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Ravens vs. Browns potential X factors: Trio of rookies poised to produce

This AFC North clash could be decided by contributions from a handful of players.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 10 for the second in a three-game homestand. They favored by nearly a touchdown to win their fifth straight in this AFC North showdown. When these two teams faced off in Week 4, the Ravens came away with a resounding 28-3 victory and are now looking to complete series sweep.

In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing momentum into a team’s favor or extend their lead. There are a handful of select players who either aren’t being talked about as much or are primed to have a big day.

Below are some of those individuals that could prove to be deciding factors in the final outcome.

WR Zay Flowers

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The first-round pick has had a quiet past couple of weeks from a production standpoint, catching just six passes on eight targets for 30 receiving yards. He previously became just the second rookie wideout to record 50+ yards from scrimmage through seven games.

Flowers is overdue for a big game and will be up against two formidable corners in two-time Pro Bowler Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome. Despite the matchup, Flowers has been a human highlight reel whenever the ball is in his hands. His ability to not only make defenders miss in space but stretch the field vertically could lead to him having his first career game of 100+ receiving yards.

EDGE Jadeveon Clowney

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Clowney helped the Ravens beat his former team in Week 4 with strong run defense but didn’t record a sack or quarterback hit. That will certainly not be the case this time around, as the Browns will be without their top three offensive tackles on Sunday. They placed starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. on injured reserve and ruled out backup right tackle Dawand Jones as well.

Clowney will continue to be a disruptive run defender but after not recording a sack in his last three games, he is primed to end that drought this week. According to Pro Football Focus, his 39 pressures through nine games have already matched the season total of four-time Pro Bowler Justin Houston, who led the Ravens in 2022.

RB Keaton Mitchell

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The undrafted rookie is coming off an incredible performance last week, where he carried the ball for the first time this season. Mitchell finished with a game-high 138 rushing yards and scored his first career touchdown on just nine attempts. He averaged 15.3 yards per attempt. While he recorded double-digit touches, his 10th came on a reception for minus-four yards on a screen that was blown up.

Even though Mitchell is listed as questionable to play, this could still be the week he receives double-digit carries for the first time in his career. He could also create a big play as a receiver out of the backfield, too.

EDGE Tavius Robinson

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The fourth-round rookie has seen his playing time and total snaps on defense decrease each week since the arrival of veteran Kyle Van Noy. However, his effectiveness and Pro Football Focus grades have been on the rise.

Robinson played his second-lowest number of defensive snaps this season against the Seattle Seahawks last week (nine). He finished with the second-highest PFF grade by a Ravens’ defender, though, with a season-high mark of 83.1.

Robinson is poised to succeed for the same reasons as Clowney: the mismatch on the edges due to the Browns’ offensive tackle situation. This could be the week that his impressive high-motor hustle plays result in him recording his first career sack, especially if the Ravens get up early and the Browns have to throw frequently.

FB Patrick Ricard

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Ricard continues to have a profound impact in the Ravens’ offense, after many questioned whether he’d have a role coming into the season. He’s essentially an extra offensive lineman, either lining up in the backfield or at the end of the line next to tackles.

Ricard’s impressive versatility and blocking have been pivotal to the team’s success in the run game. That could help take the air out of the Browns’ pass rush on Sunday. Expect to see him assisting either offensive tackle in pass protection when needed, especially if Myles Garrett begins to heat up.

CB Brandon Stephens

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The third-year pro continues to impress and be lockdown on the perimeter for the Ravens during his breakout season. He is tied for the most targets among cornerbacks with 200+ coverage snaps (66). He has yet to give up a touchdown and is allowing career-lows in yards per catch (9.7), yards per target (6.45), and opposing passer rating (68.1).

Stephens led the effort that shutdown Browns’ four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper in Week 4, who was held to just one reception for 16 yards on six targets. Cooper has a strong rapport with quarterback Deshaun Watson. With three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey back playing at a high level, they may try to throw more to Stephens’ side.