The graphic above shows the television distribution map for the Ravens at Browns game on Sunday. Besides seeming random, its also sparse, implying that cellar dwelling Browns hosting the division leading Ravens is somehow not a marquee matchup. Despite their previous decision to greenlight a series entitled “Matlock 2020“, it appears that the great minds that run CBS are onto something: Sunday’s game shouldn’t be an epic clash. The objective (model-based) team ranking systems around the Internet seem to agree.
As the standard deviation column shows the 5 different models are in concensus – the Ravens are one of the top teams in the league and the Browns are among the worst. That said, the Browns run a 4-3 defense which the Ravens offense has had extreme difficulty with and the game is being played away from M & T Stadium where the Ravens have also struggled. Gambling outlets view the Ravens as 3:1 favorite with a 75% chance of winning the game.
What to watch for during the game, after the jump:
- The Browns scored their first touchdown on their opening drive all season, last week against Cincinnati. The big plays on the drive were two completions to Jordan Norwood who badly beat corner on Nate Clements on both plays. The Ravens may want to pay special attention to Norwood on Sunday.
- In the games the Ravens are winning, the pass blocking has been significantly better than in losses. In Baltimore’s losses the offensive line, backs and tight ends are missing blocks at nearly 2.5 times the rate than they are in wins. This is one of the contributing factors to why Flacco’s quarterback rating is 86.2 in the games the Ravens win, but 61.1 in the games they’ve lost. Last week, Browns’ DT Ahtyba Rubin dominated the Bengals offensive line right up the middle causing QB Andy Dalton to frequently roll away from pressure. He should present a difficult test for the Baltimore pass-blockers on Sunday and could dictate Flacco’s performance.
- Similarly, the pressure the defensive front is applying to the opposing quarterbacks is dramatically different in wins than in losses. The Ravens are putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks three times more frequently in wins than in losses . The fact that pass blocking and defensive pressure both suffer against the same opponents would seem to make sense: the Ravens struggle against good opponents. The problem is the opponents the Ravens have lost to aren’t good. Even teams like Jacksonville that possess an elite defense have an awful offense that should enable Baltimore’s defense to get pressure but that simply didn’t happen when the two teams faced off. It will be interesting to see if this trend sticks around or fades into statistical noise as the sample size of games (hopefully not losses) increases.
- The Browns will be playing without two defensive starters (LB Scott Fujita and DE Emmanuel Stephens) and without long snapper Ryan Pontbriand who was waived. Fujita and Stephens have been placed on IR and will be replaced by competent replacements LB Kaluka Maiava and DE Jayme Mitchell. Pontbriand was waived due to poor performance this year including two bad snaps in the last three weeks. Long snappers are notoriously streaky so it will be interesting to see how his replacement Christian Yount fairs in Sunday’s game.