Everything You Need to Know, Ravens vs. Browns

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Basics

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
TV: Channel 13 (Baltimore), CBS crew (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98Rock (97.9 FM)
Jersey color: Purple

Stakes

Baltimore’s entire season rides on Sunday. The Ravens could finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to out of the playoffs. With a victory, the Ravens win the AFC North for the first time since 2012 and guarantee themselves a home playoff game. If the Ravens lose, and the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore would miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

History

The Ravens lead the all-time series, 29-10, but the Browns won the last meeting, 12-9, in overtime in October in Cleveland. It was the only game this season in which Baltimore did not score a touchdown. Justin Tucker kicked three field goals, but he also had an attempt blocked. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 25 of 43 passes for 345 yards and a touchdown, even though the Ravens sacked him five times. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 29 of 56 passes, but he also threw an interception on a tipped-pass near the Browns’ goal line. Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree let a potential game-winning touchdown bounce off his hands during the final minute of regulation.

Key Storylines

Can the Ravens finally punch their playoff ticket?

The Ravens are tired of being asked about heartbreaking December defeats in 2017 and 2016 that crushed their playoff hopes. They are tired of hearing they haven’t made the playoffs since 2014. Fighting back from a 4-5 record at the bye, the Ravens have reached Week 17 in control of their playoff destiny. Now they need to cash in.

Will the Ravens’ defense cap a stellar season with a special performance?

Baltimore’s defense dominated the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 and has been the NFL’s best defense this season, ranking atop the league in yards and points allowed. Shutting down the Browns would be a fitting way to end the season, but a hot Cleveland offense has other plans.

Can Lamar Jackson become the only rookie QB to lead his team to the playoffs?

Jackson was the last player picked in the first round, but no rookie has been more important to his team down the stretch. At age 21, no situation has seemed too big for Jackson. If he plays well Sunday, it will be difficult to keep the Ravens out of the playoffs.

Key Matchups

RB Gus Edwards vs. Browns run defense

When Edwards rushes for at least 80 yards, the Ravens are 5-0. His punishing running style is a difficult challenge for the Browns, who rank 29th against the run. It’s no secret the Ravens plan to run the football. But do the Browns have an answer?

Lamar Jackson vs. Cleveland’s opportunistic defense

Turnovers have been Jackson’s biggest issue. He has fumbled eight times and thrown three interceptions in his six games as the starter. The Browns have the second-most takeaways (30) in the NFL this season – 17 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. If Jackson doesn’t protect the football, his mistakes could be costly.

Ravens pass rush vs. Browns QB Baker Mayfield

The Ravens sacked Mayfield five times and hit him 10 times in October. Mayfield is tough, but a pass rush bothers all quarterbacks. The Ravens have three pass rushers with at least seven sacks – Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon. Baltimore hopes to produce enough pressure on Mayfield to force him into mistakes.

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