After a sound whipping last Thursday the Ravens return to the friendly confines of M & T Bank Stadium for their home opener against division rival the Cleveland Browns. The Browns had their own struggles during Week One against the Miami Dolphins as they dropped their first game 23-10.
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If you’re someone who likes to use history to predict an outcome this Sunday then I’ve got some ammunition for you. Since the Harbaugh-Flacco era began the Ravens have beaten the Browns 10 times for a spotless record. They’ve never lost. During that span the Browns have averaged 12.2 a game and have only scored more that 17 points just once.
Are the Ravens ready to make it 11 straight?
Let’s take a look at a few of the important match-ups for this game.
Ravens Running Back Ray Rice vs. Browns Defensive Front Seven
Rice was slow out of the gate against Denver with 12 carries for only 36 yards rushing however he did catch 8 passes for almost as many yards through the air. That dual threat capability has given the Cleveland defense fits over the years. Even though he only scored 4 touchdowns during the last 10 match ups he’s chewed up plenty of yardage. The Cleveland front was stellar against the run in Week 1 allowing only 20 net yards for a minuscule 0.9 average. Establishing the run game will be important for Baltimore to set up play-action and long shots downfield.
Ravens Offensive Tackle Bryant McKinnie vs. Browns Outside Linebacker Paul Kruger
The former Raven signed a hefty contract to stay in the AFC North with the Browns. Even though publicly he’s been complimentary of the franchise Kruger hopes to prove that he’s more than just a situational pass rusher to his old club. He’ll need to get by his former teammate McKinnie who appears ready for the challenge of facing off against someone he battled plenty of times in practice. Keeping Joe Flacco upright in the pocket is one key to a successful passing game. McKinnie will need to do his part to keep Kruger out of the backfield to make sure that happens.
Ravens Free Safety Michael Huff vs. Browns Tight End Jordan Cameron
The third-year Tight End was a lone bright spot in an otherwise gloomy home opener for the Browns. He was targeted a team high 13 times and he rewarded his Quarterback with 9 receptions, 108 yards and a touchdown. He appears to be a star on the rise and with Josh Gordon still suspended look for Brandon Weeden to look his way.
Last week the Ravens Safeties were terrible in a rough debut for the new look defense. They were plagued by miscommunication and missed tackles and helped Fantasy owners look for the name Julius Thomas on the waiver wire, who caught 2 touchdowns and registered 100 yards receiving. Huff must do an overall better job at his position in all phases while linebackers Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes will need to help blanket Cameron on short and mid-range passes.
Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Browns Cornerback Joe Haden
Flacco had one of his usual regular season games with mixed results. Over his career the Ravens Quarterback is known for playing much better in Charm city and against the Browns in particular. In 10 consecutive victories against Cleveland he’s thrown 12 touchdowns against 5 interceptions for a 92.5 passer rating.
Haden will most likely draw Torrey Smith who has also had his share of big games against Cleveland. He just came off a game where after being challenged by newest Dolphin Mike Wallace he was limited to just 1 catch for 5 yards. With injuries among the Ravens receivers he’ll be called on to stop Baltimore’s biggest deep threat.
Ravens Outside Linebacker Terrell Suggs vs. Browns Left Tackle Joe Thomas
Sizzle looks primed for a big year. He’s in terrific shape and the addition of Elvis Dumervil will only help him stack up more sacks. He’s yet another Raven that loves playing the Brownies. He has 13 sacks and 7 forced fumbles in 19 games against the orange and brown.
Thomas is one of the league’s best Tackles and remains a leader on an Offensive line that is a mess after giving up 6 sacks against the Miami to start the season. The Ravens will want to continue that trend and force Weeden into multiple mistakes.