Gordon McGuinness, PFF
STRENGTH IN DEPTH ON DEFENSE
The depth across the board is one of the primary reasons for the Ravens’ success on defense this season. Through nine weeks of the season, they have 19 players on defense who have played at least 100 snaps and earned a PFF grade of 60.0 or better, four more than any other team in the NFL.
Where it is really shining through, though, is at edge defender, with some late summer and in-season additions really paying off. Jadeveon Clowney‘s 16.0% pressure rate ranks 20th among edge defenders who have rushed the passer at least 80 times. Kyle Van Noy, an in-season signing, ranks 12th at 16.9%.
There are question marks about whether the Ravens will get Tyus Bowser back this year, and Ojabo struggled before his injury. Still, there is a world where the Ravens get those guys back and are suddenly six starting-caliber players deep at edge defender.
Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
Lamar Jackson will win his second NFL MVP award: With a league-leading completion percentage of 71.5, Jackson has never thrown the ball more accurately. He’s handled increased responsibilities at the line of scrimmage in Todd Monken’s offense, is making good decisions and is hurting teams with his arm and legs. His numbers don’t jump out at you, but he has been in total control. With an offensive line that is coming together nicely and a better grasp of what the Ravens do best offensively, Jackson is in a position to have a monster second half if he remains healthy.
Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com
The Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game (13.8), lead the league in sacks (35) and are first in red zone defense. The Browns have yielded the fewest yards (234.8 per game) and lead in third down defense and pass defense.
The Browns have a different defensive style than Baltimore’s, but it’s also extremely effective. It starts with All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, who’s tied for second in the league in sacks (9.5), and who is difficult for any one player to block.
Garrett was limited to one sack and three quarterback hits against the Ravens in Week 4, but Baltimore led 21-3 by halftime and Lamar Jackson had a season-low 19 passing attempts. The Ravens may look to neutralize Garrett with their running attack, which is ranked No. 1 in the NFL and coming off a 298-yard performance against the Seahawks.
Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
They did a decent job against Cleveland’s superstar in their 28-3 win at the beginning of October, limiting him to one sack, two quarterback hits and a pair of hurries. The Browns also bring pressure from their middle thanks to defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and Maurice Hurst. They blitz on 28.2% of dropbacks, the 11th-highest rate in the league, and rank first in DVOA against the pass. They present plenty of problems beyond their front, with safety Grant Delpit (team-high 53 tackles) and cornerback Denzel Ward (nine passes defended, two interceptions) ranking among the best players at their positions.
The Browns miss running back Nick Chubb. Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt have combined to average just 3.7 yards per carry. Third option Pierre Strong actually did the most damage against the Ravens, carrying five times for 49 yards. Watson isn’t a prolific runner but averages 5.8 yards per attempt. The Browns have not turned away from the run in Chubb’s absence. They rank first in attempts and third in yards per game.
The Ravens will see a more competitive version of the Browns with Watson at quarterback and a defense hungry to prove the 28-3 score of the previous meeting was misleading. But the Ravens are still the more balanced team, able to win in multiple ways on both sides of the ball with a higher offensive upside thanks to Jackson. The home crowd won’t enjoy another blowout but will help the Ravens through a slugfest. Ravens 23, Browns 17
Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6)
The case for the Ravens as the most complete team in the NFL:
Their plus-115 point differential is not only first, but 35 points better than the second-ranked team.
They’re first in DVOA and the only team to be in the top five on both offense and defense.
They’re 7-2, and their two losses came by a combined 10 points and were among the most fluky losses by any team all season.
I’m really impressed with this Ravens team. They can win with Lamar Jackson when he operates from the pocket or makes second-reaction plays. They can run the ball. Their offensive line is playing well. Their defense just held the Seahawks to a total of six first downs and completely shut down the Lions a few weeks ago. They’re well-coached. And we know they’ll be good in the kicking game. If Jackson stays healthy, this really could be the Ravens’ year.
The Browns defense continues to look like one of the NFL’s top units, but their offense was dealt a blow last week, when left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. suffered an injury that is expected to keep him out for a while. I’m tempted to take the points here, given that it’ll likely be a low-scoring game, but the Ravens have just looked so dominant. Winning by a touchdown doesn’t feel like too much to ask.
The pick: Ravens (-6)