Majority of Pundits Expect Baltimore to 'Upset' Cleveland
With Lamar Jackson sidelined with a knee injury, the AFC North-leading Ravens were 2.5-point underdogs at Pittsburgh last week. Jackson has been ruled out for tomorrow's game at Cleveland, and the Ravens again are 2.5-point underdogs against a division rival with a losing record.
Can the Ravens (9-4) grind out a win over the Browns like they did against the Steelers? The majority of pundits we looked at (32 of 48) believe Baltimore will indeed pull off another "upset."
It's worth noting that many of the predictions were made before the status of Jackson and backup quarterback Tyler Huntley were announced. Huntley has cleared the concussion protocol and is expected to start.
The Ravens, who have won six of their past seven, are 3-0 in the division, including a 23-20 win over the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 7.
For the Browns (5-8), who had won two in a row before losing at Cincinnati last week, Deshaun Watson will be making his third start since returning from an 11-game suspension and sitting out the entire 2021 season. He has looked rusty, completing just 59.4 percent of his passes for 407 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions, and a 70.2 passer rating.
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens notch another gritty victory.
The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: "I like the Ravens in an underdog role. Their defense is eighth in DVOA — 10th against the pass and seventh against the run. Plus, they have an edge on special teams most weeks. I think they can create some turnovers here, run the ball, and leave Cleveland with an upset win."
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "The Ravens are playing consecutive road games, which is tough. They will win it behind their defense, but it's close."
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: "The Ravens cannot afford a slip and they are playing with intensity. Even with the quarterback situation unsettled, the Ravens got a boost last week with left tackle Ronnie Stanley, safety Marcus Williams and [running back J.K.] Dobbins back in the lineup. The Ravens should have enough players to eke out another key AFC North victory."
NBC Sports’ Chris Simms: "I think it's going to be close. It won't be pretty. I think it'll be a late-game field goal that wins the game for [the Ravens]."
It could be another big day for the Ravens' running game.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer: "The Ravens couldn't do much against Cleveland's woeful run defense in their first meeting. They should have an easier afternoon this time around, even with Lamar Jackson sidelined. Considering the state of the Browns' linebacking corps, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards could both eclipse 100 yards."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "After watching Baltimore impose its run-heavy will on the Steelers last week, Cleveland has to be very concerned about its rush defense that ranks 26th in yards per carry and 30th in efficiency. Even if the Browns know it's coming, will that even matter?"
The Ravens are in good hands with Huntley.
USA Today’s Safid Deen: "Ravens backup Tyler Huntley has enough experience to win again on the road, after beating Pittsburgh last week, to keep Baltimore in the playoff mix as Lamar Jackson (knee) is sidelined."
This time, the Ravens won't overcome the absence of Jackson.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Tyler Huntley being cleared to play certainly improves Baltimore's chances, but not knowing how he'll be impacted by an unusual week of preparation, I have to go Browns here. It's tough to win on the road and on a short week, and it's even tougher without your starting quarterback. I think the Browns win by a touchdown."
The Ravens defense stymies Deshaun Watson.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: "I think the defense is good enough to confound Deshaun Watson. He's got a long way to go to get back to being the guy that he was. Those 700 days [of not playing] show."
Watson shakes off the rust and leads the Browns to the victory.
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "Deshaun Watson will face some tough pressure and a good secondary, but he'll create with his legs and work the middle of the field well for his first home win in Cleveland."
The Browns win if they don't turn the ball over.
Bleacher Report’s Kris Knox: "The key for Cleveland will be avoiding turnovers. The Browns committed two of them in the last meeting and lost by a field goal. I think they'll do a better job of protecting the ball the second time around and squeak out a four-point win."
Bold prediction: Browns RB Nick Chubb will run for 100 yards.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "The Ravens have the NFL's second-best run defense (81.2 yards per game) and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the AFC. But Chubb has totaled the most rushing yards against Baltimore since 2020, gaining 303 yards. He produced 91 yards on the ground against the Ravens in Week 7. The Browns are 20-8 when Chubb surpasses 100 yards rushing."
