CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-3)
at BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1)
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:35 p.m. EDT
Line: Baltimore -13, Total: 43˝
Baltimore looks for a ninth straight series victory over Cleveland when the AFC North foes clash on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
QB Brandon Weeden and the Browns’ struggling offense could be in for a long night in this matchup. The rookie has been quite shaky through his first three NFL games, and a road start in Baltimore is an incredibly tough environment. The Ravens figure to utilize their up-tempo, no-huddle offense even more in this one in order to maximize possessions and keep Cleveland from shortening the game. Baltimore is coming off an emotional win over New England, with WR Torrey Smith having a career night (127 yards, 2 TD) less than 24 hours after losing his brother in a motorcycle accident.
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Weeden actually had his best game of the young season on the road, when he threw for 322 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT at Cincinnati in Week 2. But he regressed last week at home in a 24-14 loss to Buffalo, throwing for just 5.5 yards per attempt with 1 TD and 2 INT. Same goes for RB Trent Richardson who rushed for 109 yards (5.7 YPC) against the Bengals, but just 27 yards (2.3 YPC) against the Bills. Richardson will have to be much better as the clear focal point of this Browns offense, likely handling the football 20+ times per game. Many of these touches could be in the passing game, where Baltimore surrenders 290 passing YPG (fifth-most in NFL). Cleveland could be without top receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who is questionable with a hamstring injury. WR/KR Josh Cribbs (knee) and TE Alex Smith (concussion) are also questionable for Thursday. Defensively, the Browns have done some good things, like forcing seven turnovers (five versus Philadelphia) and holding the past two opponents to a combined 218 yards on 49 carries (4.4 YPC). However, Cleveland clearly misses suspended CB Joe Haden, as the team has surrendered 269 passing YPG (sixth-most in NFL).
The Ravens figure to use a steady diet of Ray Rice on Thursday night, especially considering he piled up 349 total yards in the two meetings with the Browns last year. Rice is also coming off 150 total yards against New England and has averaged 5.8 yards per carry this season. He also has 11 catches in the past two weeks, helping QB Joe Flacco compile 913 passing yards (2nd in NFL). Flacco has thrown 6 TD and just 2 INT this season, and is coming off a huge 382-yard, 3-TD outburst against the Patriots. Although he is 8-0 all-time versus Cleveland, his numbers in this series are pretty ordinary: 1,528 passing yards (191 YPG), 10 TD, 4 INT. There was nothing ordinary about Torrey Smith’s performance just hours after his 19-year-old brother died in a motorcycle accident. Smith caught six passes for 127 yards and 2 TD against New England. The Ravens defense has struggled without reigning Defensive Player of the Year OLB Terrell Suggs, allowing 401 total YPG (27th in NFL). However, Baltimore has held Cleveland to a mere 11.3 PPG and 256 total YPG in the past three meetings.