By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens are about to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football. This is one of the biggest games of the season. It’s a chance to keep the Browns down and hold onto first place in the AFC North. The Ravens have to play the Browns again in Week 14 after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 13. The Browns get a bye in between their clashes with the Ravens. This one is big and it can’t be overstated.
Stars back, the quarterback protected:
The first thing you want to see for the Baltimore Ravens is the return of Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown. This isn’t a game that the Ravens can get by in without making big plays. The offense can’t leave the defense out to dry. The Browns may be as on and off as the Ravens, but when they’re on they can drop some points on the scoreboard.
The Ravens need more from their pass protection to be better. What was the problem two weeks in a row? Blitzes coming off the edge untouched and unnoticed. This is a game where the Ravens can’t leave Lamar Jackson out to dry, assuming he gets back into the action. This is where the return of Nick Boyle comes in. Protect the right tackle with extra help blocking. Put Boyle in there and have Pat Ricard at the ready.
Myles Garrett has 13 sacks to his name this year and has a case to be the Defensive Player of the Year. The Browns should absolutely send a defensive back after the Ravens’ quarterback in this game, it worked for two teams in a row. The offensive line is outmatched. What does this mean for Greg Roman?
It means it’s not okay to see a lot of looks out of an empty set, taxing your five-man protection. It means that he can’t call a ton of deep shots down the field that doesn’t include safety valves for Jackson underneath. The ball has to come out quick more often than not and that doesn’t mean 50 wide receiver screens.
Run the ball, have some fun with it:
The Ravens need to keep making progress with their run game. Let’s see Devonta Freeman keep picking up some momentum. Let’s see Latavius Murray running fearlessly up the gut as he did against Chicago. We need to see Jackson chip into the run game. The Ravens used to be promised 150 yards on the ground even on a bad day. You can run against this Browns defense. Let’s see the Ravens get back to overpowering their opponent.
This is a game where every bit of creativity from Roman will be appreciated. All season, the Ravens have been using Devin Duvernay in the run game. What if that jet sweep could be used to set up a fairly deadly play-fake? It feels like the Ravens have been setting it up all season and this could be a good game to have it pay off. The Ravens need to pull out all the stops. The last thing Ravens fans will accept is a lack of creativity and inspiration from their play-caller.
More than anything you just want to see the Ravens finish drives. Too often they are stopped to Justin Tucker field goals when the offense looks like it’s about to get going. The offense needs to hone into the moment with no little mistakes. Penalty-free football is next to impossible the way the game is called, but Baltimore can’t beat themselves with stupid things: False starts, delay of game penalties, illegal formations.
Jackson to Andrews:
Again, this article is written in the assumption that we’ll see the Ravens MVP candidate under center on Sunday evening. We have to see Lamar Jackson playing like Lamar Jackson wire to wire. He can’t be off or out of sync at the beginning of this game and look to turn on the jets as the game progresses. He needs to be the number eight that steps into his throws and fires strikes, not the one who misses low, or puts himself in a bad throw because he held the ball too long.
This is a Browns game so it’s all about Mark Andrews. Andrews has had some of his biggest games against the Browns. That needs to continue on Sunday evening. When Jackson is feeling it and the Browns don’t have a way to stop Andrews, good things happen for Baltimore.
This is going to be a battle. The offensive focus needs to be on three things. First, the play-calls must help the offensive line. Secondly, creativity must unlock some fun in the run game. Finally, the Ravens need Lamar Jackson back and ready to do some damage. Other than one bad day in 2019, Jackson has owned the Browns. He’s their biggest nightmare. He has to be extra scary to the Browns on this game in front of a national audience.