On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Baltimore’s Lucky Streak
- I am about to poke holes in the Baltimore Ravens season, with the disclaimer that I full-well know that the Browns have not played up to their potential aside from maybe one game against the Bengals.
- Against the Chiefs, the Ravens rallied from being down 35-24 in the fourth quarter, and Lamar Jackson needed to go for it on 4th-and-1 while in their own territory with a minute to go in the game. If he would’ve been stuffed, the Chiefs would’ve practically been in field goal range.
- The Ravens needed an NFL-record breaking 66-yard field goal from K Justin Tucker as time expired to beat the Lions.
- Baltimore got a touchdown with 0:39 left, and made the two-point conversion, to tie the Colts before beating them in overtime.
- Down 24-10 to the Vikings in the second half, Baltimore rallied to send the game to overtime, then kicked the game-winning field goal with just 0:16 left to prevent a tie.
- Baltimore needed a touchdown, not a field goal, in order to beat the Bears last week with their backup quarterback. They got it with 0:22 left, thanks to a blown coverage by a Chicago defense that had otherwise dominated the game.
- On top of all that, the Ravens did lose two games in rather convincing fashion — to the Bengals, and the Dolphins. The same Bengals team that Cleveland dominated two weeks later.
- The point isn’t to say that Baltimore is a fluke — good teams find ways to wind games. However, there is a definite pattern of inconsistency for Baltimore this season, and they are very fortunate to have a 7-3 record, given the late-game situations that they’ve pulled out time after time.
What the Browns Need
- This is a big game for the Browns, obviously. They play Baltimore back-to-back, with a bye week in between. While you can’t say the season would be over with a loss and a 6-6 record at the bye, it wouldn’t look good, given the amount of tiebreakers that Cleveland would be behind on in the AFC. Racking up wins against NFC teams like the Vikings, Bears, and Lions is nice on the surface, but it doesn’t do much for you in the playoff tiebreakers.
- There are some definite positives coming for the Browns’ offense, including the return of RT Jack Conklin and RB Kareem Hunt. Hunt adds that extra burst of energy and yards after the catch/contact. At right tackle, while I like Blake Hance overall, he was becoming more of a liability as each week went on. Now, you’re inserting an All-Pro player back in there to get the offensive line at full strength again.
- At the end of the day, it comes down to Baker Mayfield playing a decent game. I respect the fact that he’s playing through pain, and I root like hell for him. I know he may not be able to play at his best, but I go back to that overthrow to Jarvis Landry last week — if a play like that is that open, you have to hit it, or at the very least, it can’t be an interception. Mayfield can succeed as a good game manager.
- The Ravens haven’t run the ball as effectively this season with their running backs. Heck, they’ve been scrambling to just find players. Devonta Freeman has been the guy getting the most touches, with 59 carries for 272 yards and 3 touchdowns. The biggest running threat remains Lamar Jackson, who is averaging 6.0 YPC, although he only has 2 touchdowns.
- Baltimore makes an effort to throw the ball a lot more often than fans may remember with Lamar Jackson. Tight end Mark Andrews will get his touches, but the looks for wide receiver Marquise Brown are way up. In his last three games, he was targeted 14, 12, and 13 times.
- Baltimore’s defense ranks among the best in the NFL against the run, but among the worst against the pass. They also haven’t generated sacks or turnovers at a high rate. It counters what the Browns’ strengths have been, but Cleveland needs to look to get the quick screen game going, a few downfield passes, and then hit the hole with their running backs perhaps in an up-tempo look.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3.5-point underdogs against the Ravens on Sunday.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The NFL continues to be unpredictable. Cleveland can look great one week, awful the next, and grind out a win another week. Which version shows up against Baltimore? I like that Cleveland is at full strength personnel-wise, and although Mayfield is struggling, the Ravens haven’t been very crisp and the Browns will finally get the upper hand in this series.” Browns 27, Ravens 24
rufio: “We haven’t been the same since Baker hurt his shoulder, and he’s more beat up than ever. But, I see the Browns defense picking up the slack this game and getting a few big turnovers in key spots. The running game benefits from the return of Kareem and Jack Conklin, and we are able to do just enough on offense to close this one out.” Browns 24, Ravens 21
Barry Shuck: “With the roller coaster play of the Browns, I just don’t see how they can compete with the Ravens who in my mind should capture the AFC crown this year. There is virtually zero wide receiver play this year, so other teams don’t need to add more defensive backs nor will they double anyone which frees up guys to other areas for the Baltimore D. The Browns still lead the league in rushing, but the Ravens aren’t far behind. It is perplexing to me why the offense will run the ball in the first quarter and then abandon this game plan. This unit is not built to throw a ton of balls every game, so why do they keep trying? Chubb and D’Ernest know how to move the chains and this offensive line is a superior unit at run blocking and just sub-par in pass protection. Get this: Baltimore is second in the NFL against the run. Cricky! The Browns historically are very weak at corralling Lamar Jackson from busting out all those yards on scrambles alone and I have little faith that DC Joe Woods will come up with some glorious solution to stop him. Sending more guys on the pass rush only means that is that many more guys Lamar doesn’t have to contend with once he leaves the pocket for daylight. They just can’t contain him. I see a blowout - sorry.” Ravens 44, Browns 17
Thomas Moore: “The Browns have lost three in a row to the Ravens, giving up 116 total points in those three games. The offense is also struggling as quarterback Baker Mayfield seems to pick up a new injury every week. But if Cleveland wants to keep its playoff hopes alive, they need to find a way to get it done within the division, and that starts on Sunday night. As the wise Al Swearengen once said: “Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair or f*****’ beatin’s. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man — and give some back.”
The time has arrived for the Browns to stand it like a man and give it back to the Ravens.” Browns 21, Ravens 17
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.