While the Baltimore Ravens thoroughly demolished the Cleveland Browns 34-3 back in week three, this is not the same Ravens team that started the season off at 3-0 and was ranked #1 by ESPN in their weekly Power Rankings. Now having lost four of our past five games, which Ravens team shows up seems to be as much a mystery to the fans as it is to the players and coaches.
This game is in Cleveland and even more importantly, on Monday Night Football. The Ravens are 4-7 on MNF, 1-5 on the road in those games and have lost in their last five appearances on that prime time stage. For whatever reasons, we do not play well in front of a national television audience and while we are listed as much as an eleven point favorite over the struggling Browns, this could very well be a "trap" game for Baltimore.
The Browns are starting Brady Quinn at QB, who deserves a longer look than he's been given and is in a key position, contract and salary cap-wise in his tenure with the team. They need to determine which QB will be their future, if that QB is even on the team right now, by giving Quinn the rest of the season to show what he's got. Head Coach Eric Mangini is also on the hot seat, and could be gone at the end of the season, if not before, depending on the team's progress. That makes the Browns a very dangerous team, one with nothing left to lose. Like a wounded animal backed into a corner, they will do whatever they can to win this game and give the nation a positive showing from one of its worst, if not the worst team in the league.
This is the most important game of Cleveland's season. No matter what they've done so far, no matter what they do the rest of the season, if they can beat the Baltimore Ravens, the city with the former, hated owner that "stole" their team, then this is their "Super Bowl" for 2009. They will gloat over our team and fans, especially here on Baltimore Beatdown, and make our frustrating season even more miserable than it has been so far.
I don't know about you, but that premise scares me. The Ravens have not played anywhere near the expectations we had since we put such a beat down on the Browns earlier this season that we were all talking about the Super Bowl after week three! Since then, the losses and frustrations have piled up higher than the barnyard at Pimlico Racecourse. That will never happen, you say, despite our poor showing last week along with the other disappointments that have exposed some obvious shortcomings in key positions on the field. Well, this is the NFL and a lot of unexpected things have happened all season, starting with how in the world can the Ravens be sitting in third place in the AFC North with a 4-4 reccrd after eight games? How in the world can we expect to turn it around with games coming up with the Indianapolois Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and then once again on the road on Monday Night Football at the Green Bay Packers, where there has never been a night game in December in Packer history!?
Very simply, this team better not be looking ahead to the Colts. Focus on the task at hand and get well quick against a team that we should beat just as bad as we did the first time. Get that win out of the way and then prepare for the team that has always had their way with us and should come here undefeated for us to make a statement on, one way or the other. But for now, beware of the Browns.