The 3-1 Ravens head to Cleveland for their second consecutive divisional road contest in Week 5. Fresh off a statement win over the archrival Steelers, Baltimore is currently a three point favorite. The Browns will be aiming for the second victory of the Hue Jackson era on Sunday.
John Harbaugh is an impressive 18-2 overall against the Browns. Baltimore has won each of the last three meetings, by an average of 17 points. However, Harbaugh’s Ravens are just 2-6 following two straight wins and 2-7 in October since 2016.
The Ravens want to establish the run, but another pass-first game plan may be the best strategy considering the Browns defensive strengths and weaknesses. On the other side of the ball, Baltimore’s 3rd ranked scoring defense will be challenged by receivers Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and a committed rushing attack.
Marquee head-to-head battles between bluechip players, such as Ronnie Stanley against Myles Garrett and John Brown versus Denzel Ward, will be important. Yet these three perhaps slightly under-the-radar matchups will determine the victor:
OLB Tim Williams vs LT Desmond Harrison
The second-year edge rusher is earning more playing time as the season progresses. Williams capitalized on his opportunities by providing several pressures, a pair of quarterback hits and a sack against Pittsburgh’s stout line in Week 4. Facing a team that has allowed the third most sacks in the league so far, Timmy has a chance to continue his breakout season.
Harrison has fared remarkably well for an undrafted free agent rookie. The Ravens will test the long and athletic tackle with a variety of outside linebackers, chiefly Terrell Suggs. Nonetheless, Williams has the raw speed required to beat Harrison off the snap.
In a game where turnovers should be the difference, the battle on the blindside will be pivotable.
WR Willie Snead IV vs CB T.J. Carrie
Much has been made of Baltimore’s upgraded receiving corps. The greatest improvement is the depth of the group, not necessarily the players at the top of the depth chart. Snead has had an excellent start to the season, catching nearly 70-percent of all passes thrown him way and converting 66-percent of his catches into first downs over the last three games.
Meanwhile, Carrie was forced into action after Terrance Mitchell broke his wrist last Sunday. Primarily a nickel corner, his coverage was exposed by Oakland’s receivers. T.J. currently ranks as Pro Football Focus’ 99th graded cornerback. The Browns could reshuffle their secondary to compensate for injuries since safeties Damarious Randall and Briean Boddy-Calhoun both have experience at corner.
Regardless, expect Joe Flacco to target Carrie throughout the game, especially with his reliable chain-mover Snead.
S Eric Weddle vs QB Baker Mayfield
Mayfield’s debut as a starting quarterback was marred by an excessive amount of drops from his pass catchers and highly questionable officiating. He will return to the scene of his comeback victory in Week 3 with the poise, mobility and accuracy to succeed against even the most talented defenses.
Enter Weddle, a smart defender who has excelled against rookie quarterbacks. In his first two season with the Ravens, the safety broke up a combined 20 passes with 10 interceptions. However, he has only one pass deflection and has not been involved in any takeaways through the first quarter of his 12th season.
This will be a classic matchup between a crafty veteran and a talented upstart.