Ravens And Browns Battling For No. 1 Draft Pick?
Neither AFC North team would actually try to lose under the bright lights of the Monday Night Football national stage.
But that doesn't change the fact that their battle will ultimately end with one team sitting in fourth place, at the bottom of the division, with a better position in the 2016 NFL Draft.
"T]he nation will see two teams that could have the [No. 1 pick in next year’s draft," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown.
"Wins and losses do not matter as it relates to the context of the 2015 season," added WNST's* *Luke Jones. "The end result only affects where the Ravens might pick in next April's draft as the organization is in desperate need of impact talent. In that way, they're better off losing as many of their final six games as possible."
Heading into this evening's matchup, the Browns hold the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft while the Ravens hold the No. 6 pick. If Baltimore loses, it would be tied with four other teams at 3-8, including Cleveland, San Diego, Dallas and San Francisco. Tennessee would still hold the top pick, however, at 2-9.
If you are among the segment* *of the fan base that wants the Ravens to have the best possible draft position, the thing Baltimore has "going" for it is the ever-increasing injuries to star players. Without Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith Sr., Dennis Pitta, Breshad Perriman, Terrell Suggs, etc., etc., Baltimore won't be favored to win many more games.
"[I]f we're being honest, the Ravens aren't equipped to win with what remains of the original 2015 roster — no matter how hard they try," wrote Jones. "The loss of Flacco was the final straw in that regard."
Instead of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback facing off against Heisman-trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the two quarterbacks headlining tonight's game are backup Matt Schaub and journeyman Josh McCown. It's no wonder ESPN Monday Night Football broadcaster Mike Tirico told fellow analyst Jon Gruden that his love for football will be tested tonight.
Even cornerback Jimmy Smith had a hard time drumming up interest.
"You got Matt Schaub," he told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "What about a resurgent Matt Schaub going to send us on a six-game winning streak? How about that? How about Josh McCown?"
Then Smith smiled and conceded, "Yeah, there's really not a lot of [buzz] in this one."
Guess who doesn't care that people are calling this game a dud? You guessed it.
"We want to go win a football game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. "We're not sitting there saying, 'Oh, I wonder what everybody thinks?' We're not in seventh grade here. 'I wonder what they think of me? What are they texting about us? What does Snapchat say?' … There are a lot of bullies out there in the cyber world. We don't care what they think."
With that said, let's see who thinks the Ravens will come out victorious and who thinks they'll improve their draft position …
The Picks Are In: Ravens vs. Browns
Baltimore is 3.5-point underdogs to Cleveland, and few people are expecting them to pull off the upset.
Of the 49 pundits below, only six believe the Ravens can win in front of the nation. If Harbaugh is looking for motivation to give to his young players and backups, especially Schaub, there's plenty of material below.
Baltimore Sun: 5 of 7 panelists pick Browns
"The Ravens have said repeatedly that Matt Schaub has looked great in mostly-closed practices, but we can only go off what we saw in training camp and the preseason. And that wasn't a quarterback who looked capable of leading an injury-decimated team to a rare road win, even against the Browns." -- Jeff Zrebiec
ESPN: 13 of 13 panelists pick Browns
"You look at Josh McCown and he gives the Browns a legitimate chance to win. … That's why I'm going with the Cleveland Browns. They're a better football team with him at the helm. " – Mark Schlereth
CBS Sports: 7 of 8 panelists pick Browns
"This is Matt Schaub for the Ravens with Josh McCown for the Browns after Johnny Manziel blew his chance to start. The Ravens are really banged up and without Joe Flacco. I just don't see them winning this one. Browns take it." -- Pete Prisco
Fox Sports: 5 of 7 panelists pick Browns
"Matt Schaub vs. Josh McCown isn't exactly a matchup anyone's ever expected to see on a theater marquee, but it's still football, and football is better than watching a singing competition. OK, maybe not. I may be watching 'The Voice' on Monday night instead. I love that Jordan Smith. He's got the voice of an angel." -- Peter Schrager
NFL.com: 5 of 5 panelists pick Browns
"How about a big win for the Browns in front of their faithful home crowd? How about Josh McCown throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns on the Ravens? That's what I am seeing. McCown gets the nod over backup-to-starter-then-bench-within-five-days Johnny Manziel." -- Elliot Harrison
ProFootballTalk.com: 2 of 2 panelists pick Browns
"The King of the Pick Six is back, leading a team with seven losses in 10 games. It gives the Browns a rare chance to get a win in an even rarer Monday night appearance." -- Mike Florio
SB Nation: 6 of 7 panelists pick Browns
Ravens May Need To Make Roster Move
When the final injury report came out for tonight's game, things weren't looking good for the offensive line.
Not only might the unit be without three starters – Eugene Monroe (doubtful), Kelechi Osemele (doubtful) and Jeremy Zuttah (injured reserve) – but they only have six healthy linemen overall.
The Ravens seem to be moving forward with their banged-up group tonight, but could they do some shuffling going forward?
"Baltimore would likely need to add another healthy offensive lineman to the 53-man roster, meaning guards Kaleb Johnson and Robert Myers could be candidates to promote from the practice squad," wrote Jones.
Where would an available roster spot come from? Zrebiec says that with Nick Boyle healthy after missing last week with an injured foot, they don't need to keep a fourth tight end on the roster.
"Would be tough to see them keeping TE Chase Ford (shoulder, doubtful) on roster for too long," tweeted Zrebiec.
West 'Obviously Bothered' By Former Coach's Comments
When Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine was asked by Baltimore media last week why he let go of running back Terrance West just one season after trading up in the draft to select him, Pettine didn't have anything bad to say about West's physical ability.
Pettine pointed to "maturity issues" and poor practice habits as a professional.
"If West] needs [extra motivation for Monday night's game, he may have gotten it from Browns coach Mike Pettine," wrote CSNMidAtlantic's Clifton Brown.
Did West hear his coach's comments? Yup, and The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker said he was "obviously bothered" by them.
"He didn't understand my personality," the former Towson star told Walker. "I've been the same since I was a kid. I'm a positive person. I don't get in trouble. I don't get arrested. No failed drug tests. No missed meetings. Stuff like that, being a professional, I was good. But me joking around with the team, just talking trash on the field, that's me. That's who I am.
"I'm respectful. They can never say I'm disrespectful or a knucklehead, nothing like that. It's a misunderstanding. It's overblown, man. Overblown."
.@jtuck9 KNOWS. #MNF https://t.co/iwR5YSw8TY — ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) November 27, 2015