Anyone who feels sorry for the Cleveland Browns because they have drawn the Baltimore Ravens at this point in the season should save their pity. The Browns may have hit a slide the last couple of weeks, but the positive points that the team is able to take away from each game should make Browns fans excited for the coming years.
The NFL betting experts did not expect much from the Browns this season, and when you look at the NFL scores, it does not look like the Browns gave much. But the NFL predictions for this year will not be the same as next year for Cleveland as it looks like the team has found its quarterback of the future, its running back and is developing a defense with a bad attitude and an ability to contain the run.
It looks like quarterback Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense are finally getting it right. When the New Orleans Saints took away the run game and the long ball in Week 15, Flacco just started to throw the ball underneath to his tight ends and to running back Ray Rice out of the backfield. Eventually it loosened up the Saints defense and the Ravens went on to win the game.
Flacco seems to be more in control of what he is doing. He is making fewer mistakes in the course of the game, and the offense around him seems to have more confidence in what he is doing.
The Browns look like they are either settled on Colt McCoy as the quarterback of the future, or they are willing to give the kid a chance in the last two games of the year to win the job. McCoy almost didn’t make the team after preseason and has come a long way in his development.
It looks like quarterback Jake Delhomme is done as a starter in the NFL, and it will be interesting to see what he decides to do when the season is over. Running back Peyton Hillis is an emerging star in Cleveland, and he has shown that he can be the featured back in the Browns’ new offense.
It is no secret what the Ravens try to do on defense. They intimidate you up front, and then take away the field in the secondary. But the Ravens defense is getting old in some spots and is too young in others.
The pressure up front and the run contain is still there with Ray Lewis and the rest of the front seven, but even with safety Ed Reed in the lineup, the secondary is suspect. The Ravens can be victimized by the long ball—as the Saints showed in Week 15. That may leave the door open for McCoy to see if he can sling the ball downfield against a superior NFL defense.
The Browns defense is young and aggressive. Sometimes that works to their advantage, like it did when Cleveland beat the Saints earlier in the season. But the Browns defense is still learning, and they will make some big mistakes along the way.
Flacco is an extremely accurate passer, and with the Browns unable to stop the run on a consistent basis, this could prove to be one of the biggest challenges the Cleveland defense has faced all season.
The Bottom Line
The Browns are not ready to really compete with a team like the Ravens just yet, but they will show that they have developed this season and are only a year or two away from being able to bring out the best in teams like Baltimore. The Ravens are inconsistent and could allow the Browns to stay close in this game. But, in the end, the superior offense of the Ravens will pull this game out for Baltimore.
Pick: Baltimore Ravens