After an offensive performance that left every Ravens fan needing to see quarterback Joe Flacco step up behind center, the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns for their home opener this Sunday. Flacco, coming off a career tying four interception performance, is looking to rebound against the AFC North cellar dweller and an opponent that the Ravens put 50 points on in two games last season.
The Browns enter M&T Bank Stadium after losses in Tampa Bay and at home against against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns kept both games within reach lossing by margins of two and three respectively against two of the NFL’s 2-0 teams.
This week, I expect the Ravens to put together a strong offensive performance and for Joe Flacco to lead the offense to a 20+ point victory over the Browns. Despite the Browns 8th ranked defense against the pass, Cleveland has yet to face three feature wide receivers like Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason.
So far this season the only target for Joe Flacco has reached the end zone with was Derrick Mason, who he threw a TD pass to early in the third quarter last week in Cincinnati. Boldin and Houshmandzadeh, both new comers to the Ravens offense, haven’t seen the end zone yet and Housh has just one reception from Flacco.
The Ravens have also failed to establish the run with Ray Rice in the back field. In week one the Jets defense shut down Rice, but in week two the Ravens continued with an arial assault despite Rice averaging 5.4 yards per carry on just sixteen attempts. Last year, both Willis McGahee and Ray Rice had success pounding the ball on the Browns defense. McGahee recorded two touchdowns, Rice had one. They combined for 115 yards.
Though the Ravens will definitely feel the need to prove Flacco has what it takes to lead this team in the air, the Ravens will likely have more success against the Browns on the ground. In two weeks, Cleveland’s defense ranks 25th in rushing defense. They have allowed 129.5 yards per game and an average of 3.8 yards per rush. I would like to see Rice have at least twice the number of rushes this week in the Ravens home opener.
As far as injuries go for the Ravens Derrick Mason and LeRon McClain sat out Wednesday’s practices, but returned on Thursday and are expected to play Sunday and the Ravens could see the return of tackle Jared Gaither who has “not been ruled out” by the team.
It should be an easy, lopsided victory that will have fans breathing easier after the offense’s slow start over the first two weeks. We’ll see how much the Ravens will be able to spread the ball around with so much to prove.