Must win? It’s week 4 and another AFC North matchup for the Cleveland Browns. This time it’s the Baltimore Ravens. In the first four weeks of the season, 3 of the opponents the Browns have played are divisional foes and they are currently 1-1 in those matchups.
Going 2-1 in the division would be nice as well as being in 1st in the division heading into an early bye week.
Cleveland stays on the NFL on CBS but instead of Spero Dedes calling the game, we will hear Ian Eagle, Charles Davis and Evan Washburn on the call for the second time this season. Kickoff is at 1:00 PM. Here are the three things to watch for in this divisional matchup.
Contain #8, Limit #4
The game plan defensively is pretty self-explanatory: Stop Quarterback Lamar Jackson and limit wide receiver Zay Flowers.
It appears that wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr and Rashod Bateman are unlikely to suit up this Sunday, however, things could change but it’s trending in that direction. If those two are unable to go, wide receiver Zay Flowers is likely to be the main guy in the passing game.
Flowers is a big play waiting to happen and it’s imperative that Cleveland prevent explosive plays. Jamming Flowers at the line of scrimmage will prevent him from getting a free release. Cleveland has the cornerbacks to keep up with Flowers but having safety help over the top wouldn’t hurt.
As for the quarterback, Jackson is a threat on both the ground and in the air.
You can’t stop Lamar, you can only hope to contain him.
We all know what he can do on the ground, if there isn’t anything open downfield, he will take off and create explosive plays. The Browns run defense was able to shut down Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry last week but Lamar is a different story. In terms of his passing, it has improved throughout the years.
The most accurate QB on targets past the sticks this season— PFF (@PFF) September 27, 2023
Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/bMPtajFC0q
Cleveland has the players that can pressure Lamar and force him to make mistakes. If you take away the middle of the field and contain him you have a fair shot. Expect Cleveland to deploy a spy to follow Lamar as well as use rush packages containing Myles Garrett, Za’Darius Smith, Ogbo Okoronkwo and Alex Wright. All 4 are quick enough to get to the QB and are disciplined to prevent Lamar from breaking free from a collapsing pocket.
Could this be the game that quarterback Deshaun Watson proves he’s back?
After watching the all-22 from the Titans-Browns game, I came to two conclusions.
- Watson looked WAY better than he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night
- Whatever mental hurdle Watson had to deal with, he’s overcome it (for now)
Granted, the Tennessee Titans secondary isn’t that good but Watson needed a game like last week to ease the nerves of a fragile fanbase when it comes to QB play.
The Ravens secondary might be banged up but they provide a stiffer test for Watson.
Baltimore’s defense ranks sixth in defensive dropback EPA/per play. It appears that head coach Kevin Stefanski and Watson are starting to click in terms of the passing game. Stefanski is scheming up looks and Watson is simply hitting on those looks. He’s going through his progressions, making the correct reads, and seeing the field. Arm talent is still there and athleticism is also there.
Can Watson put it together against a much tougher defense?
Deshaun Watson playing by far his best game as a Cleveland Brown.— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) September 24, 2023
27/33 289 2TD’s— *would’ve been more if not for refs inadvertent whistle*
Outside of 1 error, Watson looks like the man they paid for! #DawgPound
It’s all about consistency. Watson has to be more consistent and if he plays well against Baltimore, the concerns will slowly die down and everything will be right in Cleveland (for once).
This game will not be easy, this will be a dogfight
Another day, another player from the opposite team gave the Browns bulletin board material. DJ, roll the tape.
“We going over to beat their tails in front of their wife and kids.”— WJZ Sports (@WJZ13sports) September 27, 2023
Safe to say Roquan Smith is a little bit pumped up about the trip to Cleveland… #Ravens #RavensFlock @wjz pic.twitter.com/knhz1PqvC3
Bold talk from someone who let Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew walk into your trap and take it over but I digress.
Divisional games are always the toughest to predict because the teams play twice in a season. These two teams will play again, and the two teams could be on a collision course for who takes over the AFC North.
Baltimore and Cleveland have made the necessary moves to improve their teams. I expect this game to be close, to be physical and a playoff-level atmosphere. It’s week 4 but divisional games have a bit of extra meaning behind it.
Cleveland blew an opportunity to make a statement against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 2 but this is a perfect opportunity for Cleveland to atone for their week 2 loss. It’ll come down to which team makes fewer mistakes and which teams will execute at a higher level. Sunday afternoon will be cinema and we will be locked in for that.