Week 13: Ravens vs. Browns

So it’s been a very long and tiring week.  What better way to cap it off than by watching the Browns take on the Ravens.

This could be a very close game, or could turn into a beat down of epic proportions.  It all really depends on which version of the Ravens shows up today.  If the Browns get the version that plays down to their opponents and inexplicably loses games to opponents they have no business losing to, than the Browns have a shot.  If the version that looks like the potential Super Bowl champions shows up, the Browns are in trouble.  I’m willing to bet on the latter, but… you never know.

Regardless, the Browns have a tough task ahead of themselves today.  The Ravens defense is as good as ever,  their offense at times looks like a juggernaut with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Anquan Boldin.  On special teams… solid.  So basically take the Browns and think the complete opposite.  I got jokes.

Despite everything that’s wrong with the Browns, they’ve looked a lot better the past few weeks.  The offense has put points on the board and looked like an NFL caliber offense.  The defense has been rock solid and even won a game for them in that stretch.  The special teams… well let’s not get into that.  It brings up bad memories and nightmares.

If the Browns want a chance of winning today they need to continue to move the ball efficiently and get into the end zone.  They aren’t going to beat the Ravens with field goals because the Ravens undoubtedly will be scoring touchdowns.  Surprisingly, I like the Browns chances of being able to do that today.  It looks like they’ll have all of their key pieces back on offense, which should make Colt’s life a lot easier, and the Ravens might be without Ray Lewis.  Again, I like their chances.

So what do the Browns need to do today to beat the Ravens?

1.  Don’t turn the ball over:  This is always the key point when you play the Ravens.  If you turn the ball over and give their offense extra opportunities to score points, you’re screwed.  Not only that, it just gives that already stout defense more swagger and bravado… which ultimately leads to more blitzing, more chaos, and more turnovers.

2.  Give Colt McCoy time to work:  The Browns offensive line needs to show up today.  They need to keep Baltimore’s blitzing defense off of Colt.  If not, like I mentioned above, it’s just going to lead to turnovers and ineffective offense.  If the Browns get blown out today, this might be reason numero uno.

3.  Work the running game:  The Browns already got Peyton Hillis back and now it looks like they might have Montario Hardesty as well.  If that’s the case, the Browns need to use that to their advantage.  They need to run the ball, wear down the Ravens defensive front seven, and take some pressure off of Colt.  That doesn’t mean go vanilla on offense with two runs up the middle and then a check down on third down.  They still need to be creative.

4.  Put pressure on Flacco:  Flacco has shown at times this season that he can be rattled if pressure is put on him early and often.  The Browns need to get after him, early and often.  If they can force him into making some bad decisions, turning the ball over, and working on a short field they’ll have a great chance to win today’s game.

5.  Stop Ray Rice:  This might be the most important point.  If Ray Rice goes off… game over.  If they can keep him in check, that’s a totally different story.  Ray Rice is the Raven’s best and most versatile player.  Any time he gets the ball, there’s a chance he could take it all the way to the house.  If the Browns can prevent that from happening, then Baltimore won’t put up points.  Granted, this is a lot easier said than done, but if some how, some way the Browns can figure Rice out, they’ll have an excellent chance of winning the game.

So what happens?

I feel like the Browns have figured things out over the past few weeks.  I also think Baltimore will once again play down to a lesser opponent.  Peyton Hillis is due to have a break out game and the Browns are more than due to put up some big points.  I like their chances today, I really do.  But… I still don’t think they win.  I predict a loss, 27-24.

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