The 12-2 Ravens make the trip to Cleveland to face the 6-8 Browns.
The Browns won the matchup in Week 4, defeating the Ravens, 40-25. That loss marks the last one the Ravens have taken as they’ve won their last 10 games. In contrast, the Browns have struggled mightily over the last 10 games, winning only four of 10. During that game, the Browns were able to capitalize on strong performances from Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield as Mayfield went over 300 passing yards and Chubb cruised to 160 rushing yards, aided by an 88-yard touchdown run.
Baker Mayfield has struggled for much of the 2019 season. After an electric rookie season in which he set the record for most touchdown passes by a rookie, Mayfield has come back to Earth in 2019 as his numbers have dropped across the board … besides his interceptions, which have increased. Mayfield has thrown an interception in each of the last four games and has only escaped being intercepted thrice all season. Mayfield has as many passing touchdowns as interceptions, and his completion percentage had been below 60 percent before last week.
In contrast to Mayfield, Lamar Jackson has been simply phenomenal in 2019. The second-year star out of Louisville has 33 touchdown passes to lead the NFL including three separate games with five touchdowns. Jackson has seven total games with three or more touchdowns as a passer and has contributed seven rushing touchdowns, as well. Jackson is one of the best players in the NFL this season, and he is effective as both a passer and a runner.
Running the Ball:
Nick Chubb leads the NFL in rushing with over 1,400 yards. Chubb has seven games with at least 100 yards rushing, including a high watermark of 165 in the first matchup between the Ravens and the Browns. Chubb has also contributed eight rushing touchdowns, including three against the Ravens in Week 4. Chubb has been incredibly efficient on the ground, averaging more than five yards per carry. The Browns also have Kareem Hunt, who is used evenly as a rusher and as a pass-catcher. Hunt has been an effective weapon out of the backfield, and he has four different games with at least 40 receiving yards in only six appearances for the Browns. As a rusher, Hunt has been slightly less effective than he was in Kansas City, but he has scored a pair of touchdowns and is still averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
The Ravens have one of the most dominant rushing attacks in NFL history as they have the potential to break 3,000 rushing yards this week against the Browns. To get to 3,000 yards for the season, the Ravens need to hit 170 rushing yards, a number they have hit in 11 of 14 games. The Ravens have a three-headed monster of Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, and Gus Edwards. Jackson leads the team with 1,100 rushing yards while Mark Ingram has pitched in 963. Edwards has 500 extra yards, posting over five yards per carry. The Ravens blend both massive volume and incredible efficiency as Jackson, Ingram, and Edwards all average more than five yards per carry, including Jackson’s obscene 6.9 yards per carry.
The Browns have two of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. While Landry leads the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, Beckham is generally regarded as the better receiver and one of the best in the NFL today. Beckham has had a down season by his usual standards, but he will still likely hit 1,000 yards on the season. Landry has already hit the 1,000-yard plateau as he developed a solid rapport with Baker Mayfield in two seasons. Landry obliterated the Ravens in the first matchup, going for 167 yards on eight catches, a season-high.
The Ravens have two significant threats in terms of the passing game in the form of Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. Other players that contribute include Willie Snead, Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, and Mark Ingram. Andrews and Brown do most of the damage as Andrews leads the team in targets, receptions, and touchdowns and Brown finishes second in all four of those categories. Andrews should be fully healthy for Sunday’s game, so he should help Lamar Jackson out in the middle of the field. Brown was drafted as more of a deep threat, but he is shown flashes of being a possession-based receiver throughout the season. Brown has had four games with at least seven targets, numbers that resemble more of a possession receiver than a speedster.
In the Trenches:
Besides Joel Bitonio, one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, the Browns are a mess at offensive line. The offensive line rarely gives Baker Mayfield enough time to breathe, so Mayfield often has to scramble and run around in circles, an immediate win for the defense. The run-blocking of the offensive line has been good, and they’ve been able to open up holes for both Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb on the season. The defensive line, while good, suffers from the loss of Myles Garrett, who was suspended following the Browns’ win over Pittsburgh. Without Garrett, the Browns have been less dynamic on the defensive front, and they can struggle to get pressure on the quarterback at times.
Baltimore is one of the strongest offensive lines in football, bolstered by a pair of Pro Bowl selections and Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda. The Ravens are great in both pass protection and run blocking, and the offensive line is one of the main reasons why the Ravens have been arguably the best offense in football this season. On the defensive line, the Ravens have sufficient run stoppers in Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams. Williams was not available for the first matchup between the Ravens and the Browns, so his presence should help out against Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. In terms of pass-rushing, the Ravens have the services of Matt Judon, who has 8.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits.
The Browns have an average secondary this season. Despite receiving some hype coming into the season with the likes of Denzel Ward and highly drafted Greedy Williams, the Browns have had a battle with injuries throughout the season, and the defense has not played up to par.
In stark contrast, the secondary of the Ravens is the strongest unit on the roster. Reinforced by three Pro Bowl selections in Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Earl Thomas, the secondary has been sensational since Peters came over before Week 7.
I think the Browns will play up to their potential for one of the few times on the season, and I think they will keep a close against the Ravens. While I do not think they will be able to contain Lamar Jackson or the running game as a whole, I think the bruising nature of Nick Chubb will keep the game within reach for Cleveland going into the fourth quarter. The spread is a little high for my liking, so I will take the Browns and the points and expect the Ravens to win a close game.
Spread: Browns (+10)
Score: Ravens 31, Browns 24
Over/Under: Over 49.5