After winning their past two games in a row by an average margin of over 16 points, the Baltimore Ravens set their sights on Cleveland and a Browns team fresh off a rare road upset victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens are in second place in the AFC North with a 4-3 record, one game behind the division leading Steelers, who sit there at 5-2. The Browns, are one game behind the Ravens at 3-4 and a win at home will put them at .500 for the first time all season. However, the Ravens have already defeated the Browns 28-10 in game three earlier this season and are out to prove that was not a fluke. At the same time, despite their impressive 10-6 2007 season, the Browns are facing the same thoughts that last year was a fluke for them and a winning streak would go a long way to showing that they are fighting back to prove the pundits wrong.
The Browns last two games have been on the road, where they lost a close one to the Redskins 14-11, and won another close one in Jacksonville 23-17. Keeping both games close by playing tough defense should give them a boost of confidence as they now head home to the cozy (?) confines of their home field and their loyal, yet misguided fans, the Dawg Pound. The Browns' fans are trash talking, foul mouthed blind loyalists, who never miss an opportunity to not only trash their opponents, but their fans as well.
Hopefuly, for the Browns fans' sake, the players can back up their fans with a victory over the Ravens. If not, the Ravens fans wil have every right to make sure the Browns' fans call them, "Daddy," as that would be a series sweep this season. A split in the season series would only extend the arguments another year. It would be great to punk them in their crib and send them further down in the standings towards their Ohio brethren in the basement of the AFC North.
Not that it will come easy for the Ravens. Their 28-10 victory came as a surprise to the NFL, as the Browns were actually favored to win this game by the so-called experts. However, Browns QB Derek anderson looked nothing like the Pro Bowl caliber player of last year, and while the Browns have rallied for three victories, including impressive wins over the defending Super Bowl Champions NY Giants on MNF, he has still not regained his form from last year. The Ravens will again attempt to exploit this as they plan to continue their defensive dominance in stopping the run as they have done all season while not allowing a 100 yard rusher since the 2006 season, a span of well over 20 games. If they can put pressure on Anderson when he drops back to pass, hit and harass him throughout the game, they will be able to force the turnovers that this defense has feasted upon. If Cleveland's well respected offensive line is able to protect him, then he will have the time to pick apart the Ravens once again depleted secondary. Losing Samari Rolle to injury hurt the team, but the recent absence of Chris McAlister has been devastating, as it brings the nickel and dime backs into starting roles. While the loss of safety Dawan Landry has not hurt due to the impressive play of safety Jim Leonhard, who has performed very good on defense as well as Special Teams. However, it has seemed that the deep coverage has not been able to rotate to the weak side when needed to stop the big plays. This will need to improve to stop the connection between Anderson, Braylon Edwards and the other Cleveland threats.
As the week progresses, we will see more of a gameplan taking shape, based on the health of both teams as they prepare for what will be another battle in this great rivalry, in which the players as well as the fans seem to really despise each other.
Keep in touch here.