The only thing the Cleveland Browns have going for them heading into M&T Bank Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens is the short week their hosts are on after beating the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Other than that, all the advantages are pointing in the Ravens direction.
It’s been nearly 5 years since the Cleveland Browns last beat the Baltimore Ravens, since then in 8 consecutive games, four season sweeps. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh were both rookie quarterback and head coach when the streak began, with Flacco starting in all those wins. Despite the short week after an emotional victory of the Patriots (31-30) on Sunday night, Flacco’s form suggests this is going to be another good night for Baltimore, as long as fatigue doesn’t hurt them too much.
Flacco threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns in the win against New England, outplaying Tom Brady and at least for one game, living up to his claim that he’s an elite quarterback and one of the best in the NFL. The Browns’ head coach, Pat Shurmur, admits he’s a big fan of Flacco, already losing against him twice.
I’ve always been a Joe Flacco fan. I thought he’s always been a good quarterback, a top-level quarterback in this league. The most worrying thing for Shurmur, who went 4-12 last season and is now 0-3 this year? The Browns haven’t started 0-4 since 2009, but he’s still talking about winning the division.
I look and we’ve got 13 games left. It’s about winning your division, so you can get into the playoffs. Nobody in our division has won all their games. We’ve got a division opponent on the road with a great opportunity to get the ship righted on Thursday night.
Speaking of rookies, that’s who’s heading the Browns offense – Brandon Weeden at quarterback and Trent Richardson at running back. Weeden had one of the worst games ever to start a career at the position, going 12-35 for 118 yards while throwing 4 interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles on week 1. Since then he’s regrouped, but not enough to make a real difference or get a win.
Richardson has been quite limited despite all the hype in two of his first three career games. His totals from week 1 and week 3 (Eagles and Bills) are 66 yards on 31 carries. Against the Bengals in week 2 Richardson looked like the player plenty expect him to be, going for 109 yards on 19 carries. Problem? The Ravens have a fantastic run defense, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry.
On the other side of scrimmage it’s Ray Rice, who’s been pretty effective in his first three games so far, although the tendency is somewhat towards a passing offense up to this point. Rice has 268 yards on 46 carries so far, a fantastic 5.8 average with three scored touchdowns. The Ravens have scored more points than anyone in the AFC so far, averaging 32.3 points per game. Flacco has thrown for an AFC best 913 yards so far.
The numbers, the personnel, it all says Ravens win. Torrey Smith is now five days after the death of his brother, and his huge Sunday night game. It’ll be quite interesting to see how he plays this time, although all of the emotion didn’t exactly hurt him or the Ravens on Sunday.
For now, they’re mostly about complaining on the Sunday-Thursday scheduling.
I never liked it when the Thursday night game came out. It’s all about money. Like I said, it’s out of my hands. (Ed Reed)
Prediction – The Browns will struggle offensively against a slightly overrated defense, at least when it comes to stopping the passing game, but their defense won’t be able to stop Flacco and Rice. Seems like the Ravens beat the Browns for a ninth straight time.