1. Will this game be a step forward or a let-down similar to the Jacksonville and Seattle games of last season?
The Ravens can’t afford to give into any trap games on their schedule because top-to-bottom it is one of the toughest in the NFL. Dropping that game in Philadelphia could be a difference maker when it comes to snagging home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, as it hrt the team last season. A short week never bodes well for any team, but the home teams generally do well. In the last 23 (Wednesday for the Giants-Cowboys) Thursday and Saturday games on the NFL schedule, the home team has won 18 times. The Ravens have won their last 12 home games dating back to 2010 and will be playing once again with heavy hearts not only for the late-great Art Modell, but also for Torrey Smith’s brother Tevin, who passed last week.
2. How will the Ravens contain Trent Richardson?
The glaring hole in the Ravens defense has been up the middle for me. Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody have struggled closing gaps inside the tackles and have allowed blockers to get to the next level far too often. Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe have been getting harassed and have been making more of their tackles down-field rather than closer to the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. If the Ravens are going to stop the lone offensive weapon for the Browns, Courtney Upshaw , Albert McClellan and Paul Kruger must continue to set the edge as they have so he can’t utilize his surprising speed on the outside. Also, if Cody and Kemoeatu can demand double teams and get stops on first and second down, Brandon Weeden will be forced to throw; an automatic win for the Ravens.
3. Will the wide receivers build on the success they had last week?
No Joe Haden due to suspension bodes well for the Ravens. Across the board, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones lit up the Patriots secondary, especially in the second half. Torrey Smith will once again play inspired as he and his family is set to bury his brother this weekend. Boldin finally came out of his shell and contributed against the Patriots and Jacoby Jones has added more speed and creativity to this offense. While he may not have the best hands on the team, his pure ability to beat corners up the sideline has forced defenders into pass interference, holding, illegal contact, etc. (if it was called). It will be interesting to see how the Ravens utilize the no-huddle against the Browns in that they simply don’t have the play-makers on defense to compete with the Ravens aerial attack led by the AFC’s leading passer quarterback Joe Flacco.
4. Will Dennis Pitta remain the number one option in the passing attack?
Not only has WNST brought luck to Dennis Pitta with the Dennis Pitta show every Thursday, Joe Flacco seems to look his way the most. With 30 targets, he is second in the league, just one behind Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. The key match-up will be former Terp D’qwell Jackson versus Pitta in that Jackson is a fairly solid pass covering linebacker. He has already snagged two interceptions on the season and took one of them back for a touchdown against the Eagles in Week One. Pitta has found ways to get open against the likes of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, DeMeco Ryans and Rey Maualuga and I expect him to continue to get the targets and bring in the catches like he has during the first three games of the season. See you in the end zone #88.
5. Who will win the game?
Let’s be honest, this is somewhat of a trap game for the Ravens. Short week. Big win over the New England Patriots last week and the lowly Browns come into town. That being said, I think the offense will maintain their successes so far this season and the defense will finally show flashes of brilliance that Baltimore fans have become accustomed to. Have fun Brandon Weeden.
Final Score: Ravens 31 Browns 13
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