Ravens at Browns, three key matchups to watch

Ravens at Browns, three key matchups to watch
November 2, 2013, 11:15 am
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Ravens prepared for improved Browns team

Three key matchups to watch in Ravens at Browns, Sunday at 4:25 p.m.

1. Browns RB Willis McGahee vs. Ravens run defense. McGahee is not the same back that played for the Ravens four years ago. This is a 32-year-old back who was taken plenty of pounding, and who was looking for a job not long ago. If the Ravens are serious about improving their run defense, they have to shutdown McGahee, who only had 28 yards against the Chiefs last week. If McGahee has a productive day against the Ravens, it would not bode well for their run defense moving forward.

2. Ravens pass rush vs. Browns quarterback Jason Campbell It’s not a given that the Ravens’ pass rush will get to Campbell. The Browns only gave up one sack against the Chiefs, who lead the NFL in sacks. The Ravens dumped Brandon Weeden five times in Week 2, but Campbell has far more game experience and gets rid of the ball more quickly. For the Ravens’ defense to be successful, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and company will have to put pressure on Campbell, particularly in crucial situations.

3. Ravens offensive line vs. Browns’ front seven Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a strong candidate to become a future NFL head coach, does a splendid job mixing coverage and blitzes. The Browns’ front seven is the strength of the team, featuring solid players like tackle Phil Taylor, ex-Raven linebacker Paul Kruger, and pass-rushing rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo. The Ravens will have a challenge opening holes for their backs and protecting Joe Flacco.

Baltimore’s much-maligned offensive line is going through another change this week. A. Q. Shipley will start at left guard in place of Kelechi Osemele, who may require season-ending back surgery. Will Shipley be an improvement over Osemele, who was clearly laboring all season? Or will the change send the offensive line through more growing pains?

“We’ll be in good shape,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “The offensive line is developing very well, and I’m excited to see how they play going forward. So, we’ll actually be better, I think, with a healthier player.”

That remains to be seen.