With week four set to kick off in the NFL Thursday Night it’s time to try to set aside all of the madness from week three and focus on the fresh slate of upcoming games. The first game of the week will feature two AFC North division rivals, as the Cleveland Browns (0-3) head to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the Baltimore Ravens (2-1). Even though these teams are rivals, there hasn’t been much of a rivalry as of late, because Baltimore has dominated many of the meetings between the two squads; which is ironic because they both use to be the same team.
The Ravens will look to impose their will on both sides of the ball, as they have a far superior offense and surprisingly just a slightly better defense. The Ravens are towards the top of the NFL in several categories; including total yards per game 419.3 (4th), passing yards per game 301.3 (3rd) rushing yards per game 118 (11th) and points per game 32.7 (2nd) while the Browns are near the bottom of the league in those same categories 296.3 total yards per game (26th), 209 passing yards per game (23rd), 87.3 rushing yards per game (26th) and 19 points per game (tied for 26th).
The Ravens will use a heavy dose of Joe Flacco (71-110, 913 passing yards, 6 TD, 2 INT and 64.5 completion percentage on the season) throwing the ball down field to Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin. It has worked so far, so it is hard to imagine Baltimore stopping now.
Ray Rice (46 carries for 268 yards and 3 TD plus 14 receptions for 127 yards this year) will also be a huge part of the Ravens offensive game plan both controlling the tempo through the running attack and catch balls out of the backfield.
The Browns will have a tough task attempting to get their offense rolling this week, but will need 28-year old rookie signal caller Brandon Weeden (65-115, 677 passing yards, 3 TD, 6 INT and 56.5 completion percentage this year) to begin to play like a quarterback his age instead of one with limited NFL experience. In order for Weeden to so he must stretch the field with the likes of Mohamed Massaquoi and the invisible Josh Cribbs. Cleveland will also need a big game out of their rookie running back, Trent Richardson, (50 carries for 175 yards and TD along with 11 receptions for 65 yards and a TD), if they want to keep pace with Baltimore in this one.
The defensive units are pretty close with the Ravens D not playing as well as they should be so far this year. Currently the Baltimore defense is allowing 401.3 total yards per game (27th), 289.7 passing yards per game (28th), 111.7 rushing yards per game (18th) and 22.3 points per game (tied for 15th) which is not usually what they are known for. The Browns defensive unit is currently giving up 391.7 total yards per game (25th), 269 passing yards per game (27th), 122.7 rushing yards per game (tied for 22nd) and 25 points per game (tied for 18th).
In the end I believe the Ravens will get the upper hand in this contest because they have just too much fire power on the offensive side of the ball. I like the Ravens 31-Browns 17.