Which top defense will get the best of its opponent in Cleveland on Sunday? This fierce matchup between the Ravens and Browns will show which one has the advantage.

The Ravens (2-1) visit the Browns (2-1) for what many are expecting to be a defensive showdown between bitter AFC North rivals.

Despite a plethora of injuries to start the season, the Ravens’ defense is 10th in yards allowed per game (292.3), 11th against the pass (200.0) and eighth against the run (92.3). Those numbers could improve after this week with Marcus Williams (pectoral) returning to practice and having a shot to play Sunday.

But all eyes are on Cleveland, which sits atop practically every statistical category on defense, led by pass rusher Myles Garrett. Following a 27-3 win against the Tennessee Titans last week, the Browns lead the NFL in scoring defense (10.7 points per game), yards allowed per game (163.7), passing yards allowed ( 111.7), points (32) and yards allowed per play (3.2). The Browns are also the top-ranked defense in DVOA at -48.2%.

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“That’s about as good as you can get,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s something that we have to take into account. We’ve studied them. We know the players. We understand the scheme as best we can from being outside as an opponent. We’re just going to have to go out there and play our best football and move the ball, score points and try to win the game.”

It’s already a tall task for quarterback Lamar Jackson as he’s still adapting to new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system, and he’ll have more challenges on Sunday. Jackson will likely be without his top wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Rashod Bateman (hamstring). On the flip side, there’s a chance he’ll be better protected against Garrett and the Browns’ defense, with left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle) returning to practice this week.

Here’s our full preview of Sunday’s matchup.

Players to know

Kyle Hamilton is coming off a three-sack game against the Colts. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Myles Garrett

The unquestioned leader of the Browns’ defense, Garrett is one of the league’s best off the edge and presents the Ravens’ offensive line with its toughest challenge of the young season. Garrett is coming off a 3.5-sack performance against the Titans in Week 3. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded and most dominant defensive player.

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Jadeveon Clowney

It’s Clowney’s first game against his former team, and the Ravens will rely heavily on their star outside linebacker. They will probably be without outside linebackers David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh, leaving Clowney as the only proven pass rush threat. He’s been productive through the first three games, logging 1.5 sacks and five quarterback pressures.

Kyle Hamilton

Can Hamilton build on his career day against the Colts? The second-year safety was brilliant for the Ravens as a defensive back and nickel blitzing off the edge, recording three sacks and nine tackles in 84 defensive snaps. Without Ojabo and Oweh, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald may use Hamilton once again to create pressure on Deshaun Watson.

What’s at stake

For the Browns: Every divisional game has high stakes, and this one is no different. The Browns are tied with the Ravens atop the AFC North.

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For the Ravens: If Baltimore wants to show that last week’s flop against the Colts was just a one-off, a dominant rebounding performance on the road is a good way to do that.

What people are saying

“You go in there as the enemy to go take over, and that’s our plan to actually go take over. I think they call it the Dawg Pound. I consider myself a dog, so I’m right at home in that place. So I’m excited to get back in there. I know they’re a physical football team, but so are we. At the end of the day, it’s going to be the most physical football team that comes out of there, and whoever is the most physical football team in that game, that’s who is going to come out victorious.” — Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith

“Not from me, I don’t think so. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of respect for them. If I had any bad blood, I don’t think I would have signed to go back there for two years in a row. For everybody that thinks there was some bad blood, I would never sign and go back.” — Clowney, on his relationship with his former team

“I’m not [an offensive] lineman, so I don’t really think it will be difficult for me. I’m not the one blocking him. I’m going to have to just read the defense and dish the ball out.” — Jackson, when asked how difficult it is to move around with Garrett rushing from the outside

By the numbers

Browns

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Offensive DVOA: -5.6% (18th)

Defensive DVOA: -48.2% (1st)

Special teams DVOA: -0.3% (20th)

Ravens

Offensive DVOA: 12.9% (11th)

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Defensive DVOA: -16.5% (5th)

Special teams DVOA: -6.5% (29th)

On the air

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday

TV: CBS, Paramount+

Radio: 98 ROCK, WBAL 1090 AM

aron.yohannes@thebaltimorebanner.com

Aron Yohannes joined The Baltimore Banner in June 2023 as a reporter. He previously reported on trending topics in sports for The Oregonian. He began his career covering the Milwaukee Bucks from 2012-2016 for SB Nation before working for the Seattle Seahawks from 2016-2018. Aron is Eritrean and a native of the north side of Milwaukee.

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