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Week 9: Baltimore @ Cleveland

During the first meeting between these two teams, it featured a battering Baltimore running game and the opportunistic defense taking advantage of Derek Anderson’s miscues to a 28-10 victory for the Ravens.

Both teams realize that things can change in six weeks. Cleveland is playing much better football having won three of their last four, including wins over the Giants and Jaguars. Derek Anderson hasn’t thrown a pick since then and seems to have the passing game in better condition with Donte Stallworth healthy and Braylon Edwards playing more focused. The Kellen Winslow situation doesn’t seem to have affected team performance much and he should be returning for this game and can be another formidable weapon.

Baltimore has looked strong, particularly in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They have used that advantage to power their way to wins over Miami and Oakland and push their record to 4-3. This puts them with only two other AFC teams, aside from division leaders, who are over the .500 mark. The defense has been extra stout against the run and has slowly improved it’s pass defense to climb to second overall in ranked defenses.

The keys for this Sunday’s game fall into three areas: Quarterback play, Turnovers, and Defense.

Derek Anderson must not turn the ball over if Cleveland is to have a chance in this one. He needs to hit quickly underneath and set up long passes. Chris McAlister who may end up on Injured reserve is still out but Samari Rolle could return to join Fabian Washington and Frank Walker on the corners. Anderson must also be wary of Ed Reed. He has seven interceptions in 11 career meetings with the Browns. That’s the most interceptions he’s made against any team. His touchdown return in Week three sealed the victory for Baltimore. He’s shown improvement but still has a paltry quarterback rating of 67.1.

Joe Flacco must stay poised in a hostile environment and not allow early miscues to snowball like in Indianapolis. Instead, he needs to show the management skills he exhibited on Monday Night Football against Pittsburgh and have his running game take any undue pressure off of him. He will need the receiving corps to give him some help. If not for some offensive penalties and numerous drops last week, Flacco’s numbers would have looked even better. With lone deep threat Demetrius Williams being placed on injured reserve, the team is trying to find a number three receiver. Marcus Smith, Yamon Figurs or newly signed Terrence Copper could get the job. I think they should instead sign a true blocking tight end and greater utilize Todd Heap as a receiver, which is what he does best.

Turnovers as Pat Summerall used to say, “will always do you in.” The Ravens have done a better job in taking care of the ball but it could be a weakness as they are -4 in turnover margin. They need to show special care and not put it on the turf and allow momentum to fuel the opposition. The Browns have done an excellent holding onto the football. Anderson is the only player who has fumbled (7 times) but none of them were lost.

The defense is the final key for both teams. Cleveland MUST stop the run or they will be pounded. Even in a close loss to Washington they yielded 193 yards on the ground at 5.4 yards per clip. They also have to get to Flacco and force him to make plays downfield. The Ravens will also need to plug the run and keep Jamal Lewis out of the game and that means get a lead. Lewis is still a dangerous threat and I’d think they would want to involve him more in this game. Baltimore has to pressure Anderson early and often and get him out of his comfort zone quickly.

This is a much tougher game than six weeks ago. Cleveland is playing better and at home. But, I still see the Cleveland defense as suspect. Their offense has gotten better and last week’s win against Jacksonville was a good one for them but injuries have hurt that team immensely. Baltimore needs to show it can win close games and see it that way this week.

Baltimore 23 Cleveland 20

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One Response to “Week 9: Baltimore @ Cleveland”

  1. Brown man says:

    im going 20-13 Ravens

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