Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NFL WEEK 4 – THURSDAY NIGHT MATCHUP & BREAKDOWN

CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE

The Ravens and Browns get the benefit of three whole days rest (he wrote with sarcasm) before clashing in a key early AFC North matchup. For the 0-3 Browns, this is their second division foe in three weeks, and Pat Shurmur knows that if the Browns are even dreaming of a Wild Card spot, things have to change now. The Ravens survived a physical test at home, and it's still questionable whether the field goal as time ran out was indeed good. However, in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era, the Ravens are 8-0 against the Browns. On a regular Sunday game, that record would like go to 9-0. However, the short week, the added travel, a division matchup and Joe Flacco's history against




Ray Rice has been the Browns nemesis
Cleveland from a year ago make this one a lot closer than some might think. While the Ravens defeated Cleveland in both games last year by a combined 44-24, the Ravens passing game managed just 158 yards at Cleveland Browns stadium and zero touchdowns.  In Baltimore it wasn't much better, 11-of-24 132 2/1.  The loss of CB Joe Haden will hurt Cleveland here, and his fill-in, Dimitri Patterson, will have to do better, because the way to the end zone against the Browns has been through the air. The Browns have yet to give up a rushing touchdown in 2012. The Browns will attempt to keep it that way, as Ray Rice is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has three rushing touchdowns. He has eaten Cleveland and last year tallied 291 rushing yards, 58 more receiving yards and a rushing and receiving touchdown in 2011. Cleveland's front seven led by tackling machine D'Qwell Jackson and rookie Craig Robertson will be tasked with making sure Rice doesn't beat them. With this young defense giving up 122 yards on the ground, they'll hope Rice is tired. I expect Rice to deliver another solid performance. On the flip side, Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden will have to limit mistakes and feed Trent Richardson the ball to keep Baltimore's pass rush at bay. Richardson's still recovering from his knee surgery, which has shown in his somewhat uneven play. He's averaging 3.5 yards per carry, and with Baltimore yielding 111 yards per game, he seems like a solid play. However, the play is high risk, as three days of rest (if that) could make his balky knee slow him down. I'm taking that gamble on opportunity alone that I believe will result in a touchdown plunge. Mohamed Massaquoi has been ruled out for this game, making Weeden's job that much harder. Greg Little will get a load of opportunities to make his presence known on national television, and he'll do so against Baltimore's 28th ranked pass defense. Baltimore CB Lardarius Webb is fighting through a knee issue, and was picked apart by the New England receivers. Look for more work for rookies Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon on short routes to try to take advantage. Unfortunately for Cleveland, their offense is reliant on the rookies, and with a wily veteran like safety Ed Reed trolling the middle of the field, Weeden will find himself overmatched. However, on a short week, I'm taking Cleveland and the 12 points.

RAVENS 23, BROWNS 16