Ravens vs. Browns Week 4 Preview and Prediction
RAVENS VS BRIOWNS WEEK 4 PREVIEW AND PREDICTION – These aren’t the same old Browns. This season, the NFL’s klutziest franchise has stumbled into success.
Deshaun Watson was thought to be the key to the Browns’ taking a step forward this season. And though Watson has looked better than he did a season ago, the Browns’ 2-1 start is thanks to their defense.
The unit ranks No. 1 in points per game, yards per game, third down conversion percentage, and pressure rate.
New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has transformed a defense that ranked 20th in the NFL a season ago. Myles Garrett has been unlocked rushing from the wide nine technique, a staple of the Schwartz defense.
Having a more than competent pass rusher across from him in Za’Darius Smith is another reason for his year seven renaissance. With Ronnie Stanley listed as “doubtful,” Garett is poised to have another big game.
Get It Out Quick
Having an effective quick passing game will be essential to counter the Browns’ pass rush. Lamar has the sixth shortest time to throw in the league this season, but he’s taken some bad sacks on longer-developing plays.
He must get rid of the football early to keep the offense on schedule. Zay Flowers has been the team’s primary target for quick throws, but it’s time they start spreading the ball out more.
Mark Andrews has been uncharacteristically quiet this season, with only 80 yards in two games played. He’s scored seven touchdowns in his last eight games versus the Browns. The Ravens may need another strong Mark performance given how well Cleveland’s corners have played.
Both the Ravens and Browns have been carried by stingy defenses and hamstrung by careless offenses. Baltimore ranks 21st in turnover margin, Cleveland 29th. This is an unsustainable way to beat good teams.
The most damning criticism I have of Lamar Jackson is that he can be impatient. He wants to win every game by 40, which can lead him to press and hold the ball too long. I attribute this over-aggressiveness to the lack of support he’s had until this year. In the Roman days, he had to be special to make the offenses of old function.
This year, he’s having to learn that he can lean on those around him without it resulting in immense disappointment.
Once again, the Ravens have a small army on the injury report. Ojabo, Oweh, Bateman, Beckham Jr., and Humphrey are all out.
The good news is Stanley, Linderbaum, and miraculously, Marcus Williams all have a chance to play. Getting just one of the O-lineman back would be massive facing the Browns’ monstrous front four.
Here We Go Again?
This matchup will likely have a similar look to the Colts game – lots of punts, lots of field goals, lots of defense. One costly turnover could be the deciding factor. And though I mentioned Watson’s improvement from a season ago, he does not look like the MVP candidate of yesteryear. He’s thrown two interceptions and fumbled four times in three games.
Throughout his time in Houston, Watson toed that line of aggressiveness and carelessness with huge success. But in Cleveland, he’s taking all the same risks with far fewer splash plays. He’s also dealing with a shoulder injury that sidelined him during Friday’s practice and threatens his status for Sunday.
If Watson can’t go, preseason darling Dorian Thompson-Robinson will get the start. Regardless of who’s under center, the coach’s message will be the same: Don’t try to be a hero, rely on the defense, and you’ve got a good shot to win.
How the Ravens play on Sunday will begin to reveal the fiber of this football team. How will they respond to last week’s debacle? Will Lamar be able to rein it in and play a clean, patient game?
Can they continue to stay afloat with so many players still injured? Much can change over a 17-game season, but year-long themes form in the early weeks. I’m choosing to be optimistic and predicting that last week will be a lesson learned rather than a sign of what’s to come.