5 Things To Watch vs. Browns


The Ravens head into Week 17 with their eyes on a potential playoff spot, while their division foe would relish the chance to play the role of spoiler.

The Cleveland Browns are already out of the playoff chase, but they could knock the Ravens out of contention with an upset victory at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday.

Here are five things to watch for as the Ravens look to beat the Browns for the second time this year.

How Offensive Line Responds

The offensive line has been forced to shuffle the lineup after injuries to the two starting tackles. Right tackle Rick Wagner is done for the year with a foot sprain, and left tackle Eugene Monroe could miss Sunday's game with an ankle injury. Losing both tackles is a blow the line, and they will have to move pieces around to fill in the gaps. Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda may have to play right tackle, and the rookies James Hurst and John Urschel could likely end up back in the lineup. Whatever lineup the Ravens decide to use, the offensive line needs to have a better game clearing holes on the ground and protecting quarterback Joe Flacco.

Pressure On Young QB

Undrafted rookie Connor Shaw will get the start for Cleveland after starter Johnny Manziel suffered a season-ending hamstring injury, and Brian Hoyer was ruled out with a shoulder issue. Shaw has been on the practice squad all year and has yet to see action in a game since the preseason. The Ravens pass rush has tormented opposing quarterbacks all season, and that is expected to continue this week. Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will likely bring the heat, and Dumervil needs just one more sack to set a new career high.

Re-Establishing Running Game

Baltimore's ground game has gone dormant recently, and the offense picked up just 33 yards on the ground in Sunday's loss to Houston. Running back Justin Forsett has stressed that he is not wearing down at the end of the year, and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said this week that establishing the run is a priority for the offense. The Ravens offense predicated on an effective running game, and they have an opportunity for a big day going up against a Cleveland defense that ranks last in the NFL at stopping the run. The Ravens will have to overcome the injuries along the offensive line, but establishing the run is a clear priority in the regular-season finale.

Bounceback From Flacco

Flacco is coming off his worst game of the season, where he tossed three interceptions against the Texans. He has a strong history of bouncing back after rough outings, and the Ravens hope the trend continues against Cleveland. Flacco had been rock-solid for the last month leading up to the Houston game, especially at home. Flacco has thrown 12 touchdowns compared to three interceptions in games at M&T Bank Stadium this year, and the Ravens need him to cap off the year on a high note in Baltimore.

Continued Development In Secondary

The Browns suspended receiver Josh Gordon Saturday afternoon just ahead of the game, leaving the Browns short-handed at receiver to go along with the rookie quarterback. Gordon's suspension should make things easier for Baltimore's secondary, which has made noticeable strides in recent weeks. Cornerback Lardarius Webb played his best game of the season last week, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said, and now he won't have to worry about defending one of the most talented receivers in the game.

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