The Ravens are going into a big divisional game against the Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium riding a four-game winning streak.
Here are my thoughts on the game, all in 50 words or less:
The last time the Ravens played the Browns (a 28-3 win), Baltimore was without Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Stanley, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Odafe Oweh and Marcus Williams. Humphrey is the only question mark this time. The Browns have Deshaun Watson, but their overall health has gone the other direction.
Cleveland will be without its top three offensive tackles – a major impediment against the NFL's sacks leader. Nobody wants to see injuries, but it feels good to finally be the healthier team heading into a divisional game. As the Browns learned in Week 4, it doesn't guarantee a win, however.
Watson's first game at M&T Bank Stadium as a Brown could be a rough one, and the start of a painful tenure in the AFC North. Simply put, Watson hasn't played up to the contract the Browns gave him last offseason. The Ravens are looking to be rude hosts.
Oweh has two sacks in three games since returning from injury and is someone we should be talking about more. That may change after this week. Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy have been fantastic, but I expect the younger and fresher Oweh to take the lead down the stretch.
John Harbaugh described the Browns defense as "kind of the mindset of a puncher, they come out swinging." In their last meeting, Todd Monken preyed on their over aggressiveness by baiting them with decoy motions. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens counterpunch this time.
The Ravens' 296 total offensive yards against the Browns in their last meeting was their third-lowest output of the season. The difference was they went 4-for-4 in the red zone. The Ravens' ability to keep running with success inside the 20 will go a long way in determining this game.
Mark Andrews has nine touchdowns in 11 games against the Browns. That's the most of any foe (the Bengals aren't far behind with seven). Andrews brings his best to these divisional games, but I think the main reason is because the Browns don't have a good matchup for him.
Monken (OC) is a hit. Tee Martin (QBs) boosted Lamar Jackson. Chuck Smith (OLBs) honed a pass rush leading in sacks. Dennard Wilson (DBs) helped a No. 2-ranked secondary. Willie Taggart (RBs) improved the league's top rushing attack. Greg Lewis (WRs) has the receivers playing well. All A+ coaching hires.
It's remarkable how many undrafted players are in big roles for the Ravens this season: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Patrick Ricard, Patrick Mekari, Michael Pierce, Justin Tucker, Arthur Maulet, and more. I talked with Mekari about this on Friday. He says the undrafted chip on the shoulder never goes away.
It's going to be sunny and in the 50s Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens are playing extremely well, going against a division opponent. These are the games where memories are made. I hope to see M&T Bank Stadium rocking and for that to carry over to Thursday. Homefield advantage matters.