By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns have never liked each other. The Baltimore Ravens were birthed when the original Browns franchise moved to Baltimore. When Cleveland got a team back, they were put in the same division as Baltimore. This was always supposed to be a rivalry.
The Browns were bad for a long time though, and the Pittsburgh Steelers kind of became the main rival of the AFC North. The Ravens and the Steelers were always fighting for the divisional throne. The Bengals and the Steelers have some serious bad blood. The history of the Browns and the Steelers made Pittsburgh the main rivalry of the Browns, despite the Steelers straight up dominating the battles.
The Ravens have rolled through the Browns over the years:
Baltimore has beaten the Browns 33 times while the Browns have just 11 wins in the series. The Ravens only lost three games to the Browns during the Joe Flacco era. At one point the Ravens had beaten Cleveland 11 times in a row. Again, there was dislike, but a great rivalry hadn’t really formed.
Baltimore’s top rival was originally the Tennessee Titans and has become the Steelers. You could argue that the Titans have become the Ravens’ second biggest rivalry, though that flame could die down as the Ravens don’t play the Titans this season. When Baker Mayfield was taken as the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and Lamar Jackson was taken with the final pick of the first round, things were once again set in motion.
The Ravens swept the Browns in the 2020 season, though the second meeting may have been where the rivalry really got started. 47-42. The best drama that television has had for years. Lamar Jackson went to the locker room. Trace McSorley got hurt. Jackson came into the game and made magic happen. Be honest Ravens fans, how many times have you seen the replay of that game? Three for me.
New Browns, New Rivalry:
Now the Browns look like one of the best teams in football. In fact in the AFC, the four best teams are clearly the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens, and the Browns. This will be the first time in the history of Ravens vs. Browns where both teams will come into the season as Super Bowl contenders.
That 47-42 battle seemed like the first heavyweight fight between the teams. That was the Browns showcase game against the Ravens. The Ravens know that this is going to be the toughest opponent on their schedule for years to come. That’s a game-changer. That’s a rivalry.
Baltimore and Cleveland are perfect rivals too. It’s got many of the same Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh elements. It’s two physical football teams, and it’s starting to feel personal.
The Ravens and Browns have two of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, both have young franchise quarterbacks. John Harbaugh and Kevin Stefanski are both really strong personalities and that makes for a nice coaching rivalry. It just seems so perfect. The Browns and Ravens are getting on each other’s nerves. This is a feeling Ravens fans typically reserve for Pittsburgh alone.
Baker Mayfield is an almost cocky number one pick. In the same draft class where every team passed on Lamar Jackson at least once, Mayfield was chosen first. Mayfield gives the Browns more of a traditional quarterback. Jackson is the quarterback who is making history by being the best dual-threat quarterback. Mayfield and Jackson, both of whom you have to have a lot of respect for as leaders of their team, are the perfect foils for each other.
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Mayfield and Stefanski give the Browns legitimacy, and their stacked roster is finally starting to make some noise. Jackson has given the Ravens new life and Harbaugh is a very trusted head coach. Could this become the Ravens’ main rivalry? Could this rivalry tell a huge part of the story for the next five to ten years? It looks like the answer is starting to shape up as a YES.