Ravens prepared for improved Browns team
Like the Ravens, the crystal ball should be well rested after the bye week, and it's ready for the unofficial second half of the season. Here's what it sees happening in Sunday's matchup between the Ravens and Browns:
1. The Ravens will not score on their opening possession.
Starting fast has been a major problem for the Ravens this season. In the past six games, they have been held scoreless in the first quarter four times and have scored on their opening possession once (a field goal at Miami).
2. The Ravens will not rush for 100 yards.
The Ravens hope that fresh off the bye week, Ray Rice will have a little more spring in his step. That would help, but now starting guard Kelechi Osemele is out with a back injury, and the Browns front seven is tough. The Ravens totaled 99 yards on 36 carries against Cleveland in Week 2, but the yards didn't come easily that day and they won't on Sunday, either.
3. Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown pass.
Smith's total of 629 receiving yards ranks 11th in the league, but he has just one touchdown. He will be a marked man from the minute he steps off the bus, but Flacco will find him. Last year at Cleveland, Smith caught a pass in the flat, deked inside and spun outside en route to a 19-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the Ravens' 25-15 win.
4. The Ravens will have a pass play of 30+ yards.
Smith has big-play potential on every play, but so do Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss and Marlon Brown. Veteran tight end Dallas Clark even has a catch-and-run of 45 yards. While the Browns are focusing on Smith, other receivers will have chances downfield.
5. Cleveland's tight ends will have more catches than Ravens tight ends.
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees this week called Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron one of the best tight ends in the league – if not the best. Cameron has 49 catches -- more than any other tight end and well more than Dallas Clark (23) and Ed Dickson (7) combined. Cameron had five catches against the Ravens in thge Week 2 matchup.
6. Elvis Dumervil will have more sacks than Paul Kruger.
The Browns have developed a formidable pass rush this season, with 26 sacks, third-highest total in the league. They recorded six against Kansas City last week. But former Raven Paul Kruger has yet to live up to the fat, $40 million contract Cleveland gave him, as he's recorded 2 1/2 sacks in the first eight games. Dumervil, in seven games, has 5 1/2 sacks.
7. Jason Campbell will be picked off.
In his first start for the Browns last week, Campbell threw two touchdowns and no interceptions against Kansas City, but can he do it again? The Ravens secondary has just two interceptions this season. They are overdue to make a play on a throw that Campbell will wish he had back.
8. Justin Tucker will not miss.
The Ravens reliable kicker has had his struggles against Cleveland. He missed a kick against Cleveland last year, and his only two misses this year came against Cleveland in Week 2. But since those misses, Tucker has made 13 straight, and that streak will continue.
9. The Ravens will win the turnover battle.
Both teams enter the game at minus-2 in turnover differential. The Ravens need a controlled, efficient, error-free effort from Joe Flacco, and an opportunistic defense will come up with a couple of big turnovers.
10. Ravens 17, Browns 16
If Charlie Batch can beat the Ravens in Baltimore, as he did last year with the Steelers, than Jason Campbell can beat them in Cleveland. But he won't. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have never lost coming off the bye week, and that streak will continue. It might not be pretty, but the rested Ravens do just enough to escape Cleveland with their 12th straight win over their AFC North rival.