#264 Baltimore Ravensvs.#263 Cleveland Browns
Written by Benjamin Hayes
Cleveland Browns (0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS, 0-1 O/U) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 0-1 O/U)
When and Where: Sunday, Sept. 17, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md., 1pmET
Line: Baltimore -7.5
The Baltimore Ravens take on another AFC North opponent this week after beating Cincinnati, 20-0 on the road to open the season. Cleveland nearly shocked AFC North rival Pittsburgh at home, falling 21-18 in their opener. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer acquitted himself well in his first start for the young Browns. As for the Ravens, the defense shut out an opponent for the first time since 2009.
Pittsburgh was the heavy favorite to win the AFC North title this season while the Browns were an afterthought. But Cleveland showed they may not be far away from competing for that title in the near future after falling by just three at home on Sunday. Kizer played well in his first start, but was also sacked seven times. He was also intercepted by another rookie in linebacker T.J. Watt, who picked off a Kizer pass at the Pittsburgh 17 to halt a Browns’ drive. Kizer eventually came back with a 3-yard TD pass to Corey Coleman, followed by a two-point conversion by running back Isaiah Crowell to cut the lead to 21-18 with 3:36 left in the game. But the Browns would not get the ball back.
Kizer completed 20 of 30 for 222 yards with one TD and one INT. He also ran for 17 yards and had a running score. Crowell led the Browns with 17 carries for 33 yards. The Browns are still a work-in-progress on offense, producing just 237 yards against the Steelers. But their defense absolutely stuffed the run, holding Pittsburgh and to just 35 yards on 17 carries. One player the Browns could use is top pick DE Myles Garrett, who is expected to miss several weeks with a high ankle sprain.
It’s always tough to win on the road and the Ravens won just two games last season away from M&T Bank Stadium. So beating the Bengals for the first time from Paul Brown Stadium since 2012 is significant. Even with no passing yards in the second half from Joe Flacco the Ravens just pounded the rock, rushing for 157 yards on 42 carries led by Terrance West (80 yards, 1 TD) and Buck Allen (71 yards). Flacco, who had not played all preseason due to a back injury, was not sharp, completing 9 of 17 for 121 with one TD and a pick. That one TD went to new receiver Jeremy Maclin on a 48-yard slant for a score in the second quarter. One of his favorite targets was veteran running back Danny Woodhead, who had three catches for 33 yards in the opening drive before injuring his hamstring.
But for the Ravens to be successful, they only need to be average on offense. Their defense was pretty good last season, allowing 322.1 yards per game (7th), but they wore down at the end of the season. They also struggled in the secondary but the additions of Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson has given them experience. Against the Bengals, they were helped by a strong pass rush led by Terrell Suggs (2.0 sacks) and Andy Dalton’s inaccuracy (16-31-4 INTs). That pressure also contributed to forcing five Cincy turnovers.
Baltimore could turn Kizer over a few times, but the Notre Dame grad is smarter than your average rookie. The Browns also have a better defense than a Bengals’ squad without Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones due to suspensions. Flacco is still not 100 percent and if you load the box, you can slow the Ravens running game down (something the Bengals refused to do).
Hard to believe that the Ravens will put up more than 20 points again. Defensively, they may not shut the Browns out, but will be very sturdy as usual. Baltimore will also dial up some pressure on the young quarterback to try and slow him down. The under is 5-1 the last 6 in Baltimore in this series. Cleveland is 6-1 Under last 7 after a SU loss, while Baltimore is 5-1 Under last 6 vs. AFC North.
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Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!