Baltimore O In The Crosshairs Against Browns
By Josh Aronson
The most important matchup to watch this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium is the Ravens offense against the Browns underrated defense. Both the Browns and the Ravens are coming off of losses to AFC opponents; the Browns lost 23-10 to the Dolphins and the Ravens lost 49-27 to the Broncos. However both teams have high expectations for the season and will look to get on track this weekend. Since 1990, only 12 percent of teams that have started 0-2 have made the playoffs, making the game Sunday that much more important. Oh, and it’s also division game, which only heightens the importance even more.
The key matchup to watch is when Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense have the ball. The Browns have one of the youngest and moat athletic defenses in the league, which could cause some problems for the Ravens. CB Joe Haden is one of the best in the league, and if he can eliminate Torrey Smith from the game, the other Ravens receivers will need to step up big time.
Sunday will also be the debut of Cleveland’s first round pick DE Barkevious Mingo who was hospitalized during the preseason with a bruised lung. Mingo will look to prove worthy of being a top-10 pick, and get to Flacco early and often.
Baltimore will be welcoming back OLB Paul Kruger who is making his return to M&T Bank Stadium after signing a five-year $40 million contract this offseason. Kruger has said it is going to feel weird being back, but excited to finally get to go after Joe Flacco without a red jersey on.
The X-factor of the game has to be RB Ray Rice. The Ravens have had success in years past running the ball against the Browns, and they will need to see that continue Sunday. If Rice can get going on the ground, look for Flacco to utilize the play action to balance out the offense.
I expect a close game in the fist half, and then the Ravens to pull away in the fourth quarter, wining the game 31-16. Check back in Tuesday for a recap of this Week 2 matchup.