The Ravens come home to face the Cleveland Browns in what is suddenly a major rivalry game. At stake is a temporary spot at the top of the AFC North standings. For the Ravens in particular, a win would put them 2 full games clear of the entire division, making it as locked up as one could feasibly call a division after just 4 games. Fortunately for the Ravens, while only 1 game separates them from the Browns in the standings, the difference in their play so far this season is stark. The Ravens’ only loss came on the road against a top 3 team, while one of the Browns’ losses was a beat down at the hands of the below-average Titans. While the Browns were billed as the team to watch this season, it has been Lamar Jackson and the Ravens who made progress in their 2nd year, and Mayfield who is in the middle of a sophomore slump.
As far as strengths that have been on display for the first 3 games of 2019, the Browns are surprisingly short. On paper, they look like they should have a good pass offense. Baker Mayfield was an above average starter as a rookie and was projected to improve. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry were supposed to be one of the top receiving duos in the NFL. With Myles Garrett rushing the passer and Denzel Ward as their number 1 corner, the Browns should have a good pass defense as well. None of that has really happened through 3 games, but its possible that these 3 games will end up not being typical of the 2019 Browns. They have plenty of potential strengths, but those strengths have not been realized.
The Browns’ offense has been a massive disappointment in 2019. As a unit, they have only gained 25.16 yards and 1.32 points per drive, good for 5th worst and 3rd worst in the NFL respectively. Baker Mayfield has started what appears to be a sophomore slump, completing only 56.9% of his passes while taking sacks on 9.2% of his dropbacks. This has been the main reason that their offense has stalled so often, despite an okay 7.4 yards per attempt. As far as receiving weapons go, Odell Beckham has played reasonably well, but Jarvis Landry has been awful. He has 10 receptions for 161 yards on 23 targets, and Mayfield’s passer rating when targeting him this season is 32.6. Landry was one of Mayfield’s least efficient receiver last season, when Mayfield was good, so the Landry trade and signing looks like a bust. The Ravens get to face a much worse offense than last week, and the Browns will struggle to even reach the endzone multiple times.
Hollywood Brown and Willie Snead vs Greedy Williams/Terrance Mitchell/TJ Carrie: Both of Cleveland’s starting corners: Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, are listed as questionable as of Friday. However, even if Williams starts, Brown and Snead should have a favorable matchup against the rookie. Behind the pass rush, the Browns’ pass defense has been underwhelming in 2019, allowing 7.7 yards per attempt and 65.6% completion percent. These numbers are not awful, but they are bolstered by the presences of Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. On plays were Garrett doesn’t get pressure, and Lamar Jackson avoids targeting Ward, Jackson should often find an open Brown or Snead to move the chains. Given that Ward’s availability is questionable, and he will have missed practices even if he does play, the passing offense should do well even with Lamar Jackson facing significant pressure.
Myles Garrett vs the Ravens Offensive Line: There is probably just one player on the Browns playing better than expected of him this season, and that player is Myles Garrett. Garrett is responsible for 6 sacks and 8 QB hits in just 3 games so far and has added 5 tackles for a loss and 1 forced fumble. Dealing with him will be the Ravens main concern on offense, and even Ronnie Stanley should have his hands full with Garrett.
Betting Line and Prediction
The Ravens are 7 point favorites against Cleveland according to the Vegas Insider consensus. The Browns, however, have not been playing up to expectations this season while the Ravens have exceeded them. Aside from a win against the awful Jets that was not as convincing as it should have been, the Browns look like a bad team. The Ravens should win this fairly easily. Ravens 27, Browns 13.