“Division games count twice, really because you get the win of course, but you also hold a tiebreaker. They are more important,” Kitchens said.
That quote tells you how important Sunday’s showdown in the Crescent City is for the Browns. At 1-2, it really is a must win. A victory puts the Browns in first place due to being 1-0 in the AFC North. If only a win in Baltimore is as easy as the previous sentence yours truly just wrote. Of course it won’t be.
The Browns are looking for their first win over the Ravens in Baltimore since 2015. Cleveland and Baltimore split the season series in 2018. Both teams won tight games on their home fields. The Browns loss in Baltimore to end the 2018 season sent the ravens to the AFC North title. A win on Sunday would be huge towards the Browns goal of winning the AFC North for the first time ever.
“It goes through Baltimore because they are the last division champions,” Kitchens said. “They have had a heck of year so far. They are playing very well on each side of the ball and on special teams. I do not know what there is not to like about Baltimore. They are tremendous in all areas.”
The game will comedown to the battle in the trenches. Both teams want to run the football. Cleveland and Baltimore each feature solid front sevens on defense.
The Browns have to be able to contain Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. While Jackson says he hates being referred to as a running quarterback, the ability to both run and throw the football makes him very dangerous on each and every snap.
“Pretty simple. Baby (former NFL QB Michael) Vick, but he is right-handed, Sheldon Richardson said. “He is quicker to get out the pocket than the next quarterback we have been facing or than (Titans QB Marcus) Mariota would. Somewhat similar gameplan. Other than that, we have to pop the top, close the top off with the speed receivers they have. Other than that, honestly, still have to get to him. Have to get him.”
“He is a quick, shifty athlete,” Joe Schobert said. “I think you have not seen somebody like this in the NFL since (former NFL QB) Michael Vick when he was younger. He gets out of a lot of tackles, he breaks a lot of tackles and he does not take very many big hits. I think this year he has been distributing the ball well so he is finding his game out.”
“To be honest, he is probably the closest thing that I have seen since (former NFL QB) Michael Vick. This guy is extremely dynamic,” defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said. “He can make plays when you do not think there is a play there to be made. He is just Houdini, I guess. Phenomenal not just with his legs but his ability to get the ball down the field, as well. One of the great things that he does when he gets outside of the pocket is he is not just looking to run. His eyes are still down the field. He is trying to push the ball down the field, and that is what they have been successful with lately.”
“You have to cage this guy and make sure he does not scramble up the middle – definitely not scrambling up the middle,” Myles Garrett said. “You have to try to get him running to his left, throw off balance and just try to keep him in the pocket if we can, but if we can’t, just funnel him to his weaker side throwing. Just make sure he is not as effective.”
The Browns defense also has to slow down running back Mark Ingram. The former New Orleans Saints back has solidified the running back position. Ingram scored three times in week three against the Kansas City Chiefs. A repeat performance can not happen Sunday.
“Toughness, the physicality, a downhill runner, which is just another element of Lamar being able to pull the ball so you get caught up really trying to play downhill. Then all of the sudden now you are soft on the perimeter,” Wilks said. There are different elements to what they do, and I thought he brought a lot to that offense, along with what Lamar was able to do already.”
“Mark in a downhill runner, great vision, runs really hard and just a really talented guy. I think he sets the tone between the tackles,” Harbaugh said. “You get outside, and he is catching passes, too, which he did not do as much in New Orleans. He is an all-around back. I think he is one of the best backs in the league.”
If the Browns can contain Ingram, backup running back Gus Edwards can also keep the Ravens ground game going. Both running backs have to held in check on Sunday.
Jackson has two favorite targets to throw the football to. Both tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise Brown caught passes from Baker Mayfield while in college at Oklahoma. The Browns secondary have to make sure they don’t do the same from Jackson.
“It is different looking over there and seeing a lot of the guys I played with,” Mayfield said. “It is fun to watch those guys, knowing how talented they are and exactly who they are. Obviously, Lamar is a football guy, as well. That is why they are having success.”
Injuries will be a concern again. Cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward are questionable and likely will miss their second consecutive games. Wide receiver Rashard Higgins is likely to miss his third straight game.
The Browns are a six and a half point underdog to the Ravens. If you are a betting person, you should consider taking the Browns and the points. The Ravens have not covered the spread in their last five division games as a favorite.
The game airs on CBS Sports. Greg Gumbel, Trent Green and Melanie Collins will call the game.
If you can’t catch the game on television, be sure to listen to the Browns radio network affiliate in your area. For SiriusXM subscribers, the Browns radio broadcast can be found on channel 384. The live stream on the internet is on channel 807.