The Baltimore Ravens head to Cleveland on Sunday for an important early season divisional contest. The Browns are in rebuilding mode under new coach Hue Jackson and their depth chart is thin on talent.
The Ravens should be able to employ a similar gameplay as what they used with success against Buffalo in Week 1. Turnovers are the great equalizer, but if the Ravens can prevent big plays on defense, while executing an efficient offensive gameplay, they are fully capable of beating the Browns by double digits.
Four key player matchups:
OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Joe Thomas
Thomas, a six time All-Pro, is the Browns best player and the top blindside protector in the NFL. In Suggs last four games against the Browns, he has accumulated three sacks, but he is still regaining his pass rushing explosiveness following Achilles surgery. Bookend pass rusher Elvis Dumervil appears doubtful for this game and backup edge rusher Za’Darius Smith is also banged up. Generating pressure off the edges will be crucial to limiting veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who has carved up the Ravens pass defense in recent games.
DT Danny Shelton vs C Jeremy Zuttah
Zuttah had a poor showing in the first game of the season, causing a fumble and allowing pressure to reach Flacco on multiple occasions. Zuttah did not practice on Wednesday and may be questionable to play, but no matter who is lined up at center on Sunday, they will have their hands full. Shelton, a former top-15 draft pick, has drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata. He has yet to realize his full potential, failing to post a single sack in his young career, but was quite disruptive last week. The Ravens averaged only three yards per carry in the opener and Flacco was sacked four times. It all starts front and center.
WR Corey Coleman vs CB Shareece Wright
Wright played an excellent game last week, racking up eleven tackles, many behind the line of scrimmage. But Tyrod Taylor and the Bills did not test him deep. The Browns have a pair of vertical receivers in Coleman and Terrelle Pryor, who each eclipsed 65 receiving yards with better than 20 yards per catch against the Eagles. Pryor’s height will likely draw Jimmy Smith on most plays, leaving Wright to mark the explosive Coleman. As long as Wright can keep Coleman in front of him, the supporting safeties should be able to prevent big plays.
WR Mike Wallace vs CB Joe Haden
Wallace provided the play of the game against Buffalo with a 66-yard receiving touchdown. Haden, once considered among the top corners in the league, is regaining his form after an injury riddled season last year. The Eagles receivers lit up the Browns secondary, but Haden held his own and posted a solid game. Haden could be tasked with man coverage on Wallace if Cleveland devotes extra bodies to stop the run. If Flacco can connect with Wallace downfield to claim an early lead, the Ravens should roll.