The Baltimore Ravens need a victory tonight in Cleveland if they plan on keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.
With a win over the Browns (2-8), the Ravens (3-7) will remain in the AFC playoff race as they will be two games out of the two Wild Card spots with five games left. However, it will not be easy as Baltimore has several key players dealing with injuries.
The Ravens have won two-of-their-past three games but 34-year old Matt Schaub will be making his first start of the season at quarterback as Joe Flacco was injured in the team’s 16-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams last week. Flacco, who is 13-2 against the Browns, tore his ACL in the final seconds against the Rams and is out for the season.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Schaub is making his first start since the 2013 season finale when he was with Houston. In fact, Schaub hasn’t played a regular season game since Nov. 30 of last year while he was with Oakland. Schaub is the first Raven to start at quarterback, other than Flacco, since Troy Smith started the team’s final game in 2007, per ESPN. Schaub is 46-44 as starter in his career.
Schaub had a really good week of practice according to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
“He looked good. He looked really good. Matt has got his strengths, and every player has got different strengths. That’s an interesting thing, whether it’s the quarterback position or whatever position. Matt brings a unique skillset to the table and does a really good job with the things he does well. So, I’m excited to see how he’s going to play Monday night, and I expect he’s going to play very well.”
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 30, 2015
Flacco isn’t the only key Raven who will miss the game due to injuries. Running back Justin Forsett (broken arm), who was also placed on IR, is out for the game as is left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder). In addition, guard Kelechi Osemele (knee), wide receiver Marlon Black (back) and tight end Chase Ford (shoulder) are doubtful. Rookie tight end Nick Boyle (foot) is expected to play while cornerback Shareece Wright (back)is questionable as he was limited in practice on Friday and did not participate at all on Saturday according to Ryan Mink of Baltimore Ravens.com.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 27, 2015
With Monroe out and Osemele unlikely to play, the Ravens will likely have three backups start on the offensive line. Joining regular starters Marshal Yanda and Rick Wagner will likely be James Hurst, Jeremy Zuttah and John Urschel.
Forsett and Flacco join Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., Michael Campanaro and Jeremy Zuttah on injured reserve.
The good news for Baltimore, which ranks No. 16 in offense with 22.6 points a game, is that they face a horrible Cleveland defense. The Browns rank No. 30 in scoring defense (27.7 points per game) and rank last in rushing defense with 138.8 yards per game. Cleveland has surrendered 30 or more points in six games this season and will likely be without cornerback Joe Haden (concussion).
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 28, 2015
Also, the Ravens defense has stiffen since giving up 505 yards to the Browns in their first meeting. Baltimore’s 18th-ranked defense has allowed only 235.5 yards per game over the past two games, which includes a season-low 213 yards to St. Louis last week.
Cleveland has lost five straight, and has decided to put Josh McCown back under center after head coach Mike Pettine demoted Johnny Manziel to third string for lying to the team about his partying during the Browns bye week. McCown has played pretty well as a starter this season though he has just a 1-6 record this year and 2-16 over the past two years. The 36-year old has completed 65 percent of his passes (165-of-254) for 1,897 yards and 11 touchdowns along with four interceptions.
McCown’s best game this season came against Baltimore during the Browns 33-30 win on Oct. 11. Against the Ravens, he completed 36-of-51 passes for a franchise-record 457 yards and two touchdowns.
Cleveland is coming off a bye week.
[photo courtesy of Cleveland Browns Twitter]