Baltimore finally won a game and avoided the first 0-4 season start in team history. The win over Pittsburgh was huge for the potential for this season to not necessarily have to be automatic rebuilding effort. If the Ravens want to continue this uphill climb, they need to beat Cleveland this weekend.
Cleveland is currently 1-3, having beat the Tennessee Titans. After being blown out in Week 1 by the Jets, they’ve lost in close games the past two weeks against Oakland and San Diego. Josh McCown seems to have settled in as the starting Quarterback in front of Johnny Football Forever. They use a pair of Running backs as Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell will look to attack the Ravens front seven, although the Ravens have been beaten through the air more consistently this season. The Browns don’t have much for receiving weapons, but McCown will keep them together playing scrappy. Defensively rookie Danny Shelton has looked impressive, and the rest of the defense will look to shut down Justin Forsett, hoping to make Flacco beat them throwing the ball.
Normally this wouldn’t be a huge issue, except Joe Flacco is running out of people to throw to. Steve Smith, broken bones in his back, out for a few weeks. Breshad Perriman, gets his knee re-scoped, out indefinitely. Dennis Pitta is still on the PUP list from his 2nd hip dislocation in two years, and Crockett Gilmore is day-to-day going into this week. They traded for former Ram Chris Givens this week, and he’ll be on a crash course to attempt to mesh with Flacco. Baltimore’s defense played good enough against a backup quarterback on a short week last week, but they’ll need to be just as good to beat the Browns this week.
If Baltimore can beat Cleveland, they’ll get up to 2-3 and aren’t completely out in left field in the playoff race. Also, they’ll be 2-1 in the division, and give themselves at least a fighting chance for a Wildcard spot. Here’s a few keys for this week’s game:
Run the Ball – Justin Forsett and the OL need to make an impact in this game if the Ravens want any offensive rhythm. Flacco is working with a practice squad in all reality on the outside, so the more that Baltimore can dictate the pace of the game, the better chance they have.
Get after McCown – Last week the Ravens finally got a pass rush, rookie Za’Darius Smith had two sacks on Vick, and the more they can fluster McCown and make the Browns run into the teeth of that Raven stop unit, the tougher it will be for the Browns.
Make the Browns Throw – On that same token, the Browns are probably looking to establish a run game, just like Baltimore is, to relieve pressure on McCown. Brandon Williams, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Timmy Jernigan and company will look to stifle the Browns and force McCown beat Baltimore through the air.
I’m looking forward to seeing the game and Baltimore needs this game to have a chance at a Wildcard spot. I mentioned last week, the Ravens should be able to win four of the next five games. That would put them at 5-4, then you’re in a middle of the dogfight for the playoffs. This is shaping up to be another exciting football season, as 24 of the 32 NFL teams are either 2-2 or worse.