The Cleveland Browns have started the 2010 football season with 2 losses against what were suppose to be below average teams. The assignment does not get any easier this week when they must travel to Baltimore to face a Ravens team that's boasting the league's 2nd best defense.
Baltimore is allowing only 214.5 yards-per-game, and are only giving up 109 yards passing. Sunday's game should prove to be quite a challenge for backup quarterback Seneca Wallace and his young Wide receivers.
While the deck certainly seems to be stacked against the Browns, it is possible for them to come back home with their heads held high. A win against a division opponent, especially the one that comes from Baltimore would be the remedy for all that's wrong in Berea.
Since the Ravens have been in the league, they have made a living at knocking the daylights out of their opponents. On Defense Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs will look for every opportunity to hit opposing players. Ray Rice has taken the torch from legendary power back Jamal Lewis on the offensive side of the ball.
The Cleveland Browns must come out ready to go. Hard hitting Safety T.J. Ward must set the tone on defense while Fullback Lawrence Vickers needs to punch open holes for the running backs.
The Baltimore Ravens want nothing more than to make this a physical contest. The Browns must rise to the occasion if they are to get a win.
Browns Quarterback Jake Delhomme's most popular pass of 2010 has been the interception he threw to Tampa Bay Cornerback Ronde Barber at the end of the first half in their loss at Tampa Bay. Seneca Wallace did not fair much better in his loss to Kansas City when he threw a "pick-6" to Chiefs Cornerback Brandon Flowers.
The Baltimore Ravens are too good to be given a short field to work with. The Cleveland Browns must take care of the ball. Browns' running back Jerome Harrison had fumble issues in the preseason and again put the ball on the ground last week. Peyton Hillis has had issues of his own with two key fumbles in the Browns week 1 loss at Tampa Bay.
Losing the turnover battle has been a key contributor to Browns 0-2 start. Fixing that will go a long way in fixing the season.
If the Ravens have one weakness on defense it would be against the run.Baltimore is giving up an average of 4.0 yards per run with 105 yards per game overall. Browns running back James Davis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer "We showed some clips in the film and there's some holes in the defense," Davis said. "They're pretty tough with Ray Lewis in there, but I think we can run on that defense."
This should work in the Browns favor as they boast an abundance of running backs. Peyton Hillis should be given the rock to help set the tempo for the game.
Running back Jerome Harrison is questionable with a thigh injury, which could prove to be an opportunity for third string back James Davis. Davis, a preseason stand out the last two years has been relegated to the bench behind Hillis and Harrison.
Talking again to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Davis said "I'm going to go out this week and push the issue. I'm gonna work so hard, they're going to have to say, 'We've got to give that guy a shot."
If the Browns can take care of business in the ground game, they should be able to control the time of possession, as well as open up the secondary for some big play opportunities down field.
Nothing takes the wind out of a stadium faster than a defense not being able to get off the field on a third-down. More importantly, it keeps the Ravens offense on the bench and allows the Browns defense to get rest.
This defense is too good to allow big plays. That means the Cleveland Browns must launch sustained drives down the field to score. Winning the third-down battle is key. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll (pictured) needs to walk the fine line between being too predictable and overly creative.
Against Kansas City Josh Cribbs lined up in the backfield on a third-and-two and got nothing. The defense saw Cribbs keeping the ball from a mile away.
The Browns have Lawrence Vickers and Peyton Hillis with a mobile Quarterback in Seneca Wallace. Using them effectively is important in short yardage situations.
Going into division play, the Browns have dug themselves a hole with a 0-2 start. As bad as it seems however, both Baltimore and Cincinnati are 1-1, which means a win over the Ravens would launch the Browns right back into the race.
The Baltimore Ravens are good, but not unbeatable. If the Browns can do the little things right they have a chance to win this game.
Clock management, stupid penalties, and turnovers are a death sentence. The Cleveland Browns need to play fundamentally sound football if they want to leave with the elusive W.