back right tackle Jack Conklin and running back Kareem Hunt for the game.
Here is everything you need to know as Cleveland faces Baltimore and looks to head into the bye week on a winning note.
Records: Cleveland is 6-5. Baltimore is 7-3
Division records: Cleveland is 1-1. Baltimore is 0-1
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m.
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
Announcers: Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya (sidelines)
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Ravens won the last meeting, 47-42, in Week 14 of the 2020 season. (Boxscore)
All-time series: The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series, 33-11. The Browns last win on the road against Baltimore came in Week 4 of the 2019 season.
Weather: 45 degrees and cloudy, with 7 mph winds. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be wearing their 75th anniversary uniform, which they are undefeated in this season.
75th Anniversary Jerseys in Primetime! pic.twitter.com/ijnNGa5KHL— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 26, 2021
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: cornerback Troy Hill (neck) and wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin). Out: wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (concussion).
Ravens - Questionable: fullback Patrick Ricard (hip/foot), wide receiver Marquise Brown (thigh), tight end Nick Boyle (knee), offensive lineman Patrick Mekari (ankle), defensive lineman Brandon Williams (shoulder), defensive lineman Calais Campbell (concussion), defensive back Anthony Averett (thigh), defensive back Jimmy Smith (neck), defensive back Chris Westry (thigh), defensive back Tavon Young (foot/knee). Out: wide receiver Miles Boykin (finger), offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi (thigh), defensive back Ar’Darius Washington (foot).
The line: Browns +3.5
A Few Things to Watch For
Contain Lamar: Cleveland’s defense has given up 116 points in the past three games against the Ravens, all losses, and Baltimore is 5-1 against the Browns in games that quarterback Lamar Jackson has started.
Related: How can the Browns defense corral Lamar Jackson?
In those games, Jackson has 14 combined touchdowns (10 passing and four rushing) and 1,540 yards of total offense.
For the Browns to win, it is time that the rebuilt defense finally finds a way to keep Jackson under control. Teams have done it in the playoffs, and the Las Vegas Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins have done it this season, as Jackson has just three total touchdowns — zero rushing — and been sacked 12 times in those games.
Related: Stopping Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s run game
The Browns probably can’t really shut Jackson down, but they need to stop allowing the type of big plays that can turn the momentum in Baltimore’s favor.
Strength vs. strength: The Browns are getting healthy at the right time and should have the majority of their starting offense on the field against the Ravens.
The biggest return will be running back Kareem Hunt, who has missed the previous five games with a calf injury.
Even with Hunt and running back Nick Chubb both missing time this season, the Browns are still No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards (1,725), tied for first in yards per carry (5.2), tied for first in rushing touchdowns (17), and tied for first with 13 runs of more than 20 yards.
On the other side, Baltimore has the league’s second-best run defense in yards allowed (886 yards), while allowing 10 rushing touchdowns and 4.2 yards per carry.
It might be tempting for head coach Kevin Stefanski to come out having quarterback Baker Mayfield firing away given that the Ravens are 31st against the pass, but Cleveland’s strength is running the ball and Baltimore might be missing defensive tackle Calais Campbell, who is questionable with a concussion.
The Ravens have been prone to giving up big plays on defense, so it might be time to go old school and pound the Ravens with Nick Chubb and Hunt all night and see Baltimore can respond.
Tighten up on special teams: The Browns have been very average on special teams this season and enter Sunday’s game ranked No. 16 in special teams DVOA, compared to the Ravens, who are No. 2 in special teams DVOA.
Chase McLaughlin had an extra point blocked and missed a field goal against the Ravens, one of his three misses on the season. Punter Jamie Gillan has been spotty with a 39.9 net punt average and the return game has yet to generate any excitement.
Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker is about as reliable as can be, and Devin Duvernay is averaging almost 25 yards per kickoff return and almost 16 yards per punt return.
In what could be a close game every little bit helps, so this would be as good a time as any for Cleveland’s special teams to be on top of their game.
A final quote
Quarterback Baker Mayfield (via a team-provided transcript):
“This is a huge, huge game for us because it is the next one and it is a division opponent. Big-picture wise, everybody wants to act like the world is falling. No, we have not played to our potential, and we know that more than anybody because we sit there and watch the film and we know what we are supposed to do. We have six wins, and the Ravens are leading the division with seven. We know what is at stake. We know what we need to do, and that is how we are going to handle it this week.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Sunday night’s game against the Ravens?