Wow, I'm finding out that not only do the Browns fans think I'm a homer, but now also an Orioles' fan (there are any?) thinks so as well. He says on the Browns site that all Ravens fans aren't like me, as I use my blog to predict the Ravens will beat everybody and try to start fights. I thanked him for throwing me under the bus and said he probably thinks the O's are only one good player away from competing, just like the Rays, huh?
Anyway, this is a blog on the Baltimore Ravens and certainly not on the Orioles. For that , feel free to check out Camden Chat, which has great thoughts and comments and a heck of a strong, loyal following as well. If you visit Baltimore Beatdown, be advised that I am absolutely a homer and hope that the Ravens win every game. The ones I think we'll win are the ones I will predict we will, and vice versa. Go back to this summer's predictions of our entire schedule. I predicted a 9-7 season, which is not looking too outlandish at this point. Of course, today will mark the halfway point and with the entire NFC East coming up in the second half, it sure would help to finish the first half with a victory and a 5-3 record.
And that's exactly what you're going to see in the paragraphs below. Earlier this summer, I predicted a split in the season series with the Browns, with the Ravens taking their home game and losing the road one, 27-17 in Cleveland. The Baltimore Sunpapers' Jamison Hensley predicts a 27-13 Browns victory, but I can't condone that. So far, I've predicted Ravens losses in all three of their road games (homer, huh?), but got burned as the Ravens ran over and around an overmatched Dolphins team that has beaten the likes of New England, San Diego and Buffalo. They have had it tough on the road, losing in Pittsburgh on MNF and in Indy against a team that we have rarely matched up well against. While I still don't view us a Road Warriors, I see us being able to compete with most teams, be it at home or on the road. For many reasons, I just don't see today's opponent, Cleveland, in the same way that I see the tougher teams that have beaten us so far. The Browns have indeed won three of four and should have a ton of confidence with revenge on their minds as we enter today's contest. But their season, while improving, has still been viewed as disappointing, while the Ravens have been seen as making huge strides from last year's embarassing 5-11 season. A win today and the Ravens will have won as many games in the first half of 2008 as they did the entire 2007 season.
It all starts up front, in the trenches, on both sides of the ball. I've heard a ton a comments about the play of our secondary, how Derek Anderson needs to hit his targets, how important Special Teams are, etc. Those are all important issues, but none more so than what happens along the line of scrimmage. Just like the first game, I said if we pressure DA, then our CB's will manage just fine, as DA will have to release the ball early or look for shorter, less risky patterns. If that happens, sooner than later we will jump a pattern and it's off to the house. That's exactly what happened in that first game. Conversely, if his very good offensive line performs like they did last year or have at times in their three victories this season, then he might just pick us apart as easily as Peyton Manning did a few weeks ago. Braylon Edwards is a top ten receiver in the league, as is Kellen Winslow in ranking tight ends (the best TE? no.). Dante Stallworth has never regained his reputation since he was paired with Joe Horn in New Orleans, although he is a solid possession receiver. They have options out of the backfield, but you might have noticed that up to now I have not mentioned Jamal Lewis. It's not for any resentment reasons, as he was a pleasure to watch up until the last year or so in a Baltimore uniform. It's just that the Ravens haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher in now something like 26 games, and is not going to end today. Therefore, there is no reason to continue to discuss the opponents running attack, as there will not be one- again. A final word on our defensive game plan. The rush needs to be there as I said, and the coverage from the safeties, namely Ed Reed, needs to be quicker to help out our depleted secondary, now manned by our 3rd and 4th stringers, much less our nickel and dime backs literally coming off of our Practice Squad.
Offensively, I am much more confident in this offense's ability to move the football than I have in a long time. While I realize that the teams we've beaten all have losing records, they have beaten some good teams and that should count for something. However, while this is certainly not going to be the same Browns team we crushed in week three, this is also not the same boring Ravens offense they saw back then as well. QB Joe Flacko has gone "wacko" the past couple of weeks. While he's not exactly rolling up the stats, he's not turning the ball over either, a Ravens QB rarity. Combined with a brutal rushing game, the passing attack has been efficient and solid, even if vanilla compared to the Browns. The "Suggs" package (I hate that name), has opened up doors with the possibilities it offers Troy Smith as a triple threat, and creates havoc for defenses to figure out. The entire team has had seven games to mesh their chemistry and the leader of the offense is unquestionably the rookie from Delaware taking snaps under center. The NFL's most recent Rookie-of-the-Week has shown that he is poised and confident, while not cocky, and ready to start in the NFL. If he continues to play smart and not turn the ball over, then he will put us in the position to win the game with our ball control offense.
Combined with our stifling defense, I am reversing the prediction of a Ravens loss back in the summer and going with a small upset on the road, as the Browns are a 1.5 point favorite when I last checked the lines. I don't see the complete reversal to my earlier prediction of a Browns 27-17 victory, because not only do I not see us scoring 27 points, I don't see the Browns scoring 17 either.
Ravens: 16-13 (Call me a homer!)
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