Haden Confident: 'They Aren't Ravens Of Old'
It's the NFL's longest active win streak over a single opponent, but the Browns aren't fazed by their 11-straight losses to the Ravens.
Browns cornerback Joe Haden thinks his team will snap the losing streak Sunday.
"The Ravens aren't the Ravens of old," Haden told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"They're still really good, a real talented team, a division opponent, but at the same time, our team is a whole different team. It's a different squad. We still haven't gotten over the hump, but there's no reason why we can't.''
It's true that winning the last 11 doesn't automatically mean the Ravens will make it 12 this weekend.
But telling the defending Super Bowl champs they aren't the 'Ravens of old' could provide a little extra motivation.
"As streaks go, the Ravens are approaching death/taxes status when it comes to the Browns," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt. "But Browns cornerback Joe Haden tossed a log on the fire.
"Of course, offering up a little motivational material for the Ravens might not have been the wisest course of action, but Haden will have his chance to back it up."
Joe Flacco, who owns the most consecutive wins by a starting NFL quarterback against an opponent since the 1970 merger, says one of the reasons for the streak is because his team doesn't dwell on its success.
"We haven't won 11 straight on accident, and we haven't planned on winning 11 straight," Flacco said. "We've taken them one game at a time, and it just so happened that it's worked out this way. … We know that they're a good opponent, so we don't take them lightly in any way."
Both Baltimore (3-4) and Cleveland (3-5) are trying to put the past in the past. Browns safety T.J. Ward believes it's a new era of AFC North football.
"This team has only been 0-1 against them,'' he said. "So the past is really not what we're worried about. We're worried about the last game, what we can improve from that game. The past 10 or whatever, those have been completely different teams, different owners, different coaches, different everything."
Bengals Fall, Give Ravens Opening
The Cincinnati Bengals fell in overtime to the Miami Dolphins, 22-20, on Thursday Night Football.
That means the Bengals' 2.5-game lead in the AFC North has slightly fallen to two games. The Ravens can cut it to 1.5 with a win over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday, and then to just .5 by beating the Bengals in two weeks.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Cleveland is the only thing that matters right now, and a loss would put the Ravens right back to 2.5 games out.
The battle in Miami ended in overtime when defensive end Cameron Wake sacked quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone for a walk-off safety – only the third time in NFL history an overtime game ended that way.
Before rookie running back Giovani Bernard left the game with a rib injury, he had one of the best touchdown runs of the season. Meanwhile, starting defensive tackle Geno Atkins left the game with what could be a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, and will have an MRI today. That would be a major blow to the Bengals.
After a five-touchdown pass game from Dalton last week, the Bengals quarterback turned the ball over four times.
"Don't let the result, or even the final play, of Thursday's contest fool you," wrote ESPN's Coley Harvey. "Cincinnati still has a strong team. The Bengals will be part of the playoff picture."
Well said, Coley. However, it does give hope to fans in Baltimore.
"Maybe this was the opening the Ravens needed to begin their second season. It won't take long to find out," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck.
For highlights of the Bengals' loss, you can get them here.
Week 9 Picks: Ravens vs. Browns
It's always interesting to note the difference in local versus national writers' predictions about the Ravens. They have different levels of knowledge about the team, and their picks often vary from each other.
All seven Baltimore Sun writers believe the Ravens will notch a win against the Browns, but national writers are split 22 (Ravens) to 14 (Browns).
**The Baltimore Sun**: 7 of 7 pick the Ravens
Jeff Zrebiec (Ravens 16, Browns 13): "The Ravens have had two weeks to grasp the fact that if they lose this game, they'll be in must-win mode the rest of the way. They'll respond, like they always do against the Browns and after bye weeks."
Matt Vensel (Ravens 27, Browns 16): "The Ravens will bounce back after the bye against the Browns, who have not beaten them in the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco era, for a needed victory."
**ProFootballTalk.com**: 1 of 2 pick the Ravens
Michael David Smith (Browns 20, Ravens 14): "Browns quarterback Jason Campbell actually played well against the tough Chiefs' defense, and the Ravens haven't been playing well recently. Call me crazy, but I think the defending Super Bowl champions are going down in Cleveland."
Mike Florio (Ravens 20, Browns 14): "The team that used to be the Browns has beaten the Browns 11 straight times. If the Ravens can't run that streak to 12, their five-year run of playoff berths could be ending, too. Rested and re-focused, the Ravens will find a way, as they always seem to do when they need it most."
**Sports Illustrated, Don Banks**: (Ravens 17, Browns 14):
"The story about the Browns misattributing or slightly botching the motivational quotes they painted on the walls of their team complex as part of a recent $5 million upgrade to the facility is so good it doesn't even need a punch line. But I suppose if I had to supply one, I'd say if these walls could talk, they would claim they were all misquoted."
**CBSSports.com, Pete Prisco**: (Browns 21, Ravens 18):
"The Ravens are coming out of a bye and need to get it going to try to keep pace with the Bengals. If they lose here, they have problems. Jason Campbell was solid for the Browns at Kansas City. Look for him to continue to play well here."