|ESPN||6 of 8 panelists pick Ravens|
|Baltimore Sun||4 of 5 panelist pick Ravens||“This game became easier to call when Tyler Huntley exited concussion protocol before practicing Thursday. The Ravens have the running game, defense and special teams to beat the Browns on a cold, dreary afternoon in Cleveland, and they probably won’t have to turn the offense over to Anthony Brown, who’s less of a known quantity than Huntley. A vintage Deshaun Watson could change the story in a hurry, but for now, a slight nod to the Ravens’ all-around strength.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||5 of 6 panelists pick Ravens|
|NFL.com||Ravens 19, Browns 14||“The Ravens' running game looked a lot different with Ronnie Stanley and J.K. Dobbins in the lineup last week. More importantly, their defense has dramatically improved since the acquisition of Roquan Smith. The ageless Calais Campbell will make it hard for Nick Chubb to run, and Deshaun Watson is still a beat slow on his throws. If Tyler Huntley is able to play, I like the Ravens in an upset that shouldn't be classified as such.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||6 of 10 panelists pick Ravens|
|Sporting News||Browns 20, Ravens 17||“The Ravens have a dire quarterback situation with Lamar Jackson (knee) and Tyler Huntley (concussion) hurt. They will try to ride J.K. Dobbins and a healthy running game against a shaky Browns run defense here, but the Browns can sell out by not worrying too much about the passing game. Deshaun Watson will face some tough pressure and a good secondary, but he'll create with his legs and work the middle of the field well for his first home win in Cleveland.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||5 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens won't have Lamar Jackson, but will they have Tyler Huntley, who suffered a concussion last week? Or will it be rookie Anthony Brown? The Browns are done, so this is a pride game. Deshaun Watson hasn't been that good, which is a concern. The Ravens are playing consecutive road games, which is tough. They will win it behind their defense, but it's close.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||2 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“Deshaun Watson is too rusty to solve Baltimore’s defense.” — Mike Florio|
|Sports Illustrated||3 of 5 panelists pick Ravens|
|Fansided||Browns 20, Ravens 14||“The Ravens are the better team, but they have no quarterback. Cleveland can win by playing a simple game.” — Matt Verderame|
GM Eric DeCosta Gets a 'Solid B' Grade From The Athletic
The Athletic asked its AFC North writers to grade the general manager of the team they cover for how they have fared in building and updating this season's roster. Zrebiec gave Eric DeCosta a "solid B."
"And it would be even higher if not for the curious approach at wide receiver, where Baltimore didn't really replace the traded Marquise Brown and left themselves vulnerable to an injury. Sure enough, No. 1 receiver Rashod Bateman went down with a season-ending foot injury," Zrebiec wrote. "Otherwise, DeCosta has done a nice job building a deep roster that has withstood numerous injuries to key performers. You can fixate on the Ravens' shortcomings or talk about how unimpressive they've looked at times this season if you want. But they are 9-4, and they've won six of their last seven games despite being without quarterback Lamar Jackson for two games and counting, top running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards for nearly two-thirds of the season, Bateman since October and left tackle Ronnie Stanley for more than half the season.
"Defensively, outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Justin Houston, nose tackle Michael Pierce, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Marcus Williams were all out for prolonged stretches, and Pierce and Fuller remain sidelined. DeCosta made a host of late offseason or in-season additions, including Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Demarcus Robinson, DeSean Jackson and Kenyan Drake, who have helped the team stay afloat. And the team's draft class, led by Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum and Isaiah Likely, has mostly delivered. DeCosta deserves solid marks."
Zrebiec didn't even mention DeCosta's midseason trade for two-time second-team All-Pro middle linebacker Roquan Smith, a move that obviously has paid huge dividends.
Ravens Take a Running Back in The Ringer's Mock Draft
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly released his first mock draft, and his first-round pick for the Ravens is a bit of a surprise. Kelly has Baltimore selecting Texas running back Bijan Robinson with the 26th-overall pick.
The Ravens have a solid one-two punch at running back in Dobbins and Edwards, but Kelly noted that the team is known for taking the best player available, as it did in the first round this year in selecting safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 even though safety wasn't a position of need.
"The Ravens are never too afraid to scoop up high-end talent when the rest of the league lets it slip to them," Kelly wrote. "Robinson might be one of the best players in this entire class, but he could fall into the latter part of the round just based on how the league tends to value the running back position these days. That's where the Ravens could pounce.
"It's been great to see J.K. Dobbins back out there over the past week, but his future remains cloudy following his major knee injury. With Robinson in the mix, Baltimore could get back to their familiarly explosive run game."