The Baltimore Ravens will host the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night. Kickoff is slated for 8:20 p.m. (ET) and the game will be televised on the NFL Network.
Baltimore snapped a four-game losing streak with an impressive 21-14 home victory over arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens limited the Steelers’ offense to just 89 yards through three quarters as they took a 13-0 lead, becoming the first team to hold Pittsburgh scoreless over the first 45 minutes of the game since 2007.
Pittsburgh then outscored Baltimore 14-8 in the fourth quarter to make the score close. But the Steelers’ points came after Ravens’ reserve running back Javorius Allen juked a Steeler blocker at the offensive line and broke free to block a Jordan Berry punt. Special teams specialist Chris Moore swooped in and scooped up the ball before rambling 14 yards for the touchdown. The score was the rookie wide receivers second special teams’ touchdown of the year.
With the win, Baltimore (4-4, 2-0 division) moved atop of the AFC North. The Ravens currently hold multiple tiebreakers over the Steelers (4-4, 1-1 division). The Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) were on their bye this past week.
Even better news for the Ravens is that they are now healthy. Four players missed the game against Pittsburgh due to injuries, and veteran cornerback Shareece Wright was the biggest name of those four. Wright has started four of the five games he has appeared in.
Cleveland (0-9) is coming off a 35-10 shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. The Browns were thoroughly dominated by the Cowboys as they were outgained 423-222. The Browns have now lost 12 straight games, and are just 1-19 in their last 20 contests.
Cleveland has been a disaster on both sides of the ball. The Browns have used six different quarterbacks, and their running game has totally disappeared in recent weeks. Their offensive line and defense rank among the league’s worst.
The good news for the Browns is that they do have several promising youngsters, starting with quarterback Cody Kessler. Wide receivers Terrell Pryor and Corey Coleman, running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, along with linebackers Jaime Collins, Christian Kirksey, and Emmanuel Ogbah are among other key young players. Joe Haden, 27, and Jamar Taylor, 26, are the team’s top defensive backs.
This is the second meeting between the teams this year, Baltimore won the Week 2 matchup 25-20 despite falling behind 20-2 after the first quarter. Baltimore leads the all-time series 26-9-0, but Cleveland has won two-of-the-last six meetings.
1. Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta will have a big day.
Pitta leads the team with 40 receptions and is second on the team with 59 targets. However, the big tight end has not been involved in the offense that much the past two games. He had just two catches for 14 yards against the Steelers as he was targeted a season-low three times. Pitta saw nine passes come his way against the New York Jets in Week 7, but he only had four receptions for 40 yards.
The Browns have had trouble with opposing tight ends this year, ranking 30th versus opposing tight ends going into the game against the Cowboys, according to ESPN. And Dallas took advantage of that fact on Sunday, targeting tight end Jason Whitten a game-high 10 times. Whitten answered the bell by hauling in eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, marking the third time a tight end has topped the century mark against the Browns. The other tight ends to reach the plateau are New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Pitta, who had nine catches for 102 yards in Week 2. The Patriots other tight end, Martellus Bennett, had three touchdowns in the same game that Gronkowski had his 100 yards receiving.
2. Cleveland will not get their running game going against Baltimore
The Browns running attack has sputtered lately. Cleveland has five 100-yard rushing games, but only one in the last five games. They are averaging 72.0 yards on the ground over the recent five-game span.
Overall, Cleveland ranks 20th in the league in rushing yards per game (106.3) although they are third in yards per attempt (4.8). The Browns have two quality running backs in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. Crowell has 528 yards this season on 112 attempts for a 4. 7 yards a game. He has two-100 yard games this year with his best performance coming against Baltimore, totaling 133 yards on 18 carries, which included a season-long 85-yard touchdown scamper. Johnson, who is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield, is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.
Baltimore is second in the league in rushing defense, permitting just 76.1 yards a game. Cleveland and the New York Jets are the only teams to roll up 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens. Crowell has had the biggest day against the Ravens, while Jets running back Matt Forte also topped the 100-yard mark.
3. The Ravens will record three or more sacks
The Ravens had recorded three or more sacks three times, with the last time occurring in Week 7 against the Jets when they totaled a season-high five. They average 2.3 sacks a game.
Last time against Cleveland, the Ravens registered three sacks. Linebacker Terrell Suggs leads the team with five sacks although he has not recorded one since October 16 against the New York Giants. Rookie linebacker Matt Judon has taken down the quarterback three times in the past two contests.
The Browns have one of the porous offensive lines in the league. They are allowing the second most sacks with 26 and have permitted their quarterbacks to be hit a league-high 73 times.
4. Cory Coleman will have a 100-yard receiving game
Coleman returned to the field against the Cowboys after missing six weeks with a broken hand. The 22-year-old rookie had three receptions on seven targets for 41 yards with a long gain of 18 on Sunday. Coleman is expected to see more action as he and Kessler become more comfortable with each other. He had five catches for 108 yards along with two touchdowns against the Ravens in Week 2 when Josh McCown was behind center.
Baltimore’s defense is tied for 11th fewest pass completions in the league with 181 or 23.5 a game. The Ravens are also tied for fourth for giving up the fewest yards per catch (10.5), and they rank near the bottom in allowing pass plays over 20 yards.
Odell Beckham (New York Giants) and Eli Rogers (Pittsburgh) have also had 100-yard receiving games against Baltimore.
5. Baltimore will score a season-high point total
The Ravens have struggled scoring points this season, particularly touchdowns. Baltimore has not scored over 30 points in the first eight games, and in fact, the most points they have put on the scoreboard is 27 against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4. The Ravens are averaging 19.3 points a game as they have scored the second-fewest touchdowns (13), and two scores have come on special teams.
Cleveland has surrendered 30 or more points in three straight games and in five-of-their-last-six contests. The Browns are giving up an average of 30.3 points a game, which ranks 31st in the league. They are the first team to allow at least 25 points in their first nine games since the 1965 Denver Broncos.
Baltimore opened up as an eight-point favorite, but the line has now moved up to 10-points according to Oddsshark. However, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN, the Ravens have not beaten a team by more than one score since defeating the Steelers 30-17 in the 2014 AFC divisional playoffs.
[Featured Image by David Richard/AP Photo]