The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns meet for the final time this season on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium, hoping to snap losing streaks and make some kind of noise in the AFC North.
Before entering their bye week the 3-4 Ravens had lost two straight, and a victory would still keep them two games behind Cincinnati at second in the division. However history is on Baltimore and quarterback Joe Flacco’s side. Flacco’s gone 11-0 against the Browns, his best mark against any other team in the league. Baltimore took the season's first matchup 14-6 in Week Two.
That puts the Browns last victory over Baltimore back in 2007, when they swept the season series and barely missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record. Cleveland’s lost their last three games, but nearly toppled the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs 23-17 last week.
Jason Campbell made his first start of the season, and looked impressive with two touchdowns and 293 yards passing. The offensive line, headed up by Joe Thomas, also held the NFL’s best pass rushing team to one sack. Receiver Josh Gordon also hauled in his third 100-yard game, with five catches for 132 yards and a score.
However the offense stalled on its final five possessions of the game, and the Browns went 3-for-12 on third down. For the season Cleveland is 27th in the NFL converting 34.1 percent of third down attempts.
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Totaling 6.0 sacks against the Chiefs, Cleveland shot up to third in the NFL with 26.0 total sacks, and it’s sixth overall against the pass with 216.8 yards a game. Rookie Barkevious Mingo leads the team with 4.0 sacks, and fifth-year defensive tackle Desmond Bryant is second with 3.5.
Baltimore has gone 1-3 in its last four games, with each decided by three points or less. In Week Seven, Flacco hit tight end Dallas Clark for the Ravens only touchdown, and they managed a measly 82 total rushing yards in a 19-16 loss to Pittsburgh.
Running back Ray Rice is averaging 2.8 yards a carry, and his 45 yards against the Steelers was his second-highest total of the season. In Week Four against Miami Rice gained a season-high 74 yards.
Cleveland has had just as much trouble rushing the ball since trading Trent Richardson. Veteran Willis McGahee was signed shortly after, and his 2.9 yards per carry is by far the worst mark of his career.
The game will also feature two of the NFL’s top pass catchers. Baltimore’s Torrey Smith averages an NFL-best 20.3 yards per catch, and is first in the league with 14 plays of 20-plus yards. Browns tight end Jordan Cameron is fourth in receptions (49) and tied for ninth in touchdowns (9).
How Smith and Flacco parry Cleveland defensive backs Joe Haden and Buster Skrine could be the matchup of the game. Skrine is tied for the NFL lead with 13 passes defended, and Haden is tied for eighth with nine.
The Browns may be without linebacker Quentin Groves, who is listed as questionable and was limited in practice all week with an ankle injury.
Baltimore has already ruled starting weak-side linebacker Josh Bynes out for the second straight game, and Jameel McClain will start in his place, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Betting Odds: Baltimore is favored by 3 points
Over/Under: 41 points
Where To Watch Online: NFL Sunday Ticket
TV Channel: CBS
Time: 4:25 p.m. Eastern Time
Prediction: Cleveland 20, Baltimore 10