Flying With the Flock: Browns at Ravens Preview
Pull out all the stops. The Baltimore Ravens cannot afford to lose this game. If they manage to drop their sixth game in a row at home, it’s officially time to panic.
Cleveland is a good matchup for the Ravens. The Browns’ offense isn’t built for the pass-happy approach that’s given this team such trouble. Despite this, Browns HC Kevin Stefanski continues to try and run a predominantly aerial offense, which goes against the structure and strength of the roster.
The Run Game
Nick Chubb is arguably the NFL’s best running back, but he’s received less work than a philosophy major. Even if the Browns committed to feeding Chubb, the Ravens are well-equipped to keep him in check.
Baltimore’s D-line is big and powerful. They struggle to rush the passer. But they’re seventh in rushing defense. Assuming the Ravens’ defense plays sound, which isn’t exactly a safe assumption this season, it’ll be tough sledding for Cleveland’s offense.
If the Browns choose to spread it out and threaten Baltimore with their passing game, Mike MacDonald should be comfortable trusting his secondary players in coverage. A
mari Cooper is still a factor, but he’ll have to work hard to shake Marlon Humphery who’s been playing at a very high level all season. The Browns offense is similar to the Patriots one Baltimore handled in week three. It’s a dominating running attack with unimposing weapons and a quarterback who’s as good as everything around him.
Bounce Back For Lamar?
Defensively, Cleveland looks nothing like New England, allowing the third most points per game. They’re also without Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward.
Rashod Bateman is trending towards a return from the foot injury that’s sidelined him for the past two weeks and Ward’s absence means “The Bat” should be relied on heavily to exploit favorable matchups versus Browns’ rookie cornerback Martin Emerson.
As for the man throwing Bateman the ball, Lamar Jackson must play better. In recent games, Jackson hasn’t seen the field well or been accurate with his passes. There’s reason to believe his slump will end this week thanks to Bateman’s return.
The Bateman Factor
In games Bateman has played in, Lamar is averaging four total touchdowns a game and has a passer rating of 117.1. In games without Bateman, he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and has the second worst QB rating in the league.
Obviously, Bateman’s absence might not be the only factor contributing to Jackson’s struggles, but it’s definitely a part of it. Some of Lamar’s troubles from last year are coming back to bite him. If he makes a mistake early, he tries to get it all back in huge chunks, disregarding what the defense is giving him.
Right now, he’d rather try to land a 40-yard teardrop into tight single coverage than take a 15-yard in cut into a vacated part of the field.
QB coach James Urban has to be in his ear urging him to take the check down every once in a while because, for perhaps the first time in his career, Lamar has been a liability. With that being said, some of the offense’s struggles fall on Roman and Harbaugh’s shoulders.
Pre-snap penalties in last week’s loss were extremely costly and the abandonment of the run-game while averaging over 8 yards per carry is unacceptable. The Ravens’ 1-8 record in their last nine one-score games can’t be chalked up to simple chance.
This franchise has a problem with closing games out in the fourth quarter, partly due to their lack of elite edge defenders. The teams that are dominating in the conference and winning close games have at least one true difference-maker on the D-line.
Unless Ojabo and Bowser come back off their Achilles injuries at a high level, it might not get much better.
I expect a better day from Lamar Jackson and the entire offense in this one. I’m optimistic that Bateman is the key to success and his presence on the field will settle Lamar and improve his decision-making.
If the Browns choose to run Nick Chubb extensively, they can chew the clock and make this one close into the fourth quarter. If it’s close entering the second half, I’ll be sweating up in section 542, but I don’t foresee that being the case. The home losing streak dies on Sunday: