5 Key Matchups in Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns Week 8 Clash
5 Key Matchups for Baltimore Ravens to Defeat Cleveland Browns
The Baltimore Ravens face their first divisional rematch of the season, as they travel up north to take on the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens pulled out a home victory in the team's first meeting, 14-6, though the Browns have been through a myriad of changes since then.
In the six weeks since their first game, Cleveland has been through two quarterbacks, a three-game winning streak, and are now mired in a three-game losing streak. Deep threat Josh Gordon has returned from his two-game suspension in style, and Jordan Cameron is well-established as one of the top tight ends in the NFL.
The Ravens, too, are in the midst of their own losing streak and hope to rekindle their season after some bye week adjustments. The hope is that the time off has allowed Ray Rice's hip flexor to heal properly and that their underperforming offensive line can begin to protect Joe Flacco.
The Browns' defense, always stout, has been better than ever this season, as Barkevious Mingo, Joe Haden and D'Qwell Jackson have been accomplished playmakers. Their offense caught up for a three-game stretch with Brian Hoyer at the helm then took a step backward when they had to return to the substandard play of Brandon Weeden. Now with Jason Campbell, who just carved up the league's best defense for 293 yards and two touchdowns, the team has a chance to return to some competence offensively.
As these division foes try to get their seasons back on track, these five match-ups will determine the winner on Sunday.
5. OLB Paul Kruger vs. RT Michael Oher
Paul Kruger has embraced a different role with the Browns than he had during his career with the Ravens. In Baltimore, he was a complementary pass rush specialist (nine sacks last year), while in Cleveland he has been a well-rounded playmaker.
Kruger has been strong in both pass coverage and pass defense. Against his old teammates and with no red jersey to protect Joe Flacco, don't be surprised if he lobbies his coaches to turn him loose around the edge more often on Sunday.
4. Ravens LBs and Safeties vs. TE Jordan Cameron
A combination of safeties, linebackers and maybe even a cornerback or two will take turns trying to cover one of the NFL's true breakout stars. Jordan Cameron's scorching-hot start to the season has been slowed, but his 596 receiving yards are still good for second amongst all tight ends.
Cameron has been a reliable target no matter who has been playing quarterback for the Browns, and his rapport with Jason Campbell should only improve as Campbell establishes himself as the starter. So far, Cameron has proved to be too quick for linebackers and too big for safeties The Ravens will try to deploy a number of defenders in order to stop the big tight end.
3. WR Josh Gordon vs. CB Lardarius Webb
Gordon's return from suspension has added a much-needed element to the Cleveland offense. Gordon has gone off for over 100 yards in three of his six games and in spite of the fact that he missed the first two weeks of the season still ranks as the NFL's 15th-leading receiver.
Though inconsistencies have yanked him in and out of starting lineups for his entire career, Campbell still has a big-time arm and will look to fling the ball deep the 6-foot-3 speedster. Gordon was absent for the first game against the Ravens, so his presence could prove to be trouble for Lardarius Webb as the Browns' top wideout just went off for 132 yards against arguably the league's best defense.
2. DT Phil Taylor vs. C Gino Gradkowski
The Ravens have yet to establish a consistent ground game this season, and the going will not get any easier against the Browns' 330-pound former first-round pick. Even if Ray Rice looks better after the bye, he will have a tough time breaking out of his season-long slump if Gradkowski and the guards can't generate some push against the big nose tackle.
1. WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Joe Haden
As Joe Flacco's only big-time option, it is no surprise that in the Ravens' two-game losing streak Smith has accounted for only four catches and 73 yards combined. For Baltimore to loosen up Cleveland's tight defensive pressure, the Ravens need Smith to make some big plays early.
He will be opposed by one of the league's best in Haden who, despite his reputation as a blanket corner, is still in search of his first Pro Bowl appearance.