The Ravens know that any division game, especially against the Browns, always proves to be a tough match-up.
Fresh off their win against division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens face a short week in preparation for their next game. The Ravens host the struggling 0-9 Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. On paper this match-up may seem like a guaranteed win for the Ravens, but divisional games in the AFC North are far from a gimme.
The Browns sit a measly 0-9, but always play the Ravens tough. The last 13 games between these two teams have been decided by 10 points or less. If we know anything about the Ravens, it is that they love to play in close games. Their inability to put team’s away this season could prove to hurt them.
The Ravens narrowly escaped victory in their first match up against the Browns. After giving up 20 points in the first quarter, the defense was able to settle down and hold the Browns to five points throughout the remainder of the game. It took two Mike Wallace touchdowns and three Justin Tucker field goals to secure the win.
Key Match-up to watch: OLB Jamie Collins vs. OT Ronnie Stanley
Collins, newly acquired from the New England Patriots, is coming off of his first full week with the team. With two weeks of practice under his belt, the 2015 Pro Bowler is sure to give the Ravens offensive line and running game some trouble.
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Ravens rookie tackle Ronnie Stanley will most likely get his fair share of work against Collins on Thursday night. Stanley is coming into his second game off of a foot injury that and is looking to shake off rust. He struggled last Sunday, giving up two sacks along with four penalties. If the Ravens and Joe Flacco want to get the offense going, they will need solid protection from the offensive line.
Keys To Victory
A Strong Running Game
The run game was a non-factor against Steelers on Sunday. Terrance West only amassed 21 yards on 15 carries, which is unacceptable. The Ravens thrive on the ground and pound game. Going down early in the first quarter against the Browns forced the Ravens to abandon the running game. Establishing the running game against the Browns, will also set up for big plays in the passing game. Mike Wallace has established himself as the deep target this Joe Flacco has been missing since the dismissal of Torrey Smith.
Limit The Big Plays
In the first match-up against the Browns, the Ravens found themselves down 20-0 in the first quarter by giving up big plays in the running and passing game. Isiah Crowell ran for an 85 yard touchdown and Corey Coleman was able to catch a 31 yard touchdown pass. This caused Flacco to rush and force throws, which lead to the two interceptions that he threw.
The Ravens cornerbacks will have their hands full with the speedy Browns receivers. If they can limit the big plays and play stout run defense, this game can be put out of reach.
The Bengals and Steelers both head into difficult games this weekend, which gives the Ravens an opportunity to pull ahead in the division. With a Steelers loss and Ravens win, Baltimore can secure sole possession of the first place in the AFC North. A loss would be devastating and could put them in a tough spot going forward. The Ravens schedule is not favorable with upcoming games against Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh and two games against Cincinnati.