Slight Majority of Pundits Pick Browns to Beat Ravens
The Ravens know a little something about having a dominant defense. That's exactly what they'll be facing when they travel to Cleveland Sunday to play the Browns in an early AFC North showdown.
Led by All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, the Browns have the No. 1 defense in the NFL, allowing just 10.7 points per game. The unit has been even stingier than that number suggests, as the offense has given up more touchdowns (two) than the defense (one).
Largely because of the Browns defense, a slight majority of pundits (30 of 54) are picking Cleveland (2-1) to hand the Ravens (2-1) their second consecutive loss.
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Browns will prevail in what will be a physical, low-scoring game.
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "With defense being the strength for both teams over the first month of the season, this one has the potential to be an old-school AFC North clash with the Ravens aiming to improve to 2-0 in the division and the Browns wanting to show everyone they're for real. I'm not convinced either one of these offenses is ready to rise to the occasion against such impressive talent on the opposing side, which will keep this a low-scoring game. Baltimore is looking healthier than last week, but injuries continue to stunt John Harbaugh's team early in the season. That reality and home-field advantage will help the Browns win 17-16."
Pro Football Network’s Michael Freer: "This figures to be a tight battle all the way. While it's difficult to see a lot of offensive fireworks in the works, I think Cleveland's defense is on the verge of a special season, and that will be enough to get the Browns over the hump in this contest."
The Browns defense will stymie the Ravens' passing game.
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski: "Baltimore's passing game has yet to realize its potential under [Offensive Coordinator Todd] Monken. In fact, the unit is currently ranked among the league's bottom 10. Meanwhile, Cleveland's defense has been historically good. The Browns have allowed the fewest yards, yards per play and first downs through three games since the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They haven't allowed any red-zone points, either. Lamar Jackson is special, but the Browns defense is simply on another level right now."
USA Today’s Lorenzo Reyes: "Cleveland's defense under Jim Schwartz looks like it could be the league's best with that ferocious pass rush and clamp-down secondary. The Ravens are dealing with the injury bug yet again and Baltimore's offense — if it can't develop a consistent passing game — plods through games in a way that makes it hard "to see them outscoring Cleveland."
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "[The Browns defense] is going to swarm, it's going to harass, and it's going to slow down the Ravens offense, and I think the Browns are going to win this one."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Bold prediction: Jackson will be held without a touchdown. He has totaled more touchdowns against the Browns than any other team in his six-year career, throwing for 11 and running for four. But the Browns' defense has given up only one touchdown this season and hasn't allowed one in Cleveland."
Jackson and the Ravens offense will bounce back after last week's disappointing loss to the Colts.
USA Today’s Tyler Dragon: "Lamar Jackson and the depleted Ravens were 'ticked off' after losing to the Colts in Week 3. … This AFC North tilt could potentially be the game of the week. The Ravens have the most explosive player on the field in Jackson, and Baltimore might get a few injured players back this week."
The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "In this Jekyll and Hyde season, don't count out another strong road performance against a division rival. The Ravens will be healthier and motivated to prove last week's loss was an aberration. Can't you see Justin Tucker nailing the game-winning field goal this time around? I don't trust the Browns yet, at least not on offense with Deshaun Watson still looking mediocre and Nick Chubb lost for the season. Give me the better quarterback and a Ravens defense that deserves to be in the conversation as the league's best."
NFL.com’s Dan Parr: "I'm just not ready to trust Cleveland yet, at least not in a game I expect to be close. Baltimore is getting better news on the injury front this week, and maybe last week's overtime loss to the Gardner Minshew-led Colts was the wake-up call the team needed to tighten things up a bit."
