The combination of a short week, a presidential election and two bad teams leaves me with little to say and less inclination to fo it. Since the Browns handed the Ravens a 25-20 win in week two, the Ravens have done nothing to suggest they are significantly improved from last season’s 5-11 team… which at least had the excuse of injuries to lean on.
- Baltimore beat a dreadful Jacksonville team by two points (19-17), then lost to Oakland by a point (28-27), Washington by 6 (16-10), the Giants by 4 (27-23) and the Jets by 8 (24-16).
- 31-year-old Joe Flacco has a rating below 80, with more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6). He’s been sacked 18 times, fumbled 4 times and lost 2.
- Browns’ castoff Terrance West (111 carries for 445 yards and 3 scores) is the #1 back. After a three-game period where he seemed to be coming into his own (295 yards, 5.4 per carry), he’s reverted to form: 23 carries for 31 yards in the last two.
- The leading receivers are oft-injured 31-year-old TE Dennis Pitta, 30-year old Mike Wallace and 37-year-old Steve Smith. Wallace (39-614-4) is the only player you would even want to have on a fantasy team.
Due to Flacco’s frequent inconsistency, who can tell if the problems with the receiving corps are their lack of talent or his inability to make use of anyone else. Former #1 pick Breshad Perriman (who missed his rookie year) has 17 catches for 216 yards; former #4 pick Kyle Juszcyk has 18 catches for 134.
After five weeks, they were 3-2, but averaging 18.8 points a game. John Harbaugh fired coordinator Marc Trestman and went to Marty Mornhinweg, looking for a spark. Over the last three games, they’ve gone 1-2 and averaged 20.0 points. It adds up to 26th in points (19.3).
The defense is ranked 9th (19.1), but it’s difficult to tell if that is due to skill or ineptitude on the part of the opponents. I mentioned five of the eight game; let me fill in the blanks:
- A 13-7 win to Buffalo
- A 24-16 loss to the Jets
- A 21-14 loss to a Pittsburgh team that played so horribly I wondered it they hadn’t bet against themselves.
To their credit, they have 12 takeaways, 18 sacks and 32 pass knockdowns. and 18 sacks. Opponents are averaging 3.4 yards per rush and 6.8 per pass. But looking at the opponents, I have no idea who is responsible for it.
If I were seeing any signs of life, I would tag this as an upset special. The problem is that the Browns have lost all nine games, the last four pretty badly:
- A 28-19 loss to the Titans (with 7 points scored on defensive indifference)
- An 31-17 loss to the Bengals
- A 31-20 loss to the Jets (again, with 8 points scored when it was too late to do any good)
- A 35-10 blasting from the Cowboys
In the first and third games, there were signs of life; against Cincnnati and Dallas, they laid down and died.
Offensively, you can say they’ve had injuries to the quarterbacks and #1 pick Corey Coleman— and sometimes the running game looks OK. The defense has been consistently worthless.
When a 3-13 team hires a new coach, said coach promises the moon– and then the team goes 0-9– talent-based analysis becomes impossible. Based on game two– where Browns lost by only five points, and jumped off to a 20-0 lead– there’s no question that the Browns could win this. The Ravens haven’t gotten any better.
The Browns have. They lost the game partly because Josh McCown got injured in the second quarter, but selfishly refused to leave the game. At the time, everyone admired his gutty veteran attitude– playing through the injury to save the Browns from having to play rookie Cody “Trust Me” Kessler.
In retrospect, keeping McCown in now seems like a terrible idea. Kessler has played well enough to win in some games and never looked all hat bad. Had Kessler played and been as prepared as he was the following week, the Browns could easily have won.
But it all depends on what kind of mood the team is in. Angry about the last week’s beating and ready to take out their feelings on the next opponent? Furious about giving 25 unanswered points to the Ravens last time– eager to even the score on national TV?
Are they finally burnt out– ready to fire up Chris Palmer’s “runaway train”and coast? Are they up for the game– but so worked up that they blow assignments and make foolish plays?
A friend who covered the 2010 Raiders suggested I not expect too much:
“Jackson talks a great game, but he had a very undisciplined team. We led the league in penalties, turned the ball over more than we took it away and we could never trust our defense to t hold a lead. We played three times at night. One was maybe our best game of the year– a win in Denver. One was a really sloppy win against the Chargers. In the third, we lost 28-0 at home to Kansas City.”
He then asked me if anyone around the team was expecting the Browns to win.
When I said “No” he said “Oh. Well, then they’ll win. We all had losing records making predictions that year.”
And that’s how I’m going. The Browns could have won the first meeting. The Ravens aren’t a good team, and they might be overconfident after beating the Steelers. Cleveland hasn’t had trouble playing well in Baltimore; it is very rare for a team to go either winless or undefeated.
On a less metaphysical level, the Ravens have a very slow secondary. Terrelle Pryor will be trying to have a big game on national TV to boost his free agency status. Corey Coleman will be playing his second game back; the weather won’t be too bad.
The Browns could outplay the Ravens, but lose thanks to their awful kicking teams. They could lose due to their awful offensive line getting Kessler killed. But I’ve got a feeling about this one, and I’m going to take a shot:
Browns 25, Ravens 20