Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
What: Browns (2-6) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5-2), 1 p.m., in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
TV: WOIO-TV 19 with Marv Albert and Rich Gannon.
The set-up: Despite losing nine in a row to their AFC North rivals, the Browns were a confident bunch all week, convinced they were ready to upset the division’s best team. The game could be a watershed for the Browns and Pat Shurmur.
Series history: Ravens lead, 20-7 and have won nine in a row.
Historical footnote: The key names in the last Browns win over the Ravens in Cleveland were Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, and Jamal Lewis. It was the fourth game of the 2007 season. The Browns took a 14-0 lead and never looked back, coasting to a 27-13 victory. In a classic exhibition of bend-but-not-break defense, the Browns allowed 418 offensive yards, but stopped the Ravens at the Browns’ 28-, 3-, 11- and 23-yard lines on successive possessions. It was particularly sweet to hear Ravens coach Brian Billick say afterward, “We just got our butts beat, plain and simple.” The win evened both teams’ records at 2-2. The Browns would also win in Baltimore and finish at 10-6. The Ravens would slump to 5-11 and fire Billick at the end of the season.
Ravens update: After losing by 30 points in their last game in Houston, coach John Harbaugh called this a “must-win” game for his team. Really? With a 5-2 record, good enough for first place in the AFC North? In truth, Harbaugh knows his team has to recover fast from season-ending injuries to LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb, plug leaks on the offensive and defensive lines, and fix an offense that has averaged only 15 points in three games on the road. This is the first of three road games over the next four weeks. Harbaugh’s defense has plummeted to unforeseen depths -- 30th against the run and 28th overall.
Browns update: A win would be their third in a row at home, last done in 2009. (The 2007 Browns won seven in a row at home.) They talked confidently all week. Joe Haden said the Ravens were “beatable.” Phil Taylor, who will be making his 2012 debut after pectoral muscle surgery in May, dismissed Ravens RB Ray Rice as “just a name.” Taylor’s return would help offset the expected loss of Ahtyba Rubin (calf). The Browns also activated tackle Ronnie Cameron from the practice squad and expected to have receiver Mohamed Massaquoi active for the first time in six games.
Injury report: Browns – CB Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and DE Brian Sanford (knee) are out; DT Ahtyba Rubin (calf) is doubtful; WR Josh Cooper (thigh) and LB D’Qwell Jackson (foot, toe, calf) are questionable. Ravens – DE Pernell McPhee (thigh) is out; DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder) and WR LaQuan Williams (ankle) are questionable.
Our take: For the first time in five years, the Browns seem poised to take a giant step. Beating the Ravens would mark the signature win of Shurmur’s tenure, throw their rival’s Super Bowl hopes for a loop and make for a very pleasant bye week.
Prediction: Browns, 23-20.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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