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Game Preview: Ravens at Browns


The Ravens and Browns are both riding high after emotional Week 2 victories.

Baltimore took down the rival Steelers in a primetime showdown, and the Browns delivered an upset victory over the Saints in their home opener. Now both teams head into their Week 3 matchup in Cleveland looking to build off that momentum.

"We're going to have to be at our best," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens have enjoyed plenty of success against the Browns over the years – they have won 11 of the last 12 matchups – but the Browns came out victorious in last year's matchup in Cleveland. Playing on the road was a challenge for the Ravens last year, and Sunday's game will be the first road test of the 2014 season.

"Getting a win up there would be huge for our team and it would give us some confidence going into the season," veteran defender Haloti Ngata said. "They're a real confident team, and we have a tough game, because we have to go into Cleveland. Hopefully, we can do well up there."

Three Matchups To Watch

LT Eugene Monroe vs. OLB Paul Kruger
The Ravens will have their hands full with their former teammate who is having a great start to the season. Kruger, who was a key part of the postseason run to Super Bowl XLVII, already has two sacks this year. The responsibility to keep Kruger away from quarterback Joe Flacco will largely fall on left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is dealing with a knee injury. Monroe plans to be ready Sunday, and the Ravens are counting on him to minimize Kruger.

WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Joe Haden
This is a matchup between two good friends. Haden, a Maryland native, is one of the top young cornerbacks in the game. He and Smith are both active in each other's charity events during the offseason, and they will likely see plenty of each other this weekend. Haden could bounce around from covering Smith and veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr., but the premier matchup will be when the two buddies square off against each other.

NT Haloti Ngata vs. RB Terrance West
The Ravens had their eyes on the Towson running back going into the draft, but then the Browns traded up to snag him in the third round a few picks before Baltimore was on the clock. West is off to a great start in Cleveland, and the top priority for the Ravens is to shut down West and the running game. Ngata is the team's key run stuffer as the anchor of the defensive front. If the Ravens stop West, then Ngata will likely be right in the middle of those piles.

Three Keys To The Game

Start fast
Teams across the NFL want to get off to a strong start every week, but it's particularly important this week for the Ravens. Sunday is the Ravens' first road test, and the Cleveland crowd will be amped up considering the team's upset over the Saints last week. If the Ravens jump out to an early lead, then that will mitigate the crowd and make a much more favorable atmosphere.

Run, pass balance
Flacco threw the ball 62 times in the season opener against Pittsburgh, and the Ravens lost 23-16. Against Pittsburgh, the Ravens ran the ball 36 times and threw it 29, and they won 26-6. Expect the offense to resemble more of its Week 2 version. Gary Kubiak's offense is predicated on the ability to run the ball, and the Ravens will look to establish the ground game against Cleveland.

Force turnovers
Part of Cleveland's early success has been the ability to protect the football. The Browns have yet to turn the ball over the first two weeks, and that's a trend the Ravens want to reverse. Baltimore's defense came up with three turnovers against the Steelers, and forcing Cleveland into miscues is an important part of the game plan.

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