The Cleveland Browns travel to M&T Bank Stadium Thursday night to take on the Baltimore Ravens in an inter-divisional matchup that should end up being about as lopsided as it would seem to be on paper.
The Browns have failed to get much going after a close 17-16 road loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Week 1. The schedule only gets tougher as they travel to Baltimore this week, then head to New York to face the Giants before coming back home for round two with the Cincinnati Bengals.
While there have been flashes from rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, it's obvious that this team will need time to adapt to the NFL.
On the other hand, the Ravens are moving right along after a controversial 31-30 win over the New England Patriots last week. However, Baltimore seems to be doing things differently this season than in the past.
The Ravens offense ranks fourth in the league after three weeks, averaging 419.3 yards game behind the arm of quarterback Joe Flacco. While Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are still formidable, it is obvious that Terrell Suggs is missed and that the defense is aging a bit.
Here is one bold prediction for each team in Thursday’s matchup:
Browns Fail to Amass 200 Total Yards in Blowout Loss
Through three games, the Ravens defense is certainly not what we are used to seeing. But having to face the likes of the Bengals, Eagles and Patriots can do that to a unit, regardless of its talent.
Weeden and Richardson might someday be a very fine quarterback-running back tandem in this league. That time is not now, especially against high-quality defenses such as the Ravens.
Cleveland netted only 240 total yards in last week’s 24-14 home loss to the Buffalo Bills. While the game was close, the Browns’ inability to gain yards ultimately cost them. Weeden can’t be relied on to shoulder the load yet, which in turn takes away from Richardson’s development in the running game.
While Baltimore has to be happy with the offensive production this season, they will need to return to defensive dominance to stay atop the AFC.
There is great chance that happens this week.
Joe Flacco Tallies His Second 4-Touchdown Performance of His Career
Flacco is coming off a 382-yard, three-touchdown performance in last week’s win against the Patriots. His confidence is sky-high, and the lowly Browns have no chance against the quarterback and the Ravens offense this week.
Cleveland ranks 27th in the league in defending the pass at 269 yards per game and has also given up eight touchdowns through the air, good for a tie with a handful of other teams for the second worst total in the NFL.
It seems that this year’s offense is allowing Flacco to showcase his arm and talent more so than in the past. The only time that the quarterback has thrown four touchdown passes in a game was in a 31-7 Week 15 win over the Chicago Bears back in 2009.
Flacco has a good shot at duplicating that performance Thursday night against the Browns.