**NFL.com, Elliot Harrison**: (Browns 20, Ravens 14):
"Taking (gulp) Cleveland at home this week. The Browns last beat the Ravens in Cleveland in 2007, back when Derek Anderson hadn't yet realized he was Derek Anderson. That season, the future Panthers bench-warmer threw 29 touchdown passes for Cleveland – or 10 more than he's managed in the ensuing six years combined. The quarterback position has been a black hole for this franchise ever since. Still, we'll show some confidence in Jason Campbell, despite the fact the Ravens defense has performed better since the Denver offense treated it like it wasn't there in the season opener. We're also showing some faith in the Browns' secondary, which should be fine against a Baltimore offense devoid of weapons. This game truly could come down to Joe Flacco, who has historically played better in Cleveland than he has overall."
**The Sporting News, Vinnie Iyer**: (Ravens 20, Browns 16):
"The Ravens are trying to shake their Super Bowl hangover before it costs them a return trip to the playoffs. This is the ideal get-well game after a bye, as John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have never lost to the Browns. Look for Baltimore to stuff the run and tee off on Jason Campbell, while Flacco will be happy to see Ray Rice back up and running. Welcome to November in the AFC North."
Hensley: Not A 'Must-Win' For Ravens
As much as Baltimore would love to win this weekend, and as much as it would help their chances of returning to the playoffs for the sixth-straight year, ESPN's Jamison Hensley doesn’t see it as a “must-win” game.
And that was his opinion before the Bengals lost last night.
"I would agree that this is a 'must win' in terms of confidence building," Hensley wrote. "But a loss doesn't crush the Ravens' playoff hopes, thanks to the mediocrity in the AFC."
Only six of 16 AFC teams have winning records, and the Ravens are only one game behind the Chargers (4-2) for the final wild-card spot. The Chargers still have to play the conference-leading Chiefs and Broncos … twice.
Ray Lewis Suing Bank For Nearly $4 Million
Retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is one of 16 current and former NFL players suing BB&T Bank.
Lewis' part of the nearly $60 million lawsuit is $3.78 million in alleged investment losses, according to Yahoo! Sports.
"Several are accusing BB&T of allowing now-banned financial adviser Jeff Rubin and his employees at Pro Sports Financial to open accounts in their names and place tens of millions of dollars in dubious, unauthorized investments – including an illegal Alabama casino venture," wrote Rand Getlin.
Phil Taylor Moving On From Spitting Accusations
For the first time Wednesday, running back Ray Rice gave his side of the story to the accusations from Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor that Rice spit on him during their Week 2 matchup.
Rice denied spitting, and Taylor was asked again about the incident this week.
He wants to move on.
"Whatever happened in that game was that game," Taylor said, per ESPN. "I'm looking forward to this game."
If you read Banks' game prediction, you might be wondering what the botched motivational quotes at the Browns complex is all about. In August, the team unveiled its newly renovated training facility and almost all of a series of inspirational quotations they painted on the walls were misattributed, incorrectly transcribed or otherwise incorrect. For example, it turns out Abraham Lincoln never said this one (mobile users tap "View in Brower" to see the picture). [Deadspin.com] * Willis McGahee is not angry, but he wants to beat the Ravens. [CSNBaltimore.com] * @BaltSunSports: The new-look #Ravens are barely recognizable to #Browns RB Willis McGahee. [Twitter] * Tackle Michael Oher downplayed his sprained ankle that kept him out of practice Wednesday. He returned Thursday. "I just had a little sprain," he said. "I'm good, everything's good. I'll be back out there today. Really tough guy, whatever it takes for the team." [The Baltimore Sun] * @jamisonhensley: How important is run defense? In 3 wins, #Ravens have held teams to 60.3 yards rushing. In 4 losses, they have given up 137.2 yards rushing. [Twitter] * @Ravens: Injury Report: LG Kelechi Osemele (back/knee) did not practice today. [Twitter] * @Ravens: LB Josh Bynes said he had two options when it came to his infected finger: surgery or amputation. Guess which one he took... [Twitter] * @Ravens: Dean Pees says Jameel McClain will start at ILB this Sunday. [Twitter] * @ryanmink: Even @JameelMcClain had his Halloween candy stolen as a kid. Still remembers it, still ticked. [Twitter] * @mattvensel: FYI, Jameel McClain said that he plans to give tricker-treaters bananas, apples and kale if they come to his house tonight. #Ravens [Twitter] * A quote from a must-read feature on McClain: "He felt nothing. His legs were numb. He couldn't move his arms. There was no sensation in his fingers," wrote Jarrett Bell. "Yet the Baltimore Ravens linebacker never lost consciousness, which allows him to recall details about the spinal injury – and temporary paralysis in his limbs – that threatened his career. That McClain, healed without surgery, is playing again is undeniably one of the most inspiring stories this season in the NFL." [USA Today] * @Ravens: Congrats to our #RavensPumpkin winners! View photos of our favorite fan #Ravens pumpkins [Twitter]