Looking at tonight's Thursday Night Football game between the host Baltimore Ravens and visiting Cleveland Browns, there is every reason to expect the game to be a one-sided contest. The Baltimore Ravens are 2-1 and perhaps one play away from 3-0, while the Browns are winless after three games.
A road game off of a short week against a team that has not lost at home for almost two years seems like as sure a thing as there is in the crazy world known as the NFL. However, ask the New England Patriots, whose home opener winning streaked was snapped by the Arizona Cardinals.
Ask the New York Giants, defending Super Bowl Champs, who lost the 2012 season opener at their place to the visiting Dallas Cowboys. Same for the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. Too many times, what appeared to be easy victories turned out to be shocking upsets.
The Ravens should not take this game lightly, as this is still an AFC North division contest and not only do the Browns have some dangerous players, the Ravens defense has not proved they can stop anyone, especially the opponents running game.
At the same time, I did write recently that the Ravens defense stepped up when they needed to in the fourth quarter of the win over the Patriots and could be on their way to returning to the dominating unit they have been for over the past decade. The Browns could be the perfect cure for what ails this defense.
With all the warning signs removed, there is no reason the Ravens should not only win this game, but dominate it on both sides of the ball. Looking at the stats, they might show the Ravens defense ranked 27th while the Browns unit is two spots ahead at 25th, but most people would find that misleading.
No one, however, would be confused by the offensive comparisons, which shows Baltimore as the league's 4th ranked offense behind QB Joe Flacco's second best passing yards in the NFL and #1 in the AFC. On the other hand, Cleveland 26th ranked offense is clearly challenged and with a rookie QB and RB with a lot of promise, that's a tough combo to put out there on a weekly basis, especially in the defensive-minded AFC North.
Offensively, the Ravens should be able to score early and often. Defensively, the Ravens should be able to shut down the Browns running game and then disrupt their passing game, causing mistakes leading to turnovers. The key word is "should."
A bad mistake by the Ravens, being on Special Teams, a fumble, interception or missed coverage and the game can change on a single play. Luckily, the game is in Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, where those things rarely happen to the home team.
The combination of the home-field advantage, national television audience, being home on a short week of practice, and of course the obvious huge difference between the two teams on both sides of the ball point towards a blowout of comfortable proportions for the Ravens which could allow the fans to head for the exits long before the final whistle ends the carnage on the field, as yes, remember, it is a school and work night for those in attendance.
PS: Check out the Ravens noted to score big in fantasy football in our FanPost Section below, titled, Week 4 - Browns @ Ravens Fantasy Matchup Analysis.