The last time the Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Ravens, the late Steve McNair was the quarterback for Baltimore, and Derek Anderson was at the helm for Cleveland. Romeo Crennel was the Browns head coach, and Brian Billick was the coach of the Ravens. That was 2007-when the Browns won both games against the Ravens and went on to finish the season 10-6. While the Browns have never beat Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh, I strongly believe that the eight game losing streak against their division foe will at last end on Sunday, and here’s why:
- The Owen Marecic experiment looks to have finally come to an end. The struggling fullback was a healthy scratch last week against San Diego, and tight end Alex Smith was plugged in to block instead. Not only was Smith successful in there, he brought an energy to the offense that has been missing since the days of Lawrence Vickers. I don’t know if you noticed, but he was all kinds of excited even when he wasn’t in the game- running onto the field and jumping around- and I loved it. Fortunately for Smith and the Browns, the Ravens defense has been plagued by injuries, which should make for another good game on the ground for Cleveland.
- Joe Flacco is not elite. Despite his proclamations, Flacco has a long way to go to join the ranks of Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. If you thought Brandon Weeden’s 5.1 quarterback rating in week one was bad, Mr. Flacco managed to rack up a .3 rating in Houston two weeks ago. With star corner Joe Haden back in the line-up this time around I like the Browns defense against the Ravens’ passing game.
- Trent Richardson is getting healthy. I’ll admit T-Rich proved me wrong last week when he amassed over 100 yards against the Chargers highly ranked run defense. With the 30th ranked run defense coming to town on Sunday and the Browns line playing well, Richardson must be licking his chops.
- Brandon Weeden is improving. Each week, I’ve watched from the Dawg Pound as the new hotel off in the distance is being erected, and I can’t help but think that the building of each floor is parallel with the growth of Weeden. While his numbers were nothing spectacular last week, Weeden effectively managed the game and had zero turnovers despite the inclement weather.
- The raw but talented receivers are starting to consistently make plays. Weeden’s collegiate teammate Josh Cooper has turned into a reliable first down go to guy, and former baseball catcher Josh Gordon has become a legitimate deep threat. Veteran receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who had excellent chemistry with Weeden early in the season, but who has again been hampered with injuries, may also make his return to the line-up, which gives the Browns yet another option at the improving wide receiver position.
- Big man Phil Taylor, who has missed the entire season thus far due to a pectoral injury, is hopefully making his 2012 season debut on Sunday. While Taylor will most likely see limited time if he does get to play, his large presence will make life that much more difficult for the talented Ray Rice.
This is a youthful roster that is hungry for success. So hungry in fact, that the team decided to attend practice on Monday instead of enjoying the day off they were awarded as a result of their win. I am confident that the Browns’ dedication will pay off this week and that their losing streak against Baltimore will be “nevermore.”