The Cleveland Browns find themselves on the precipice of a lost season as they hit the road on Sunday to face the Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns are currently riding a three-game losing streak that has them in need of a win in a major way. Fortunately for Cleveland, no one else in the AFC North Division is playing all that well either so they are only one game off the pace set by the Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sunday’s game marks the first of two consecutive divisional games for the Browns before the bye week rolls around, so the opportunity is there to settle things down and stay in the divisional race with a pair of victories.
They have to get past Baltimore first, of course, so let’s take a look at everything you need to know as the Browns face the Ravens.
Records: Cleveland is 2-4. Baltimore is 3-3.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore
Announcers: Kevin Harlan and Trent Green
Radio: ESPN 850, 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Nathan Zegura, Jerod Cherry (sidelines)
Last meeting: The Browns won the last game between the two teams, 24-22, in Week 14 of the 2021 season.
All-time series: Baltimore leads the all-time regular season series, 34-12. The Browns last win in Baltimore came in 2019.
Weather: 64 degrees and cloudy with a 24 percent chance of precipitation. Winds from the NNE at 7mph. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be rocking white jerseys with orange pants.
white tops and pants for #CLEvsBAL pic.twitter.com/YId01mLABM— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 21, 2022
Injury report: Browns – Out: right guard Wyatt Teller (calf), cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion) and offensive tackle Joe Haeg (concussion). Questionable: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and defensive end Isaac Rochell (undisclosed). Ravens - Out: running back J.J. Dobbins (knee). Questionable: tight end Mark Andrews (knee), wide receiver Rashod Bateman (foot), offensive guard Ben Cleveland (foot), linebacker Justin Houston (groin), offensive tackle Morgan Moses (heel), cornerback Marcus Peters (quad), fullback Patrick Ricard (knee).
The line: Browns +6.5 (Draft Kings)
A Few Things to Watch
Something has to give: The Browns have clearly had their issues in games this season as they have blown early leads (14-0 against both the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers) and had late-game meltdowns (the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons).
But this week the Browns have company as the Ravens are going through their own problems, primarily in the fourth quarter of games.
The Ravens are the first team in NFL history to hold a double-digit lead in each of their first 6 games and NOT have a winning record, via @EliasSports @ESPNStatsInfo #Browns— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 19, 2022
A large part of why the Ravens are 3-3 is that they have continually fallen apart in the final quarter, where they have been outscored 64-22.
Outside of kicker Justin Tucker, perhaps the greatest weapon in the league in the game’s final minutes, everyone else on the Ravens is struggling when it means the most, as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell points out:
Lamar Jackson has posted a 72.6 QBR in the first three quarters, the third-best mark in the league. In the fourth, he’s down to 28.4.
The league’s fifth-best pass defense by QBR before the final 15 minutes is suddenly dead last in QBR in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens have a plus-six turnover differential in quarters 1-3 but a minus-two differential in the fourth.
Something has to give on Sunday, so if the Browns can fix their issues while ensuring the fourth-quarter woes continue for the Ravens, then the first Victory Monday in a month might be just around the corner.
Controlling Lamar?: The Browns have only beaten the Ravens on the road once in four tries since Lamar Jackson took over as Baltimore’s starting quarterback. But they came close last season when they picked off four passes and held Jackson to a quarterback rating of just 46.5. (Sadly, the offense could not hold up their end of the bargain.)
Related: How can the Browns corral Lamar Jackson?
looking forward to @j_owuu flying around the field pic.twitter.com/iIRZdEYDuc— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 20, 2022
Cleveland can certainly take a look at what worked in the game to build a plan for Sunday’s game, but it is probably not realistic to expect four interceptions again this time, although Jackson has thrown five interceptions in his last four games so the opportunities to force a mistake should be there.
Perhaps the best way for the Browns to keep Jackson under control is to simply have everyone just do their job and make the tackle rather than trying for a game-changing hero play. It sounds basic, sure, but if the defense had mastered that simple task these past few weeks they would not be riding a three-game losing streak.
Put a leash on Brissett?: The wheels completely fell off quarterback Jacoby Brissett last week against the New England Patriots as Brissett turned the ball over three times on a pair of interceptions and a fumble in his worst performance of the season.
No one will ever question Brissett’s desire but he is limited as a quarterback and reminded everyone last week why he is best suited as a backup quarterback that can step in for a game or two and hold it together.
the only way is pic.twitter.com/kn5UmRy0zy— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 19, 2022
One area that Brissett might want to dial back a bit is the deep ball as he has attempted 27 passes of 20 yards or more this season, on pace with Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, but has not come close to their level of success. According to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, Brissett is only completing 33 percent of his deep passes with one touchdown and four interceptions to show for his efforts.
It is hard to know what the coaching staff can do about that as they need to at least give opposing defenses someone to pay attention to down the field to open up things for the running game. But Brissett needs to make better decisions and perhaps not fire the ball deep just because there is a receiver running a deep route. Explosive plays are fun, but if they result in a turnover or an incompletion, that takes a lot of the joy away.
Give Brissett some help: Let’s go for an over-simplification here with one approach the Browns could take on offense to relieve some of the pressure on Brissett and secure the win.
Cleveland enters the weekend at No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards (1,032), tied at No. 4 in yards per carry (5.2), second in rushing touchdowns (10), No. 1 in runs of more than 20 yards (11) and No. 2 in rushing first downs (59).
Most 15+ yard runs this season pic.twitter.com/8lDlm2hnMh— PFF (@PFF) October 18, 2022
On the other side, Baltimore’s defense, which is allowing 103.8 rushing yards per game, is middle-of-the-pack in yards per carry allowed (4.4) and is at No. 24 in run defense DVOA.
Maybe, just this once, the Browns should line up, play to their obvious strength on offense, and just run the ball until the Ravens show they can consistently stop them. Not only would that take away the need for Brissett to pass the ball too much, but if they can grab a lead and control the clock, it could force Jackson into making some mistakes.
What’s the worse that could happen?
A Final Quote
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods on the continued struggles from the defense (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I thought there would be more things we could do at this point. Not that more means better, but we do have some young guys in there playing for us at all three levels of the defense, and they are learning too. I thought we would be further along obviously.”
Those 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’s game against the Ravens?