The Ravens (7-2) will face the Cleveland Browns (5-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Baltimore. Here are predictions from The Baltimore Banner’s sports staff.
Kyle Goon, columnist
The last meeting was undoubtedly lopsided because a rookie was playing quarterback in Cleveland, but it seemed odd at the time that few were giving the Ravens credit for running roughshod over an elite defense. The Browns are looking slightly more competent with Deshaun Watson at quarterback, but are they good enough to go toe to toe with a defense like the Ravens’, especially without much of a running game? Meanwhile, the Ravens’ offense has only gained rhythm since Week 4, and with the versatility of an unleashed Lamar Jackson and the NFL’s best running attack, it’s hard to imagine all that much has changed. It may not be as lopsided, but it’s not really neck and neck, either.
Ravens 27, Browns 13
Jonas Shaffer, reporter
The Browns couldn’t run on the Ravens in Week 4. They couldn’t protect their pocket. They couldn’t get the ball to their best receiver. Every first down felt like a minor miracle. Deshaun Watson is capable of leading Cleveland on touchdown drives, but how many are realistic? The Browns won’t have their top two offensive tackles — or maybe even their top three — and wide receiver Amari Cooper and tight end David Njoku have been limited in practice. The Ravens’ defense is healthier and fiercer up front than it was in early October, too.
If Lamar Jackson and this Ravens offense score another four touchdowns against Cleveland’s defense, the NFL might as well hand him its Most Valuable Player trophy. Not that the Ravens need a starring performance from their quarterback. As long as they avoid untimely turnovers, they should be in good shape.
Ravens 20, Browns 10
Giana Han, reporter
A banged-up Browns team against a healthy Ravens squad that’s hitting its stride? I’m taking a weapon-filled Ravens offense over Cleveland’s league-best defense. I think it will be a brutal battle, but the Ravens have risen to the occasion against their best opponents and I don’t see why that would change. On top of that, Browns cornerback Greg Newsome has been limited in practice. If everything’s clicking, I think the Ravens have what it takes to come out on top, especially because the game won’t just be decided by the Ravens’ offense versus the Browns’ defense.
The Ravens’ defense dominated the Browns last time. I don’t expect the same results, because those came against unpredictable rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. But Deshaun Watson is not playing his best and isn’t completely healthy. They recently lost to the Seahawks, whom the Ravens dominated, and they scored only 27 against a terrible Cardinals defense that a messy Ravens offense scored 31 against.
Ravens 21, Browns 17
Chris Korman, editor
The Browns don’t win much in Baltimore — just five times since they reappeared in 1999 — and, though the return of Deshaun Watson has Cleveland fans excited, I doubt that’s enough. This has the chance to be a volatile game; both teams create pressure and have active secondaries. It should at least be more exciting, but then again, anything would be compared to the last time they played, when Baltimore realized Cleveland had no QB and simply idled to an easy win. It feels highly unlikely that Watson returns to anything near his peak form — may that never happen, creep — anytime soon, and the Ravens should again have a plan to deal with Myles Garrett.
Ravens 31, Browns 19
Brandon Weigel, editor
When we first talked Ravens-Browns in Week 4, the Cleveland defense was the toast of the NFL for its historic start to the season. The unit just pitched a shutout against the Clayton Tune-led Arizona Cardinals while allowing only 58 net yards.
There have been some dents in the armor, though. The Indianapolis Colts and Minshew Mania dropped 38 on them in Week 7 and somehow still managed to lose. The next game, Seattle — the same team the Ravens dominated last Sunday — scored 24 in a win and might have had more if not for a Geno Smith interception in Cleveland territory as the first half ended. The Browns’ defense still leads the NFL in yards per game allowed (234.8), but the Ravens are second. Crucially, the Ravens are doing a better job keeping teams off the scoreboard: 13.8 points per game allowed compared to Cleveland’s 17.4.
Deshaun Watson is back after missing Round 1 with the Ravens, but it’s looking like he’ll be playing behind a depleted offensive line. Expect a certain group of a-holes to lead the way to a season sweep.
Ravens 27, Browns 17