The Browns are facing off against the divisional rival Ravens who sit at 8-3. While the Browns are 4-7, this is not going to be a blowout as some people are predicting. People are sleeping on the Browns and the Ravens may be in that group. The Ravens have proven this year they are a team that will often play to the level of their opponent. While they beat the Steelers twice, they also have lost to the Jaguars and Seahawks and it took a last second field goal to beat the Arizona Cardinals. Divisional games are always closer than they look on paper and a lot of people (including Vegas) forget that. The line against Cincy was Bengals -7.5 and the line against Baltimore is Ravens -6.5. It’s likely that this game too will be much closer than Vegas says.
The big reason to think the Browns may be able to win is Peyton Hillis being healthy. Hillis had the Ravens’ number last year and his 144 yard performance was the last time the Ravens gave up 100 yards to a running back. In the Ravens’ losses to the Seahawks and the Jaguars, teams had success running against them. While the Bengals’ rush D is good, it is predicated on linebackers at the 2nd level. Their D-Line doesn’t get a lot of penetration into the backfield and the Browns have been good at limiting that penetration. They also struggle in short yardage situations, where Hillis shines. If the line can keep the LBs at bay, Hillis should have a good day.
The Key to this game overall is going to be who will win in the trenches. The Ravens should do well if they can get into the Browns’ backfield against the run and against the pass. Colt McCoy is actually an okay QB when he doesn’t have guys in his face. His Accuracy Percentage (a stat that takes away WR drops, spikes, throwaways) is almost 73% when he isn’t pressured but less than 54% when he is. Joe Thomas and Tony Pashos will have a tough day, but they are one of the best Tackle duos in the league. The big question mark will be the interior guys. They are going to have to contain Paul Kruger and Haloti Ngata. The interior pressure the Ravens bring is almost more than the pressure from edge rushers.
On the flip side, the Browns could win if they have success in the trenches on the defensive side. While Ray Rice is a good running back, he isn’t exactly getting great running lanes by his offensive line. The Ravens are 22nd in the league in their ability to gain positive yardage on running plays. The Browns are going to have to dial it up and be aggressive, because overall they are not particularly good at stopping RBs in the backfield. If the Ravens do try to run it in short yardage situations, it would work out in the Browns favor since they are solid in those situations.
Like Colt, Joe Flacco isn’t as good when he is pressured. He hasn’t been that good period this year and his stats aren’t appreciably better than Colt’s. That being said, he is clearly the better QB, just on a down year. The Browns secondary is solid enough, but the D-Line needs to dial up the pressure and get in Flacco’s face. The Browns could really use a key turnover by a guy who has been very turnover prone in Flacco, especially when pressured.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Browns 16
Whenever I pick them to win, they blow it. Whenever I pick them to lose, they find a way to win we’ll see…
About the Author
Written by Bradley Ross
Bradley Ross was born and lived most of his life in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. He grew up with a passion for sports and Cleveland teams, instilled in him by his father. He is currently studying Business/Journalism at Cuyahoga Community College and plans on transferring to the Ohio State University in the winter with an expected graduation date of 2013. He is currently a Staff Writer for the Tri-C Voice Newspaper, which was a recipient of an award for the best non-daily newspaper at a 2 year college (northeast region). He runs multiple blogs off of the blogger platform including The Take By The Lake, a sports blog. Sports is his passion and he enjoys being able to write about them and cover them. He also enjoys improvisational humor, long walks on the beach, and writing in the 3rd person. Follow him on Twitter @BRoss_Voice.