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What to watch for: Ravens vs. Browns

By: Bobby Lubaszewski

Will Paul Kruger and Pernall McPhee be able to get a pass rush on Brandon Weeden when they go up against one of the best pass blockers in the game, Joe Thomas?

Is 2012 the year that the Baltimore Ravens offense surpasses the defense? So far, three weeks into the season, all signs point to yes. The Ravens are second in the NFL in points scored per game (32.7) and fourth in average yards per game (419.3), while quarterback Joe Flacco is second in the NFL in passing yards with 913 yards, behind only Eli Manning. And after Sunday night’s 31-30 come-from-behind, statement win against the New England Patriots, the rest of the league is starting to take notice.

Meanwhile, the Ravens defense, a defense that had been the face of the franchise for more than a decade, is struggling. Ray Lewis and company are 27th in the NFL in yards allowed per game, 28th in passing yards allowed per game (289.7), and 17th in points allowed per game (22.3).

Luckily, the Ravens are still amongst the league leaders in the only stat that matters, wins. The team is 2-1 and improving every week, something they will look to prove to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.

Matchups to Watch


Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw vs. Cleveland’s Offensive Line

The two linebackers expected to fill in for All Pro pass rusher Terrell Suggs have combined for just 19 tackles and one sack through three games. If the Ravens defense has any hopes of returning to form, it starts with these two. And if Kruger and Upshaw can’t get after the quarterback, head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to find a few linebackers that can. Perhaps a primetime game against one of the league’s worst teams will do the trick.

Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe vs. Trent Richsardson

The key to stopping rookie running back Trent Richardson begins and ends with Baltimore’s two middle linebackers. Ray Lewis may be a year older, but the future Hall of Famer still knows how to handle running backs, especially rookie running backs. And young Dannell Ellerbe has shown flashes of brilliance this year, himself. So far, through three games, the two middle linebackers have combined for 49 tackles.

Ed Reed vs. Brandon Weeden

Quarterback Brandon Weeden is tied for the league lead with six interceptions on the season. And if anyone can take advantage of a rookie quarterback with a tendency to throw picks, it is safety Ed Reed, the future Hall of Famer.

Ray Rice vs. D’Qwell Jackson

Last season Ray Rice averaged just over 145 yards rushing in Baltimore’s two meetings with Cleveland. Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who had a breakout season in 2011-2012, will look to make sure the Ravens and Rice don’t repeat last year’s success. Unfortunately for the Browns, even if they slow Rice they will still have to deal with the AFC’s passing leader, Flacco.

Joe Flacco vs. Cleveland’s Secondary

Flacco is 8-0 all time versus the Cleveland Browns, a winning streak the young gunslinger will look to extend Thursday night. And coming off a a 382-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Patriots, Flacco’s confidence could not be higher. Throw in the fact that Cleveland ranks 27th in the league against the pass and all signs point to No. 5 having a huge night.

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Bobby Lubaszewski

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