Good luck trying to convince the Ravens that they should expect an easy game Sunday because they're playing the Cleveland Browns, who are 0-13 this season.
The Ravens simply aren't buying the idea that a winless opponent should translate into an easy day at the office.
"They're always a tough opponent," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said Wednesday.
It's true. While the Ravens have won 17 of the past 19 games in this AFC North rivalry, many have been close, especially those in Cleveland. Last year at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Ravens fell behind by 20 points in the first quarter before rallying to win. The year before, they won in overtime on a blocked field-goal return.
As well, this year's Browns have been putting up a fight in many recent games. They had a late lead against the Green Bay Packers last week, but lost in overtime.
"They've gotten better. They just continue to do a good job of getting better every single day," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday.
Asked what makes the Browns so easy to NOT overlook, Harbaugh started with their defense, which is ranked No. 6 in the league against the run and No. 12 overall in Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams' first season.
"They've really solidified what they're doing under Coach Williams," Harbaugh said. "It's a very tough package. It's structural, but it's physical. They play really hard, run to the ball really well."
"These guys are a good defense, man; they have been for many years," he said. "Sometimes they give up some points here and there, but they're a really good group of guys and they play well together and it's going to be a tough test for us, for sure. Their defensive coordinator does some special things and has those guys playing really well."
On offense, the Browns aren't faring as well – they're tied for the No. 23 league ranking. But running back Isaiah Crowell has gained 716 yards on the ground, and big-play receiver Josh Gordon finally is back after multiple suspensions dating back several years. Their rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer, has "gotten better," Harbaugh said, since the teams played in September.
"It's a team that's committed to running the ball; we're going to have to stop the run," Harbaugh said. "And Kizer continues to improve and make a lot of plays downfield ... they're explosive."
Harbaugh, Flacco and the Ravens' veterans seemingly have made it clear to the rest of the locker room that a game against Cleveland shouldn't be taken lightly, despite the Browns' record.
"When I was at Alabama, we played a lot of teams we should run over," rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey said Wednesday. "The difference between then and now, just about every team we play, any team, can beat you in the NFL. That's one of the things I learned pretty quickly. You go into a game thinking, 'We should beat these guys,' but you end up coming up short. You're never really guaranteed a win in the NFL. You have to treat everyone the same, no matter what their record is."