Reporting Mark Zinno
The Ravens look to rebound from a tough loss in week one. They get their proverbial “whipping boy” in week two when Cleveland comes to M&T Bank Stadium.
KEY MATCHUP: Ravens linebackers against Browns tight end Jordan Cameron. Cameron caught nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. In week 1, Peyton Manning exploited the middle of the field against the Ravens and used a lot of underneath routes. The Ravens linebackers must be able to contain and limit the Browns in the middle. Despite Cameron’s big game, Cleveland only converted one of 14 third down conversions. The middle of the field will be key in this game.
THE RAVENS WIN IF: Ray Rice gets 20 carries. That has happened 25 times in his career. The Ravens record in those games: 22-3. AFC North football is physical and tough. It’s smash mouth. The Ravens have prided themselves on being a tough football team. If they return to their roots and focus on the running game, they should breeze through this game.
THE BROWNS WIN IF: They can contain the Ravens limited WR corps. Torrey Smith is the only legitimate threat. Baltimore and Joe Flacco struggled to get any real rhythm in the passing game because of drops and inconsistency. Jacoby Jones is out for the next 4 to 6 weeks. The Browns can force the Ravens to become very one dimensional or even force Flacco into some mistakes when the passing game gets out of sync.
FANTASY TIP: In his two games against the Ravens last season, Trent Richardson averaged nearly four yards per carry. He also caught 10 passes for 88 yards in the two games and hit the end zone a total of twice. Expect Richardson to get a steady load from head coach Rob Chudzinski. It will control the clock and limit Brandon Weeden’s mistakes.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: No team wants to start off the season 0-2 with a division loss and a conference loss. For the defending Super Bowl Champs, who are raising their banner prior to kick-off, it would be particularly embarrassing to lose this one. The Browns are trying to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Ravens that began with Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh.
Line: Bal -6.5
Money Line: Bal -110
PREDICTION: Ravens 32, Browns 24
Follow me on Twitter @MarkZinno