This Week 14 matchup between the Browns and the Ravens has huge divisional implications. With only four regular season games remaining, each game is a must-win for both teams to have a chance at a playoff birth.
This game is especially important for the Browns since they face a formidable final stretch where winning-out will be difficult.
The Ravens must win to simply keep pace with Cleveland. The Ravens have solid odds of winning out to end the regular season and compete for a Wild Card spot, but even that will be very tough to pull off.
Compared to Week 1, the Browns are very much improved, as HC Kevin Stefanski has done a wonderful job in establishing a team identity on both sides of the football.
Relying on their two star running backs in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb have propelled the Browns into becoming a very difficult team to beat. Strong play from Baker Mayfield has also paid dividends, as the return of Chubb has made Mayfield as dangerous as ever.
However, in their Week 1 matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore, the Browns looked completely lost as a team while going in no promising direction. Their poor performance in the regular season opener was definitely a fluke, as the Browns have clearly gotten themselves together and grown over the year.
The Ravens, on the other hand, appeared to pick things up right where they left off from last season as if no time had passed.
Let’s examine how the game went.
To open up the 2020 season, the Browns were the first to go on offense.
Cleveland opened up with a relatively pedestrian first drive; a Calais Campbell-tipped pass resulted in an interception — with Marlon Humphrey as the beneficiary.
On Lamar Jackson’s first offensive drive since winning league MVP in 2019, he opened up firing. While gaining the majority of yardage in the eight-play, 49-yard drive on the ground, Jackson found Mark Andrews for a five-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone to open up the new season.
After this, Mayfield and the Browns quickly went three and out and went into punting formation. Looking to catch the Ravens off-guard in his first game as an NFL head coach, Stefanski ran a fake-punt and had punter Jamie Gillian run for the first down. Stefanski’s call backfired as Gillian fumbled the football to set the Ravens up with superb field position.
Jackson and the offense took the field but were unable to move the chains. Justin Tucker put three more points on the board to give the Ravens a 10-0 lead.
On the following drive, Mayfield led the Browns 75 yards down the field in six plays to score their only touchdown of the day. A well designed goal-line play-action fake and pass to David Njoku gave the Browns six. Austin Seibert missed the extra point.
On Baltimore’s next drive, Jackson completed a beautiful deep-ball pass to Marquise Brown for 47 yards. Facing a 3rd-&-1 at Cleveland’s seven yard-line, a designed fullback dive to Patrick Ricard gets blown up and results in Ricard fumbling the football. The Browns recovered and took possession.
On their next drive, the Browns punt after being unable to formulate anything after 13 plays.
Starting at their own three yard-line, Jackson and the Ravens quickly cover ground. Strong play from the likes of J.K. Dobbins, Miles Boykin, and Marquise Brown allowed for the Ravens to go 10 plays and 99 yards for a touchdown. A short skinny post to Willie Snead capped off the drive to give the Ravens a 17-6 lead.
Cleveland’s next drive had initial success by being able to flip the field. However, another missed field goal by Seibert left three more points off of the board for Cleveland.
Starting at their own 31, Jackson drives the ball down the field in only seven plays with 41 seconds on the board. Consistency through the air in this drive allowed for Jackson to take the ball deep into Browns territory and eventually cap the drive off with a nine-yard touchdown to Andrews for the 24-6 lead.
Both teams traded punts on their opening second half drives.
Baltimore continued to pour it on Cleveland on their next possession as Snead found the end zone off of a 19-yard delivery from Jackson to put the Ravens up 31-6. Cleveland’s next two drives couldn't get any worse for them as a turnover on downs and a fumble gave Baltimore the opportunity to extend their lead even further.
After a rare Nick Chubb fumble, it took the Ravens only four plays to add another seven points onto their lead, as Dobbins found the end zone for his second touchdown.
With the result of the game already being conclusive, the Ravens put in Robert Griffin III to seal the deal for Baltimore's first win of the season as they dominated Cleveland 38-6.
What can we expect for this Monday’s matchup?
As the Ravens finally appear to be recovering from their virus outbreak, the Cleveland Browns are playing at the highest level they have been all season.
With a second-ranked rushing offense led by Chubb and Hunt in addition to a weekly improvement in play from Mayfield, the Browns finally appear to be finding their groove and earning the respect they deserve.
Let’s not forget that the Browns also boast a very talented defense led by star pass-rusher Myles Garrett, who currently has 10.5 sacks this season.
The Ravens are looking to reestablish some confidence in themselves after handily beating Dallas to end a three-game losing streak. With the majority of starters healthy and recovered from their COVID-19 diagnosis, the Ravens are hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive and beat Cleveland on their home turf.
The Ravens will need to do their best to stop Cleveland’s running game. The return of both Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell should help in this department, as evidenced in last week’s win over the Cowboys.
Putting the pressure on Mayfield and his young receiving corps to move the football would really help Baltimore’s chances for a win.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Ravens will need to build off of their impressive performance against Dallas. The Jackson-to-Brown connection appears to be coming back into fruition. Additionally, Andrews should be available to start for the primetime showdown.
With a potential playoff hanging in the balance, Monday’s game will be very physical and very closely matched as both teams ooze with talent and are very well-coached on all sides of the football.