Baltimore Ravens: Stat Projections for Key Players vs. Browns
To do so, they'll need big statistical performances from multiple players.
They'll especially rely on quarterback Joe Flacco, whose inconsistency last year cost the team several winnable games.
The Ravens are counting on Flacco to take the next step this season, and that means he needs to carry the offense consistently against all levels of opponents. With a big performance against the Browns, the Ravens can show that they have the killer instinct that they've lacked in prior years.
With this in mind, here are statistical projections for all the Ravens key players.
The Ravens have to be holding their breath this week concerning Joe Flacco.
Flacco has a history of falling apart after emotional wins, so he will be key for this week's effort.
Fortunately, there are a few factors in his favor.
First, Joe Haden will not be playing for Cleveland. The talented cornerback is good enough to shut down whoever he covers, so his absence will ensure that the Ravens' receivers won't be overwhelmed with their matchups.
Second, the Browns are ranked 27th in pass defense. The Ravens had bad losses against the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars last season, but both teams had talented defenses. The Browns' defense, on the other hand, should provide plenty of opportunities for the Ravens to rack up yards.
This is definitely a trap game for Flacco and the Ravens, but they should be up to the task for once.
Flacco will definitely get his chance against this porous secondary, so expect a big passing day from him. He might be a little careless with the football though, as he is prone to being against lesser teams.
Stat Projection: 20-of-30 passing, 275 yards, two touchdowns, one interception
Ray Rice should find running room against a porous Browns' defense, but he might struggle to find carries if the game gets out of hand.
Generally, the Ravens like to use Rice extensively against the Browns, so expect him to get plenty of touches early.
The Ravens are a vastly better team than Cleveland, though, so Rice might be limited early. If that happens, backup Bernard Pierce should see a few more carries than usual.
On the other hand, the Ravens could just as easily take the Browns lightly and fall behind quickly. In that case, Rice will not see many carries either, as the Ravens pass the ball much more when playing from behind.
All in all, I don't expect a massive performance from Rice. The Ravens have no reason to run him into the ground this early in the season, and Bernard Pierce is improving every week.
Expect a near even split of carries, with Rice being more productive through the air.
Rice: 10 carries, 65 rushing yards, six receptions, 30 receiving yards
Pierce: 12 carries, 60 rushing yards, two receptions, 15 receiving yards
Even though the Browns have struggled to defend the pass, they have yet to allow a receiver over 100 yards.
With this in mind, expect the Ravens to use a host of receivers, rather than relying on just one or two.
On the flip side, the Browns don't have anyone who can legitimately cover Torrey Smith, so if any receiver will have a big day, it will be him. Smith should grab at least one big catch in this game.
Jacoby Jones has been excellent, so he also has a chance to make a big play or two in this game.
Anquan Boldin, on the other hand, looks slower every year. The Browns won't have trouble covering him closely, but Boldin can still make the tough grab over the middle. Boldin should catch at least a few balls, even when tightly covered.
Torrey Smith: five receptions, 85 yards, one TD
Jacoby Jones: three receptions, 60 yards
Anquan Boldin: four receptions, 40 yards
Dennis Pitta is well on his way to becoming an elite statistical tight end. Pitta is the NFL leading tight end in targets, with 31 targets in just three games.
While he needs to work on his efficiency on those targets, Pitta does excel when Flacco doesn't focus too tightly on him.
The Ravens need to make sure Pitta doesn't become too much of a focal point, but he should still garner a solid 10-plus targets.
Meanwhile, Ed Dickson is being fazed out of the offense. Pitta is the No. 1 guy now, so Dickson should be lucky to get more than a token reception or two.
Pitta: six receptions, 52 yards, one TD
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