BALTIMORE- The Cleveland Browns are the week one underdog again. That should be no surprise to anyone. The Baltimore Ravens are the prime AFC favorite to advance to the Super Bowl. However, the Browns were labeled as a playoff contender after a solid free agency period and draft. Do the Browns have a good chance to win this week one matchup? Many people will say no but there are a few things the Browns can do right and come away with a close win. Here comes the NFL Week One.
1. Run the ball early- The Browns have two elite running backs in what is likely the best one-two punch in the entire NFL. There is absolutely no reason to pass too much in the first quarter. In fact, Mayfield should probably wait until third down on the first possession before throwing a pass. Let the Ravens defense know they’re going to face a physically dominant Nick Chubb. Kareem Hunt can also make an impact with his speed and elusiveness. The Browns must dare the Ravens defense to stop the ground game. This isn’t the game that the Browns can get away being “cute” with the play calls. Keep it simple and do what works. It worked the last time the Browns were in Baltimore.
2. Baker Mayfield needs to improve play recognition- Mayfield can’t force too many passes this game. The Ravens defense has way too many playmakers to take chances against. Mayfield must show the willingness to throw the ball away or take sacks when necessary. The last thing the Browns need is a 21-0 halftime deficit, partially due to multiple interceptions.
3. Minimize penalties- The main Achilles heel of the Browns is the lack of discipline. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski won’t tolerate a plethora of penalties. Too many penalties should be a major concern especially considering that Rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills is starting. If the Browns can limit their number penalties to below seven, the team has a much better chance of winning.
4. Use a quarterback spy as much as possible- Cleveland has very little chance of winning this game if Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson runs for 75 or more yards. The defense needs to contain him and force him to stick to passing.
5. The defensive front must set the tone early- The defensive front is a major strength of the team. If Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Sheldon Richardson, and Olivier Vernon pressure Jackson early, it’ll be a long and punishing day for the Ravens offense.
6. The Michigan Man- Kevin Stefanski needs to make sure that rookie receiver Donovan People-Jones is part of the game plan. Peoples-Jones is a red zone threat. He needs some chances to get off to a hot start.
7. Let the tight ends cause matchup problems- Stefanski loves to make the tight ends decide the outcome of games. Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant should have opportunities to be a vital part of the passing game.
Amidst all the chaos we have seen this year, it is so good to have the NFL back.