Welcome to Overreaction Of The Week, my over the top, uninhibited, Baltimore sports-fan takes on this week’s Baltimore sports activity.
We’ve gone quite a while without Ravens football, such is the folly of Thursday Night Football. Check out Episode 1 of Crab Takes and Football, for my co-host Andrew Holly’s scathing remarks on TNF. Also, Episode 2 has been released and our sound quality is vastly improved! The podcast is available for iPhone users.
The Ravens have had plenty of time to prepare for the Denver Broncos to come to town on Sunday, but so much has happened in between games. Let’s take a look around the AFC North and I’ll give you my game script and prediction for Week 3.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns, predictably, lost. It was in, predictably, agonizing fashion. They played down for down on the road against a Super Bowl contender in the New Orleans Saints. For a good portion of the afternoon, they were able to stymie an explosive offense to the tune of a 12-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Their Achilles heal, was their now former kicker, Zane Gonzalez. All in all, he cost the Browns 8 points and a win. He has since been let go by the Browns, who were a competent kicker away from their first win since 2016. On a related note, they signed a rookie who has never kicked in the NFL instead of signing a fairly known commodity like Cairo Santos or Blair Walsh. So, Browns gonna Brown. It also makes us Ravens fans so grateful for Justin Tucker. They also traded wide receiver Josh Gordon to the Patriots, because of course they did. I understand they did not want to deal with him any more, but they couldn’t have picked a worse place to send him. I wish him the best in his career going forward and think he can turn it around in New England, but this is bad news for the rest of the league.
This week, they’re the ones who have to play on Thursday Night, as they host the New York Jets. The Browns will don their brown Color Rush uniforms to take on a Jets team that was soundly defeated by the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. According to Browns fans, this is their Super Bowl. This is their best opportunity to get a win: at home, in primetime, and against a rookie quarterback. That rookie happens to be Sam Darnold, who the Browns passed on to take Baker Mayfield. Whether Mayfield has a better career than Darnold won’t be clear for a long time, but this decision will be squarely under the microscope on Thursday. I for one, think the Browns will pull out this victory and those beer coolers are going to cause a scene in downtown Cleveland.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are sitting pretty atop the division at 2-0. They too have a long time to prepare for their trip to the Carolina Panthers. They have a defense that should travel well, but need to make sure Joe Mixon is ready to go against the Carolina front to set the tone. He was a little banged up against the Ravens and did return to play well, it may just be something else to keep an eye on. For the first time ever, they seem to be the team with the least drama surrounding them. However, playing Cam Newton at home is never an easy task, he can get hit in the face and not miss a single down. I think Cam finds a way to win this one late, and the Bengals move to 2-1, still atop the AFC North.
Pittsburgh Steelers: What is happening in Pittsburgh? They seem to be falling apart right in front of our eyes. It seems they have found a way to alienate two of the most talented offensive players in the league. Le’Veon Bell isn’t going to play any time soon, the Steelers officially removed him from their roster on Wednesday. Antonio Brown was clearly upset with something on the sideline during their loss to the Chiefs, didn’t show up to work on Monday, but did come back on Wednesday. If he’s disgruntled too, the Steelers championship window may be closing faster than we all thought. That doesn’t even mention the defensive side of the ball, where there isn’t much going on. What I mean is, they’re not playing very much defense. They were gashed by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, and it has left them with a lot of questions to answer. They travel to see another red-hot passing offense, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers on Monday Night. With the way they’ve been playing, it is entirely possible that they fall to 0-2-1. However, I think the defense will figure it out and the Bucs will run out of FitzMagic just in time for Jameis Winston to come back and ruin their 2-1 start. Steelers win to tie the Browns again, at 1-1-1.
There is so much going on in the AFC North, that is was tough for me to not write an article like this. At this point, it seems like the Bengals and the Ravens are the two teams that can buckle down and play football. The Browns took a step in that direction by trading Gordon, but who knows what’s happening in Pittsburgh. The Ravens do have some injury concerns to key players like CJ Mosley and Ronnie Stanley, but that is what comes with the NFL season. Stanley’s health will be integral to giving Flacco time against Von Miller and the Broncos vaunted defense. With Maurice Canady heading to IR, Tavon Young will have an opportunity to redeem himself after a tough game on Thursday. I think he and the defense will bounce back and have a sound game against Case Keenum and company. The Ravens need to be very careful to not get caught looking ahead to the Steelers in Week 4.
Last week, the Broncos had a tough first half against the Oakland Raiders. Since they’re traveling to the East Coast in front of the fans at M&T Bank Stadium, I think that slow start might bite them again. In this case, the Ravens have to show some killer instinct on offense and give the defense a multiple score lead. I have a feeling the Ravens will be able to jump out to a 10-0 or 13-3 lead early on and will leave it up to the defense to hang on for dear life as we’ve become so accustomed to. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will have his first opportunity to call a close game with the lead, and it will be interesting to see how much he is willing to give up. He has been known to be aggressive, but with the pass rush struggles last week and many blown 4th quarter leads, I expect him to keep his foot on the gas to a certain extent. I think the Ravens will work to establish their run game to put the breaks on the Broncos’ pass rush and Alex Collins will have a decent day with 80+ yards and a touchdown. John Brown will show up again with a deep ball, and the score will be a little higher than first thought. I think the Ravens hang on in a tight one with the game on the line in the 4th quarter. Ravens 31, Broncos 27.