This Saturday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Changing Things Up
- One of the more disappointing aspects of Kevin Stefanski's reign as head coach has been the lack of changing things up when something isn't working. Even though the Browns' running game still statistically ranks near the top of the NFL, they haven't been the type of ground game we expect for awhile. The center position can be partly to blame, but this is an offensive line that is still supposed to have three Pro Bowl-caliber linemen, and a former first round pick at left tackle. How can everything cripple when just the center changes?
- Stefanski needs to make more adjustments when something isn't working. I am in awe of how Kyle Shanahan uses his personnel and schemes things up. Stefanski calls some nice concepts in the passing game at times, but even if we are surprised by how a defense attacks us against the run, why is there no answer? Here is what Alex Van Pelt said:
"They did some things in their front that caught us and that really hurt some of our runs at the point of attack with some of the things that they did schematically."
That's like our passing game coordinator saying that it was a tough adjustment to not have the Bengals' two receivers available due to injury. Seriously? What the hell does that even mean?
The last time I recall us running an end around, it was a touchdown run by Anthony Schwartz. Have we seen that play run since then? Why not?
Plenty of Changes This Week
- It's a shortened week for the Browns and Ravens, and it's the second time they've faced each other. Personnel-wise, a lot has changed since.
- Specifically, both teams' quarterbacks are different. Instead of Jacoby Brissett and Lamar Jackson squaring off, it'll be Deshaun Watson facing Tyler Huntley. Huntley isn't as patient as Lamar Jackson and will use his legs to try getting a first down.
- The Ravens will get safety Marcus Williams back, as well as running back J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins as a key player in the teams wins over the ears.
- On the Browns' side of things, they will have Wyatt Teller at right guard, but Ethan Pocic is out at center (versus the first time these two teams met). Unfortunately, the linebacker position has been in such disarray with the number of injuries there.
- The offense has to be better, plain and simple. I don't care how rusty he may be, this offense needs to score more than one touchdown in two games under Deshaun Watson.
- My biggest concern is seeing the Ravens' running game come back to life. That co-incides with Cleveland’s lack of success at defensive tackle. There is also the change at linebacker due to injuries.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3-point favorites against the Ravens.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “There are some factors going in the Browns' favor this week, and that's one reason why Cleveland is favored.
The Browns are at home, and Deshaun Watson is far less likely to receive a stadium full of boos. I don't trust the Ravens' passing game as much with Huntley under center. Watson will continue to progress, and then a Cade York field goal will be a difference. Browns 23, Ravens 20
Barry Shuck: “Sadly, I have little faith in this offense going forward. My mind believes that Stefanski should put in Brissett and let him play out the year. That would give Watson the entire off-season and go into camp fresh. This offense has looked worse than the defense since Deshaun has taken over, and that is saying it is suddenly crapola. Actually, since the offense has tanked both the defense and special teams have improved somewhat. What was once an offense ranked #5 is now #15 in just two games time. Other than Watson being inserted, what has changed? Watson remains covered in rust as this offense has taken an alarming nose-dive since his insertion. The O-Line is one of the worst-ranked units since Week 9. What happened to this famous running attack? From 154.4 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry to 122.5 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. Look at Chubb’s last five games: 34 yards, 80, 116, 19, 63. Wasn’t he the top rusher or near the top all season? Baltimore’s defense is ranked 11th which matches up nicely against the Browns. Expect life for Chubb and Hunt to be difficult, and considering that this offensive attack has played poorly, expect a huge win for their division foe.” Ravens 32, Browns 13
Thomas Moore: “I truly do want to pick the Browns to win the game. A victory gives them a chance to finish the season with a 4-2 record in the division for the first time since the AFC North was formed, would help put a dent in Baltimore’s playoff hopes, and give the home fans something to feel at least a little bit good about as the season winds down. But how can anyone be sure about this team given that the defensive staff can’t figure out that they should maybe throw some extra attention to a player like Ja’Marr Chase because they were too busy planning for what to do with a pair of end-of-the-roster wide receivers?
The Ravens are starting second-string quarterback Tyler Huntley on Saturday, and lord help us all if he happens to leave the game with an injury. Knowing now how difficult it is for Cleveland’s defensive coaches to make even the most basic of adjustments during a game, in that situation we might very well see Myles Garrett playing deep safety while Grant Delpit rushes the quarterback from an edge position.
On Saturday the Christmas bourbon will flow freely, not in victory but to dull the pain of yet another tepid performance from the home squad.” Ravens 17, Browns 10
Jared Mueller: “Expecting a Cleveland Browns win at this point can only happen if you are predicting something that rarely happens: The offense and defense both play well in the same week. With four linebackers out for the year, the Baltimore Ravens run game with QB Tyler Huntley calling the shots will have a chance to be overwhelming. One mistake by the Browns offense could keep the ball away from them for most of a quarter.
Cleveland can win this game at home but QB Deshaun Watson has to take that next step forward to put the pressure on Baltimore to throw the ball more than they want to.” Browns 27, Ravens 24
Matt Wood: “Welp, I have tried to be positive but this is a grind. Honestly I think the Browns have a great shot to win this Saturday. For the first time in a long time, the Browns have the better QB situation in place against the Ravens! Yeah I said it. All that talk aside, I think we saw a lot of positive signs from Watson against the Bengals. The talent didn’t go away. The Browns now have the rest of the season to get him on track and gassed up for next season. Browns surprise.” Browns 33, Ravens 17
Ezweav: “I really can never pick the Ravens to beat us since my hatred of them is so strong. But even with that we would appear to be advantageously positioned in this one. While the defense has had its problems at varying times all year, it held that Ravens’ offense in check in the first meeting in Baltimore, and of course that was with Lamar. Last week two of the Bengals drives were essentially gifts (the flea-flicker and the penalty-parade) so it isn’t like they went up and down the field on us all game. We just couldn’t do enough offensively.
That part probably continues to get better this week. There definitely seems to have been a correlation between Ethan Pocic getting injured and the Browns rushing offense getting grinded to a halt. I guess having the 4th string guy out there will do that. Thus, Browns got to make plays in the air and they can. Remember that Jacoby threw a long TD pass to Cooper in the first game that could have won it but was called back on a bogus OPI. So it’s not as if these guys are not gettable defensively; we’re not dealing with the 2000 squad out here.
Home crowd gives a lift, Browns begin a pleasant late-season run.” Browns 25, Ravens 15
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.