The Browns extinguished their faint playoff hopes last week in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that included the familiar defensive breakdowns and a continued inability to find the end zone on a regular basis.
The Ravens come into the game sitting atop the AFC North standings and looking to remain undefeated in divisional games.
The game will also be the first opportunity for the home fans to see quarterback Deshaun Watson running Cleveland’s offense, so that should be a treat not only for the fans but also the national TV audience tuning in on NFL Network.
Here is everything you need to know as the Browns look to salvage something from another loss season when they take on the Ravens.
Records: Cleveland is 5-8. Baltimore is 9-4.
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m.
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland
TV: News5 in the Cleveland market, NFL Network for everyone else
Announcers: Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Steve Wyche (sidelines), Stacey Dales (sidelines)
Radio: ESPN 850, 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Nathan Zegura, Jerod Cherry (sidelines)
Last meeting: The Ravens won the last meeting, 23-20, in Week 7 of this season.
All-time series: Baltimore leads the all-time series, 35-12, but the Browns have split the past four games played in Cleveland.
Uniform: The Browns will be wearing their best uniform combination of brown jerseys and orange pants, accented by the return of white face masks.
Kardiac combo for tomorrow ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/0csRJuoXcv— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 16, 2022
Weather: 33 degrees with a 4 percent change of precipitation. Winds at 17 mph from the west/southwest. (weather.com)
Injury report: Browns – Questionable: wide receiver David Bell (thumb/toe). Ravens – Questionable: offensive tackle Morgan Moses (knee), punter Jordan Stout (knee) and right guard Kevin Zeitler (knee). Out: quarterback Lamar Jackson (knee).
The line: Browns -3 (Draft Kings)
A Few Things to Watch
Pick a QB: The Ravens come into the game unsure about who will be lining up at quarterback as starter Lamar Jackson is out with a knee injury and QB2 Tyler Huntley was knocked out of last week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a concussion.
Huntley cleared the league’s concussion protocol relatively quickly and was able to return to practice this week, and while it appears he will play there is still a possibility that the Ravens will turn to undrafted rookie Anthony Brown.
currently tied for third with 12 sacks and his sights set on the top pic.twitter.com/UseiS1Eb0s— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 15, 2022
The Browns faced Huntley last season when he replaced an injured Jackson and came close to rallying the Ravens from a 21-point deficit before the Browns held on for the win. In that game, Huntley was 27-of-38 for 270 yards and added another 45 rushing yards.
Brown was not quite as impressive in his relief role last week but did enough to help Baltimore win the game.
One thing working in Cleveland’s favor is that no matter who is in at quarterback the Ravens run the same offense, so the defense should be ready for whatever Baltimore throws at them.
Watson’s slow build: Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson looked better in his second start of the season as he threw for 276 yards and actually led a drive that resulted in a touchdown.
There were still issues, however, most notably that he continues to hold onto the ball far too long as he is still trying to get himself back into processing things at game speed, which simply can’t be replicated in practice.
When asked about it this week, Watson continued to repeat that these things take time (quote via The Beacon Journal):
“I want to continue to improve. I want to be that player whenever I step on the field, no one can stop us, and that’s my mentality. But you have to go out there and continue to show that and try to do that and not just talk about it, but actually prove it on the field. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, and this team also is nowhere near where we want to be, so we gotta continue to just keep growing and finish the season strong.”
The Ravens will present another challenge for Watson, who is 0-2 in his career against Baltimore and has thrown two interceptions and taken 10 sacks.
It is probably too much to ask that Watson be at the top of his game so soon after returning from his 11-game suspension but expecting him to pick up his decision making and get rid of the ball sooner should not fall into the category of asking too much of him.
Defensive issues return: After seemingly fixing things on the defensive side of the ball in wins against Tampa Bay and Houston, the Cleveland defense that everyone is accustomed to returned last week in the loss to the Bengals.
Cleveland’s defense once again did not tackle well, had breakdowns in coverage at the wrong times, and for reasons known only to defensive coordinator Joe Woods, decided that there was no need to pay extra attention to Cincinnati wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase despite the fact that Chase was targeted 15 times and was the only healthy receiving option for quarterback Joe Burrow.
The Ravens running game presents its usual problem this week as Baltimore comes into the game tied for second in the league in rushing yards (2,108), is second in yards per carry (5.2), is the league’s best in rushing for first downs (32.8) and is eighth in rushing touchdowns (13). Baltimore also welcomed running back J.K. Dobbins back to the lineup last week and all he did was rush for 120 yards and average eight yards per carry.
The situation is further complicated by the Browns losing linebackers to injury on what feels like a weekly basis as they have placed Sione Takitaki and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah on injured reserve after the past two games. Combine that with the continued underwhelming play of the defensive tackles, and it could be another long day for the defense if they can’t settle down and get back to playing reasonably sound football.
- Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones set a career high in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (114) last week against the Bengals. He needs to average 62.25 yards per game the rest of the season to have the first 1,000-yard receiving season of his career.
- With a win on Saturday and again in the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns will finish with four wins in the AFC North Division for the first time ever.
- Running back Nick Chubb needs just 50 more rushing yards to become the fourth player in franchise history to rush for at least 6,000 yards in his career.
- Kicker Cade York is one successful extra point away from tying Jeff Jaeger for the most extra points made by a Cleveland rookie, with 29.
- Since scoring 32 points against the Bengals in Week 8, Cleveland’s offense has scored just 76 points total in the last five games.
- Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews has 40 receptions for 510 yards and seven touchdowns in nine career games against the Browns.
- Cleveland elevated wide receiver Daylen Baldwin and linebacjker Tae Davis from the practice squad for the game.
A Final Quote
Defensive end Myles Garrett on defensive coordinator Joe Woods (quote via cleveland.com):
“I mean, as far as following Joe’s lead, we’re always going to do that. He’s top dog in the room and when he says something it goes. And if we have any changes in mind or things that we’d like to do or looks that we think we’d like to see, he’s open to ideas. So we’re just going to follow his lead for this next game, the next four games. Because he’s going put us in position to win.”
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 Saturday’s game against the Ravens?