It’s the second battle of the season between these two teams as the Ravens travel Cleveland this Sunday. Baltimore has history of dominance over its divisional foe winning the last 11 straight regular-season games, which is the longest such streak of any one team over another in the NFL.
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Much has changed for the Browns since these teams last meet in Week Two. They now have another new Quarterback, a familiar running back, and an emerging talent on the outside to provide new challenges for the Ravens to consider this week.
For Baltimore they had a lot to think about over their Bye last week and if they hope to defend their Super Bowl title they need to start stacking up wins in short order.
Can they do it this Sunday? Let’s take a look at few of the key match-ups:
Ravens Cornerback Jimmy Smith vs. Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon
Trade winds swirled around Gordon over the past month but when the deadline came he remained in Cleveland. Now, the Ravens must be concerned with how to stop the NFL’s emerging star, which was something they didn’t need to concern themselves with last meeting due to Gordon’s suspension. He’s flashed big-game talent so far and is second in the league in yards per catch.
Smith has made progress this season, finally displaying some of the skills that led Baltimore to make him a first round draft choice in 2011. He’ll need to keep Gordon in front of him because every touchdown in his short career has gone for twenty yards or more. Smith and his secondary mates must iron out the communication breakdowns that have seemingly occurred once per game this season to keep Gordon under wraps.
Ravens Inside Linebacker Daryl Smith vs. Browns Quarterback Jason Campbell
Campbell is the third quarterback in eight games for Cleveland this season. It’s that kind of instability that’s hurt the franchise for seemingly endless years. But last week as the vet took his first start against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs he may have provided a glimmer of hope for Browns fans. He showed poise and experience in the pocket and didn’t flinch with his team down 13-0 early in the ball game.
Smith has been the defense’s most consistent playmaker and has provided a lift in the middle of the defense. The Ravens will need to mix up their coverages and blitzes to confuse Campbell and create pressure.
Ravens Safety Matt Elam vs. Browns Tight End Jordan Cameron
Cameron has continued his ascension this season as one of the NFL’s top Tight Ends. He gives Campbell another weapon to go to in the passing game and he can stretch the field as well. In the first meeting, Cameron caught 5 for 95 which included a 53 yards strike after Elam slipped out of his break.
The Baltimore rookie has been solid since being inserted full-time as the starter back in that first match-up. He has 30 Total tackles and only 1 pass defensed. He’s mentioned how he’d like to get his hands on the ball more and I’m sure he and the rest of the secondary would agree. They only have two total so far through seven games.
Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith vs. Browns Cornerback Joe Haden
“These Ravens aren’t the Ravens of old.” These words were attributed to Haden in a recent conference call. If you look at Baltimore’s record he may have a point. But he’ll have bigger things to worry about in stopping Torrey Smith this weekend. Smith caught 7 for 85 yards last time they meet and just missed a long touchdown grab.
Smith has become one of the league’s best and he’ll be the top target of Joe Flacco as they attempt to get back on track. A return of the short passing game in Pittsburgh was a good sign that maybe the Ravens passing game will use all phases to get the offense churning. Smith is a huge part of that.
Ravens Running Back Ray Rice vs. Browns Defensive Tackle Phil Taylor
The Ravens running game this season has been almost non-existent at times. Injuries, scheme changes or just lack of production have hindered one aspect of the offense that Baltimore could always depend on.
Rice hurt himself in the Fourth Quarter of the Cleveland game in September and hasn’t looked right since. Of course not before getting involved in an alleged spitting incident between himself and huge D-Tackle Phil Taylor. The end result was Taylor getting slapped with a 15-yard penalty. Both have downplayed the incident this week but it’s sure to add something to this week’s festivities.
Taylor is having a fine season so far and the Browns are coming of a second half against Kansas City where they limited the Chiefs to just 50 yards and 3 points.