Thursday Night Football
These AFC North kicks off week 4 in the NFL. Baltimore is 2-1 with Super Bowl aspirations, while Cleveland is hoping a couple rookies can turn the franchise around. Last year the Ravens won both games, protecting home field 20-14. That was when Seneca Wallace and Peyton Hillis carried the load for the Browns, this time around they have replaced them with Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. Although searching for their first win, Cleveland has been a competitive team losing to the Eagles, Bengals, and Bills by a combined 18 points. Baltimore is the favorite in this game and deservedly so. In the first 3 weeks of the season they trounced the rival Bengals, lost a nail biter to the Eagles, and edged out the Patriots with a controversial field goal. Both teams have faced the Eagles and Bengals, so by using those games to compare these division rivals we should expect some turnovers.
Baltimore Offense vs. Cleveland Defense
You can see how much the Ravens want quarterback Joe Flacco to be the man and take the next step. They already know what they have in Ray Rice because he does it all. Rice should pave the way with touches on the ground and in the screen game against a lower-tier defense. The Ravens are 2nd in scoring with 32.7 points per game. Tight end Dennis Pitta is catching on as a go-to target, and Torrey Smith found the chemistry they had a season ago. Smith erupted against the Patriots after the passing of his brother.
Bad news for the Browns is that cornerback Joe Haden is still serving his suspension until week 6. They had a top-10 pass defense a year ago but that hasn’t been the case so far. The offense is raw but the lack of pressure puts this team behind early, and this team isn’t built to comeback. There is a chance to stop the highest scoring team in the AFC if they can contain Rice just enough. The Ravens have been pass-happy and deferring to the arm of Flacco and his targets, and both are inconsistent.
Cleveland Offense vs. Baltimore Defense
Cleveland is trying to be a team that pounds the ball on the ground, but so far running back Trent Richardson has had a tough welcome to the league. He does have a couple of touchdowns with a 100-yard performance, but quarterback Brandon Weeden has to spread the field and manage the game. Weeden has 4 interceptions through 3 weeks, and the rookie duo needs some consistency out of the young receiving core.
Baltimore is all about the pressure, and when they face a rookie QB it could make for a long day. They’re not getting the same rush off the edge without Terrelle Suggs, and it shows with their 28th rank against the pass. They’re also marginal against the run, so if they can’t contain Richardson then the Browns can control the clock and keep this one close.
The Ravens get off to a fast start by scoring 10 points early on, but I don’t think they run away blow the Browns out. The Browns will lean on the ground game to control the clock and limit turnovers. Cleveland has threatened a a couple comebacks, however they aren’t at the point of finishing. The Browns remain still have that goose egg in the standings, take the Ravens 27-17.