It’s tough to remember that another football game actually took place between Colt McCoy’s concussion and this coming contest between the Browns and the Ravens, but it’s true: actual football has been played since James Harrison went all full-forced Zenedine Zidane on the Browns’ quarterback.
Seneca Wallace will be getting the nod once again, but his receiving corps is even further depleted due to an injury sustained by emerging slot option Jordan Norwood. The Browns O-line crumbled at the worst possible time last week. Can they regroup and keep Wallace upright for the majority of a 60-minute slate? Let’s shake our magic Orange and Brown eight-ball.
The Browns Will Win If…
Editor’s note: Similar to the past weeks, we have started things off with sharing a take from Daniel Wolf from National Football Authority. Take it away, Dan-o…
Daniel: Let’s be honest in saying that the Browns will not win this game. This is a Ravens team that is highly motivated to possibly land a first-round bye in the playoffs if they can win the rest of their games in the regular season. They will bring their A-game to this contest. Hate to be a “Debbie Downer” here, but a least the Browns will get a higher draft spot if the result is a loss.
Craig: … if Peyton Hillis has a ridiculous game. It isn’t likely because the Ravens (duh) have a good rushing defense. If we’ve learned anything this season it is that the Browns desperately miss one of their only offensive weapons from a year ago. Peyton Hillis still has plenty of motivation to do something to prove he can earn a contract this offseason. I figure he’ll have to lead the way against a motivated Ravens team if the Browns have any chance of winning.
Scott: …if the Ravens decide that they have to work on being more balanced (say, maybe limit it to 40 rushing attempts) in preparation for the playoffs and the Browns can somehow force them into mistakes while capitalizing on the offensive end. Pat Shurmur will have to be methodical; rush the ball to set the tempo, not forcing your second-string quarterback to make plays ad nauseum. Third-and-longs will only result in a nightmare outcome – get the ball to Peyton Hillis early and often, limit the opportunities for costly turnovers. Only then, if the game can be kept close and the Browns defense isn’t forced to be on the field for 40-plus minutes and Flacco struggles without Anquan Boldin in tow, can this Browns team have a chance to come out with the win. The stars have to align in this one. Alas, the forecast calls for overcast.
Rick: …they can get turnovers. In the Ravens 4 losses, they have turned the ball over 10 times. In their 10 wins, they’ve turned it over 13 times. The Browns also need to control the clock. Not surprisingly, in their 4 losses the Ravens had the ball on average 9 minutes less than their opponents. If the Browns can establish a running game, this will take care of itself. Stop the run. Against the Browns, Rice and company ran for just under 3 bills. In their 4 losses the Ravens ran for 34, 75, 45 and 89 yards respectively. How they do it is anyone’s guess.
Andrew: …the Ravens play one point worse against the Browns than the Cardinals did. As usual, it’s not so much about what the Browns need to do to win as it is about what the Ravens need to do for the Browns to win. The Ravens have to play poorly for the Browns to have a shot. A huge start would be for the Browns to make Baltimore become a passing team. They are infinitely more beatable as a passing team than a running team. The Browns know this from experience as Ray Rice became just the latest in along line of Ravens running backs to shred the Cleveland defense. A repeat performance, and the Browns have no shot. Of course, the Brown still need to be much better on offense as well to have any chance. But unless they stop the rushing attack, this game looks to be another tough afternoon for the good guys.
TD: …if Ray Rice tears his ACL on the first play from scrimmage …if Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs somehow come down with a bad case of game-day food poisoning. …if the Browns can run the ball like they did during the first two quarters of the Cardinals game. …if Seneca Wallace actually throws the ball down field with regularity and hits on a couple of big plays.
Only then will the Browns have a shot. The issue is that the Ravens, once again, are coming off of a bad road loss where they were embarrassed and will be extremely angry and looking to take it out on someone. That someone will, unfortunately, be the Browns.
Kirk: …if the running backs do some serious role reversal. Peyton Hillis flashed two or three great opening-drive runs in Cleveland three weeks ago, but after that, there wasn’t much to speak of from him other than the long pass reception. The offensive line is a big reason why Hillis did little in the second half. Ray Rice, conversely, ran for over 200 yards and thrashed the Browns’ front seven. If Hillis has his best game all year and the Browns’ defensive line and linebackers can sell out to stopping Rice, forcing Flacco to actually throw the ball, the Browns might be able to at least keep it close like the Pittsburgh game. Josh Cribbs hasn’t been in the end zone in weeks; that needs to change. With Shayne Graham signed to kick, it’d be nice if he missed a field goal, kicked one out of bounds, or short to Cribbs (or Buster Skrine). The Browns finally got off to a good start in Arizona, so they need to build off of that quick tempo from Seneca Wallace right away when they get the ball.
Providing some intel from the dark side of the coin is Bruce Raffel, editor of the great Ravens-adled blog Baltimore Beatdown, who is also expecting a fairly large weekend from Joe Flacco. His thoughts on this contest follow below:
The Baltimore Ravens host the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Eve and after beating the Browns 24-10 in Cleveland three weeks ago, it would take an upset of mammoth proportions to stretch the imagination and expect the Ravens to blow another game like this. Add in the fact that Baltimore is 7-0 at home this season and if the Ravens only play an average game, they should be able to repeat their prior victory over Cleveland. If the Ravens show up angry and bent on taking out the frustrations for their embarrassing loss to the San Diego Chargers on national TV that only temporarily took them out of the top spot in the AFC North (thanks to the San Francisco 49ers), this game could get ugly. However, make no bones about it, this is a division game and the Browns would like nothing better than to shock the Ravens and upset the AFC playoff apple cart. Seneca Wallace seems to be an upgrade over the woozy Colt McCoy and with the always dangerous Joshua Cribbs returning kicks, there is always the threat of a quick score from the Browns. However, if the Ravens “show up” this game is in the win column for Baltimore.
Now, it’s your turn. Think the Browns have a chance to catch the Ravens sleeping?