Overview: On paper, this game looks to be a mismatch as you have a Baltimore team that has looked like a Super Bowl contender in the first two weeks hosting a Cleveland squad that has looked like a contender for the first pick in the 2010 draft.
Consider the team’s history of having a great defense and struggling offense, it is surprising that the Ravens have used their offense to set the tone in the first two weeks. They have scored more than 30 points in both games so far this season. Last year Baltimore didn’t reach the 30-point mark until the eighth week of the season (against Cleveland).
The woes for Cleveland cannot be solely placed on quarterback Brady Quinn. The Browns are allowing 30 points per game and Quinn has been sacked nine times in two games.
Last Week: It isn’t very often that the Baltimore Ravens get into an offensive shootout, but that was the case last week against San Diego. The Ravens won the game 31-26 because they took advantage of their chances deep in San Diego territory and didn’t have to settle for field goals. Joe Flacco continued his emergence as a star quarterback with 190 yards passing and two touchdowns. The defense allowed Phillip Rivers to pass for more than 400 yards, but they did limit San Diego to 53 yards on the ground.
Cleveland was dominated in all phases by Denver in a 27-6 Broncos’ victory. Denver gained 449 total yards, including 186 yards on the ground, while the Browns gained only 200 yards in the game. Quinn was sacked four times and completed only 18 of 31 passes for 161 yards and an interception.
All-Time Series: The Ravens have dominated this series holding a 13-7 advantage since 1999. There is still animosity among many in Cleveland over the move by Art Modell of the original Browns to Baltimore in 1996.
Last season the Ravens won the first meeting 28-10 and then claimed the second game 37-27 as Baltimore overcame a 27-13 deficit by scoring the final 24 points. Ray Rice rushed for 154 yards and Flacco passed for 248 yards and two touchdowns in the second meeting.
Key Questions Entering Week Three:
Baltimore Ravens: The pass defense was exposed last week by Rivers and the team ranks 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed after two games. Baltimore is allowing the fewest rushing yards in the league so far in 2009, but it will be interesting to see if Quinn is able to produce a big game against the pass defense or if they will return to their typical stingy selves.
Cleveland Browns: The offensive woes aren’t just because of the play of Brady Quinn. The entire unit is not producing. Receiver Braylon Edwards had six catches against Denver, but had only one reception in the season opener. With running back, and former Raven, Jamal Lewis out against the Ravens, it could be tough for the Browns to muster any consistent running attack.
Player To Watch:
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis made the game-ending tackle on fourth down to stop Darren Sproles and preserve the victory at San Diego. If Lewis and the defense can build on that big play, they should be able to dominate a Cleveland team that is struggling at all offensive positions.
Cleveland Browns: Offensive tackle Joe Thomas surrendered four sacks to Elvis Dumervil of Denver last weekend. The former first round pick must do better than that if the Browns want to give Quinn a chance to succeed.
Predictions: Unless Cleveland is able to make some major changes from a week ago; this one could get ugly. If the Ravens are indeed a Super Bowl contender, then they need to take care of business at home against an inferior opponent. Watch for the Ravens to put on the gas early and try to build a big lead at home.
Final Score: Ravens 34, Browns 14.