4 reasons the Browns will defeat the Ravens in Week 4
The Cleveland Browns travel to Baltimore on Sunday to take on the Ravens in a divisional matchup that features two teams trending in opposite directions. Cleveland and second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield have not lived up to expectations thus far, while the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson has led the team to 115 points over the first three weeks.
Baltimore has a chance to take a commanding lead in the AFC North, while the Browns have the opportunity to claim a share of the division lead.
Here are four reasons why the underdogs will pull off the upset.
4. Ravens Defense is Not Elite
It’s a three-game sample size, and Baltimore has played both the second and 31st-ranked offenses, but their defense doesn’t appear to be as stout as it was in 2018. The Ravens are giving up 350.7 yards per game, 17th in the NFL. That’s skewed by the 503 they allowed to Kansas City, but they also gave up 349 to Arizona. The Browns aren’t the Chiefs, and they certainly haven’t performed up to their ability to this point, but Cleveland is talented enough to outscore anyone. Things haven’t clicked for the Browns yet, but if they do on Sunday, the Ravens will be in trouble.
Baltimore also ranks 16th in the league in sacks with seven. Cleveland’s offensive line is not elite, but it’s done a good enough job so far. Both the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams are better pass-rushing units, and now the Browns coaching staff has another week of film to review and figure out how to better protect their quarterback.
3. Browns Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Knows How to Gameplan
Cleveland ranks 10th in yards allowed, and 16th in points given up; that number includes the 43 points the Titans dropped in Week 1, six of which came on an interception return. The New York Jets were down to their third-string QB, but holding any team to just three points is impressive. And last week, against a Rams team with one of the best offenses in the NFL, the Browns gave up only 20 points and held Todd Gurley to just 43 yards rushing. This was without starting linebacker Christian Kirksey and the entire starting secondary.
The Browns defense is talented, but it’s also well-coached. Wilks pressured and confused Rams QB Jared Goff all night. Jackson presents a challenging assignment, but Cleveland has the talent to deal with him. Depending on the health of the secondary, the team may use a large number of defensive backs, just as the Los Angeles Chargers did in the playoffs last season. Rookie LB Mack Wilson will also be an essential chess piece for Wilks to move around.
2. Lamar Jackson is Still an Inconsistent Passer
The box score looks decent; 22/43 for 267 yards, but after two good performances throwing the football, Jackson was terrible against Kansas City. He didn’t end up throwing any interceptions, but multiple passes should have been picked. Jackson has no doubt improved as a passer since last season, but he still has a long way to go. He has yet to face a defense as good as Cleveland’s, so it will be interesting to see how he performs. The Browns will want to force Jackson to stay in the pocket and beat them with his arm.
1. Baker Mayfield is Due
The 2018 first overall pick had a fantastic rookie season in which he set the record for most passing touchdowns by a rookie despite playing just 14.5 games. Things have been different in 2019, as Mayfield hasn’t found his rhythm yet. He’s leaving the pocket too early, holding onto the ball for too long, and not seeing open receivers. But the flashes of elite accuracy are there, and Ravens fans are all too familiar with his ability to create something out of nothing in crunch time. This week, the criticism of Mayfield’s play is loud, and he hears it. He is motivated by criticism, and there’s no better time for him to prove the doubters wrong than this weekend.