There are few motivations as powerful as a hunger for revenge. As the Ravens take the field this Sunday, it will have been 84 days since any team handed the Ravens a loss. Baltimore’s last loss came on September 29, at the hands of the visiting Cleveland Browns. The Browns marched into M&T Bank Stadium, convinced they were the better team. The Browns were hyped up by the media in the offseason, and most expected the team known as the factory of sadness to finally return to the playoffs. On that Sunday, nearly 84 days ago, it seemed that the Browns were the better team, destined to return to the playoffs. Since that day, however, the trajectories of the two teams involved could not be more different. The Browns plummetted to a 6-8 record, while the Ravens skyrocketed to a 12-2 record on a ten-game win streak.
Baltimore can enact revenge on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday, and clinch the first playoff seed in the American Football Conference with a win. Here’s how the Ravens can prevent a major upset, and secure the easy win against a floundering opponent.
Freddie Kitchens vs Don “Wink” Martindale
Cleveland’s offense has been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. The paper champions are stacked with a supposedly great second-year quarterback in Baker Mayfield, a young bulldozer of a running back in Nick Chubb, two veteran wide receivers at the top of their game in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr, and a young and emerging tight end in David Njoku. There is simply no excuse for the offensive ineptitude the Browns demonstrate with this firepower at the team’s disposal. The root cause of this failure rests with Browns’ head coach, Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens ascended to the rank of head coach after the 2018 season. He served as Cleveland’s running backs coach until he was promoted to offensive coordinator by interim head coach Gregg Williams. To be clear, Kitchens had never called a play at the NFL level before this and was only hired as head coach because he would presumably work well with Baker Mayfield. This stupid idea, to promote a coach with very little experience running a team, let alone an offense, to head coach, backfired. Kitchen’s offense has done nothing all year, and if the Browns want to upset the Ravens, he will need to outcoach Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, Don “Wink” Martindale. It is very unlikely that Mr. Kitchens will be able to do that, especially with Baltimore’s revamped defense.
Nick Chubb vs Ravens Front Seven
If there is any bright spot in the Browns offense, it’s Nick Chubb. Chubb averages 5.2 yards per rush attempt and totals 1,408 rushing yards this season. He is, in essence, the lifeblood of a struggling offense. Any attempt to topple the division’s king Ravens must be established on the ground. Chubb dominated the Ravens when his Browns defeated the Ravens earlier in the year. Chubb rushed 20 times for 165 yards in that game, but that was before Baltimore revamped the entire defense. Since that game, the Ravens added new starters like inside linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, and other defenders on the front lines like Jihad Ward and Domata Peko. Chubb is set to face a completely different, and much tougher defense than he did in the fourth week of play. Chubb will need to overcome this new challenge to bring his team within striking distance of the Ravens.
Ravens vs Trap Game
The Baltimore Ravens are a better team than the Cleveland Browns. No one refutes it. Baltimore has the league’s best, most dynamic offense, and boasts an elite defense to go along with it. The Browns have neither a great offense or an elite defense. The only way for the Browns to beat the Ravens is if Baltimore takes their foot off the gas, anticipating an easy route of the Browns. No matter how bad the Cleveland Browns are, the Ravens cannot underestimate them. If the Ravens fall into the trap game unsuspecting of a fight, there is a real chance they can lose. This is super-unlikely though, as head coach John Harbaugh always has the Ravens prepared for the easy and difficult games alike.
Another week, another game where Lamar Jackson will be the key player. He runs the Ravens offense, which just so happens to be the best in the league because of him. He is Baltimore’s best and most important player week in and week out.
Josh Bynes will be tasked with tracking down and stopping Nick Chubb. It’s crucial that the Ravens do not let the Browns establish a dominant run game, or else things could be closer than anticipated.
Brown has been good for the Ravens this year, but not dominant. Baltimore would like to see Marquise “Hollywood” Brown expand his role as the Ravens march towards the playoffs. He can do that in this game.
This is not the same matchup that the Ravens and Browns had earlier this season. The Ravens should handle the Browns, but a desperate team like Cleveland is always the most dangerous. For that reason, it will be closer than some expect.