BALTIMORE – The Ravens are off to a great 7-2 start primarily due to the amazing play of the defense. Baltimore takes on another defensive juggernaut in the Cleveland Browns in what will very likely be a defensive game. The Browns face some major injuries on the offense though as Left Tackle Jedrick Wills was already confirmed out. Current starting Right Tackle Dewand Jones, the rookie out of Ohio State taking Jack Conklin’s place might miss the game too.
On paper, this game could go either way. Both offenses are struggling. The Ravens don’t have the receiving depth and talent to consistently pass the ball but at the same time, no one can underestimate the playmaking ability of Quarterback Lamar Jackson. His ability to extend plays gave the Browns defense a real challenge in the past. However, there were other games in which the Browns collapsed the pocket and forced him to stay behind the offensive line. Although Jackson is developing as a much better pocket passer as of late, there are times he might struggle if properly contained by the defense. The Ravens top playmaking receiver is Tight End, Mark Andrews.
When the Browns bring unrelenting pressure, the Ravens offense as a whole tends to look vulnerable. Cleveland proved this multiple times and it could be a big factor in this game. Look for Cleveland defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to call multiple-man blitzes to wreak havoc against Jackson.
The issue for Cleveland is that Baltimore’s defense is playing about as effective. With one or two offensive linemen out, the game could actually get ugly for Cleveland fast. Quarterback DeShaun Watson likely won’t have time to throw down the field. Cleveland has a group of receivers who can quickly turn short passes into first downs and touchdowns. Watson might use a lot of short pass plays and screens to take advantage of Baltimore’s defense if they consistently blitz, which the Ravens will likely do to take advantage of the Browns injuries.
Baltimore has the NFL’s number-one defense through nine weeks and limited the opponents to just 124 total points in nine games. Cleveland is number two in total defense and gave up just 139 points in eight games.
Cleveland’s defensive line continues to wreak havoc as Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith continue to pressure quarterbacks. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cornerback Denzel Ward, Cornerback Martin Emerson, Cornerback Greg Newsome, and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson are the big-time playmakers on the Browns defense.
Baltimore’s defense features a great mix of veterans and young developing talent. Playmakers like Linebacker Roquan Smith, Linebacker Patrick Queen, Linebacker Odafe Oweh, Defensive End Justin Madubuike, Linebacker/Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney (formerly with the Texans, Seahawks, and Browns), Safety Kyle Hamilton and Safety Marcus Williams provide ways to wreak havoc against opposing offenses.
The issue for Cleveland is the lack of offense. This is why Baltimore has the edge. In a low-scoring game, Cleveland would likely win. However, Baltimore’s defense will create scoring opportunities for Baltimore’s offense. Cleveland’s defense is good enough to keep the team in the game until the fourth quarter but this unit will start to wear down late in the game.
Ravens 28 Browns 13
Other top games:
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2) vs San Francisco 49ers (5-3)
Minnesota Vikings (5-4) vs New Orleans Saints (5-4)
Los Angeles Chargers (4-4) vs Detroit Lions (6-2)
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