Today the Ravens will not be seeing the same team that they saw earlier in the season. This is a Browns team that has gotten healthier and also some confidence with a couple of wins over the Giants and Jaguars recently.
Here are a couple of things to look for today:
Airing it out : I look for the Browns to go after this Ravens secondary. With no Chris McAlister, or Samari Rolle, and with Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth, and Kellen Winslow Jr., among others leading the air attack for the Browns, it could be a long day for the Ravens secondary. It will all come down to the defensive line and linebackers putting pressure on Derek Anderson and not allowing him to sit there and pick the secondary apart. If I am the Browns, I challenge the Ravens to throw the ball on me. As crazy as it sounds, with out Demetrius Williams, I would sell out to stop the run offense of the Ravens and see what Flacco and this offense can do in the passing game.
Who stops running first ? :Will it be Jamal Lewis and the Browns or the Ravens three headed monster in the backfield ? The Ravens are known around the league as the team you just can not run against. How soon do the Browns give up on the run game and just try to attack the defense vertically ? Do they attack through the air to try and open up the run game ? For the Ravens they have three backs they can throw at you,and the Browns have gotten a lot better at stopping the run. If you are the Browns, do you just go after Joe Flacco and see if he can beat you with Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Todd Heap, and either Ernie Wheelwright, Marcus Smith, or Terrance Copper ?
Limited returns :The return game will be big for both of these teams today. Josh Cribbs is one of the elite return guys in the NFL. Sam Koch has done a nice job of pinning guys deep this year and will need another solid performance today against a guy like Cribbs. Cribbs can change a game in a hurry with either a touchdown or a long return giving his offense a short field. For the Ravens they need either Jim Leonhard, or Yamon Figurs, to get them big returns for their offense. You do not want to have to ask the Ravens offense to go 60-70 yards every drive, especially on the road.
The Ravens have had a couple of nice wins recently, but I think today is a tall task for them and the Browns are the healthier team right now.
My prediction Browns 26- Ravens 16