Remember earlier in the season when I said the Cleveland Browns needed to prove they could sit at the big kids table? Well, here is that test.
Now, the Tennessee Titans last week were a part of that table, but without an elite defense. This week, the Baltimore Ravens are that team with an elite defense, and also an explosive playmaker in Lamar Jackson.
They can be beaten, however, so let’s get into what the team needs to do to beat the Ravens.
Contain the Quarterback
Jackson has not ran as often as he did last year, but he’s still one of — if not the most — dangerous runners of the football in the league. Keeping him within the tackle box is key to stopping their offense, where many drives have been saved due to Jackson’s legs gaining first downs.
Myles Garrett and everybody on the defensive line and the linebackers need to stay disciplined in their assignments if they don’t want to end up on a highlight reel after the game.
Control the Clock
Baker Mayfield threw the ball exceptionally well against the Titans last week, but this week, he’s facing a secondary that is one of the best in the league.
The key to this game is to wear out the defense on the ground, using Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in a balanced rotation, to keep Jackson and the Ravens offense on the sidelines, helpless to do anything about it.
Mix the run game as always with their play-action, and the offense should keep the Ravens defense on their toes enough to force mistakes and create big plays.
The Browns had 13 penalties last week. That can’t happen against this Ravens team that can, and will, make you pay for your mistakes.
If the offensive line can stay in check and the defense can stay clean, they can finish drives with points, instead of punts. Keeping those drives alive will also allow them to manage the clock in their favor.
This is a game where field goals off of penalties won’t win the game (sorry, Cody Parkey). This team can, and has, scored over 30 points, and they’ll need to do so this week.
Final Thoughts and Score Prediction
If Mayfield and the Browns manage to pull off this win, they officially earn their place at the big kids table.
They have the talent to do it, and they have the home field advantage to do it. I’m just not sure they can. This defense is extremely good and their two best run defenders are returning to full strength this week.
Overall, I will say it will be a close game, but the Browns sadly won’t be able to pull it off.
Final: Ravens 27, Browns 24
(Featured Image Credit: ClevelandBrowns.com)