|ESPN||5 of 8 panelists pick Ravens|
|Baltimore Sun||3 of 4 panelists pick Ravens||“If the Ravens have center Tyler Linderbuam, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman back, their chances increase dramatically. Still, the Browns have perhaps the NFL’s best defense both up front and in the secondary. It’s been an uneven start for Lamar Jackson, but having a more complete complement of players around him will help the offense have, as coordinator Todd Monken likes to say, less ‘drag.’ Jackson is also 6-3 against the Browns, which includes a 3-2 mark in Cleveland. No matter what, this will be close, as usual.” — Brian Wacker|
|USA Today||4 of 8 panelists pick Ravens|
|NFL.com||3 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||“A lot of signs are pointing to a Browns win here. They're at home, no one can score on their defense and injuries have clearly taken a toll on the Ravens. I'm just not ready to trust Cleveland yet, at least not in a game I expect to be close. Baltimore is getting better news on the injury front this week, and maybe last week's overtime loss to the Gardner Minshew-led Colts was the wake-up call the team needed to tighten things up a bit.” — Dan Parr|
|NFL Network||8 of 10 panelists pick Ravens|
|Sporting News||Browns 23, Ravens 20||/ “The Ravens are banged up on the offensive line and their backfield keeps getting depleted. The injury bug also has eaten well into their defense and receiving corps, putting them on edge at 2-1. The Browns lost Nick Chubb and Jack Conklin, so they won't have sympathy, just relentless pressure from Myles Garrett and coverage to contain Lamar Jackson's transitional passing game.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||5 of 8 panelists pick Browns||“This is an enormous early season division game between two good teams. The Ravens lost last week to the Colts at home and have been hit hard by injury. The Browns have won two of three behind a dominant defense. That defense will be the difference. Lamar Jackson and the passing game aren't clicking yet. Browns win it.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||2 of 2 panelists pick Browns||“Cleveland’s ‘D’ is good at all three levels; the coaching is good; and Baltimore’s offense is still figuring it out. They had two good quarters in the Bengals game and made some plays, but other than that it’s been inconsistent and all over the place.” — Chris Simms|
|Sports Illustrated||6 of 7 panelists pick Ravens|
|Fansided||Browns 27, Ravens 22||“This Cleveland Browns defense looks more than for real right now, though Lamar Jackson and Co. can create problems for anyone. For me, though, the injury woes of the Ravens are going to ultimately decide this game. Baltimore is banged up at every level on both sides of the ball. Even if Deshaun Watson isn't what was promised when Cleveland traded for him, they have enough advantages to squeak out a win, especially at home.” — Cody Williams|
Ravens Named Potential Destination for Davante Adams if He's on Trade Block
Davante Adams expressed his frustration with the Las Vegas Raiders' 1-2 start, leading to speculation that the three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver could be on the trade block.
Multiple outlets have included the Ravens among teams who should pursue Adams, 30:
Bleacher Report’s Ryan Fowler: "The Baltimore Ravens have made it a point to add talent at wideout the last few offseasons. Despite drafting Zay Flowers (2023) and Rashod Bateman (2021) in the first round over the last three drafts, Adams would provide a bona fide top target for the newly installed Todd Monken offense. Adams' ability to dominate man coverage and draw eyes away from Flowers would only boost the ceiling of the offense. Behind Lamar Jackson's dynamic dual-threat ability, tight end Mark Andrews and the aforementioned perimeter weapons, Adams could push Baltimore over the hump in a loaded AFC."
Fansided’s Christopher Kline: "Jackson is a singular generative power, but the Ravens' offense can only go as far as the weapons around him. Flowers is great, but he's probably not WR1 on a Super Bowl team (yet). Repurposing him in a complementary role while Davante Adams functions as Jackson's go-to would certainly elevate Baltimore's offensive ceiling. Jackson has the big-play ability Adams' current QB lacks. Even in his age-31 season, Adams is virtually impossible to contain in single coverage. He's a constant winner in 50-50 situations, capable of high-pointing the ball for the most improbable of catches in traffic. He would be due for some true highlight-reel moments with Jackson slinging the pigskin in his direction."
Former Ravens wide receiver DeSean Jackson also would like to see Adams in Baltimore.
Sure, the Ravens — and every other team — would love to have Adams, but let's not get carried away. The Ravens have a lot of wide receiver talent already.
Also, Adams hasn't requested a trade, and even if he does, there's no guarantee the Raiders would accommodate him. If they would consider it, obviously the asking price would be steep.
"The Ravens and any other bidding team will be reminded that the Raiders gave up a first- and a second-round pick while also giving him a new five-year contract that made him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL at that time," Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher wrote.
Ravens' Cornerback Play Is Biggest Surprise Thus Far
There were questions about the Ravens' cornerbacks at the start of the season, but The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said the unit's solid play has been a pleasant surprise through the first three weeks.
"There were major concerns with Baltimore's cornerback group when it became known that Marlon Humphrey needed mid-August foot surgery and would start the season on the sideline," Zrebiec wrote. "Team officials were dismissive of those concerns, saying repeatedly that they liked their group. It felt like lip service, but the Ravens' corners have actually been solid without Humphrey.
"Brandon Stephens, who was initially expected to play safety this season, has really played well on the boundary, and veterans Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin have held their own, too. There will be bigger tests ahead, but the concerns have shifted to other positions."