*The Ravens are set to take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday on the shores of Lake Erie Sunday at 1 p.m. *
BR.com offers a breakdown of Baltimore's Week 9 opponent.
Total Offense - 30 (265.7) Total Defense - 21 (336.6)
Rush Offense - 26 (97.9) Rush Defense - 24 (141.6)
Pass Offense - 26 (167.9) Pass Defense -10 (195.0)
Points Per Game - 27 (16.4) Points Per Game - 7 (17.6)
Sizing Them Up
Since the Ravens offered Cleveland their third straight loss of the season, things have turned around somewhat in Cleveland. The Browns have won three of their last four, the most recent of which was an impressive 23-17 defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road. Head coach Romeo Crennel's squad toasted the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions, 34-14 on Monday Night Football, and was even competitive in a 14-11 loss two weeks ago at Washington.
What has changed? For starters, the offense has woken up, especially the connection between 2007 Pro Bowlers Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards. Edwards has 11 receptions for 276 yards over the past three games, a 25.1-yard average per catch.
Also in the passing game, the Browns will be getting back explosive tight end Kellen Winslow after he sat last week for feuding with the team over the way it reported - or refused to report - Winslow's recent staph infection.
Defensively, things all start up front with two offseason additions, massive tackle Shaun Rogers, one of the elite run-stoppers in the league, and Corey Williams. Rogers is a 350-pound mountain with nimble feet that is difficult to move. He is third on the team with 37 tackles and leads Cleveland with 3.5 sacks.
The Browns have a solid pass defense that is welcoming back safety Sean Jones, a tackling machine that has 24 stops in the past two games since coming back from a knee injury. Cleveland's secondary can also boast nine interceptions on the season.
On special teams, the Ravens will have an eye on Joshua Cribbs, a Pro Bowler that can break a return for a touchdown at any time. In 2007, Cribbs was the only player in the NFL to lead his team in kickoff return yards, punt return yards and special teams tackles.
Jeff Selesnick of ClevelandBrowns.com writes about Charles Ali, a backup fullback that will play if starter Lawrence Vickers is out. Vickers is listed as doubtful for Sunday.
"While his numbers won't raise eyebrows, Browns coaches, players and fans have started to take notice of the qualities one young, humble fullback is bringing to the squad."
In light of the Pittsburgh Steelers' problems with long-snapping last week, the Browns have prepped backup specialists, according to Tony Grossi of the* Cleveland Plain-Dealer*.
"Tight end Steve Heiden is the backup snapper to Ryan Pontbriand. Heiden said he learned how to snap at South Dakota State and thinks he snapped in an NFL game one time with San Diego before joining the Browns."
Maria Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal thinks Shaun Rogers has been great in Cleveland as a role model.
"But since he arrived in Cleveland in a March 1 trade, Rogers has been a model citizen. While quickly becoming the team's best player, he has been an inspiration on both sides of the ball and has offered help to the Browns' young linemen."
Grossi also writes about Jamal Lewis' rough sledding in Baltimore a few weeks ago.
"After that 28-10 Baltimore win, running back Jamal Lewis commented that it was 'pathetic' that he carried the ball only 12 times for the game."
Offensive - Anderson gets the nod for his steady performance of late. After throwing six interceptions in his first three games, Anderson has been pick-free the last three weeks, along with four touchdowns.
Defensive - Rogers has delivered on the promise that fueled his trade from the Detroit Lions, where he was labeled as a lazy player. That hasn't been the case in Cleveland, where Rogers is stuffing the middle and putting pressure on the pocket. The Texas product has 37 stops and 3.5 sacks.
Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas
Suggs has been taking over games lately, leading the team with five sacks. He and Thomas, a Pro Bowl left tackle, have had some good battles in the past, and this will be no different. There is definitely respect between the two young players, but that all ends when they line up across from each other. It will be crucial for the Ravens to get pressure on Anderson and force him into bad decisions, and Suggs notched two sacks the last time these teams met.
Ravens LB Bart Scott vs. Browns TE Kellen Winslow
Without Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle on the outside, the Ravens will start Fabian Washington and Frank Walker. That means that Bart Scott's duties in pass coverage will be amplified. Look for the fleet and powerful Scott to mark Winslow, an explosive playmaker. Winslow only notched two catches for 14 yards in Week 3, and fans will definitely remember Ray Lewis' crushing hit on the brash tight end that negated another one of those receptions.
Crennel on whether he feels things are coming together better for the offense now:"When you win it always seems like things are going better and it is going a little better. The thing that we need to do is we need to see if we can develop some consistency because this team has kind of been up and down offensively – streaky you might say. If we can develop some consistency where we know that we can hang our hat on consistent performance, then that will be a plus for us."
Thomas what he thinks of Suggs:"He's a great pass-rusher. He's playing probably the best, actually, in these two years of playing against him. And he's another guy you've got to game-plan because he's such a great pass-rusher, but he's also such a force in the run game. And you've got to be prepared for a fist fight because he's an extremely physical player."
The Ravens are sitting at a tenuous 4 and 3 and are as banged up as any team in the league.
There's a good chance they'll have three different starters on the offensive line, with Adam Terry (knee) filling in for Jared Gaither (stinger) at left tackle, and Chris Chester and big Willie Anderson on the right side. Or perhaps Gaither will go and Terry sits in at right guard. There are a lot of possibilities.
And just as Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson are starting to connect, Chris McAlister, Dawan Landry Samari Rolle probably aren't going to play. Landry is definitely out.
So, what do the Ravens have to accomplish to win?
Whenever these rivals do battle, the outcome always seems to fall on whoever wins in the trenches. Whichever offensive linemen are on the field Sunday, they need to be physical and nasty.
That also goes for the defensive linemen, who must get pressure on Anderson so the Ravens can comfortably drop a linebacker or two in coverage.
Maybe there will be a few wrinkles in the "WildBird" or "Suggs Package," with Troy Smith and Joe Flacco in at the same time, but I'm expecting another slug-fest, just like you saw in Week 3. In that game, the Ravens out-punched the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.
Now, they'll just have to do it on the road, as Sunday's matchup marks the first of three road tests.
Ed. note: These aren't necessarily the beliefs of the Ravens organization.