With the 2017 NFL regular season coming to a close (it only seems like 5 minutes since the excitement of kickoff weekend) the Cleveland Browns get to play their final home game of the season against divisional rivals the Baltimore Ravens.

Team Matchup

The Browns have had yet another poor season and are looking like strong candidates to go one worse than last season by not succeeding to win a single game this year. They are currently at 0-13 with only slight improvements to their offence visible if you look very hard. Their defence, on the other hand, would appear to be getting worse.

The Baltimore Ravens are at 7-6 and in strong contention for a Wildcard spot. It’s currently looking like the Tennessee Titans will take one of those spots then it’s all to play for between the Ravens, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Raiders and Buffalo Bills.

As far as the offences go, I’m shocked to see that the Browns actually have the better passing attack. With all their struggles at quarterback this year and starting a 21-year-old who has clearly struggled to adapt to the pace of the NFL, they can still out-stat the over-paid Joe Flacco and his Ravens offence through the air – I’m genuinely shocked by this.

The difference comes when we have a look at the next two stat groups, though. At the beginning of the season, the Baltimore Ravens seemed to be struggling to find their main running back from the group they had. Ex-Cleveland Browns player Terrance West was looking like the starter along with Danny Woodhead but as the season has gone on these players have suffered through injuries. Terrance West is still struggling with a calf injury but Woodhead is back and looked good to me in their last game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s the emergence of Alex Collins at the running back position that has propelled the Ravens up the stats charts in the running game, and they are a top 10 team in that regard. The Browns don’t have a particularly bad run game but it isn’t great as they sit at 18th and 17th for total yards and yards per game. Will Isaiah Crowell get the big money contract he craves from the Browns at the end of this season? I hope not, tbh.

The other statistic where the Ravens beat the Browns is the all-important points statistics. They’ve scored just over 120 more points this season than the Browns and, unsurprisingly, this is the statistic chart that the Browns sit bottom of. As far as points per game go, the Ravens are scoring just under 10 points per game more than the lowly Browns. There’s not much going for the Cleveland Browns in this one really.

As far as the defences go, the Cleveland Browns are still looking good against the run but I feel that’s because they stuff the line and the box so much with so many players. For me, they do over-commit at that point of the play and blitz a lot and this is showing in the fact that they seem to struggle somewhat against the pass. They aren’t awful against the pass and sit around 20th in the league, but they do appear to be exposed too often to my liking. It seems that DC Greg Williams is aware that this happens when you commit at the line of scrimmage as his D does, and is why he’s wasting the talent of Jabrill Peppers some 20+ yards deep instead of playing him as a strong safety.

It should be interesting to see Alex Collins go up against the Browns’ run defence, though.

Player Matchups

I’ve read that the Baltimore Ravens don’t shadow the oppositions best WR with their best CB and this intrigues me. If this is the case on Sunday, I can’t wait to see the newly returned Josh Gordon go up against, probably, Brandon Carr instead of first round pick in 2017 Marlon Humphrey. If Gordon plays as well as he has done so far since his return and DeShone Kizer continues to grow in confidence due to Gordon’s return, this matchup could be very good for the Browns and their chances of getting their first win in 2017.

Another matchup that will be interesting to watch is that of Terrell Suggs against the offensive tackles of the Cleveland Browns. Suggs is still a difference-maker, even at the age of 35, and with no Joe Thomas in the lineup for the Browns, this could get ugly. I like the current OT’s of the Browns but at the same time I just don’t think they’re performing that well right now. Shon Coleman put in a lot of work during the off-season to win his spot at RT but he gives up way too many penalties, and having Terrell Suggs staring him down isn’t going to do much for his composure. Suggs is an Edge Rusher and can line up on either side of the formation so we can expect to see him go up against Spencer Drango at LT as well. I respect Drango for stepping up to play tackle after being a guard, where he looked good, but it looks like he needs more experience at the tackle spot.

Game Prediction

Unfortunately, I can only see this game going one way and that’s a win for the Baltimore Ravens that will take them to an 8-6 record for the season and the Cleveland Browns falling one step closer to a winless season.

I just feel that the Ravens have too much for the Browns even though their passing game isn’t what it has been in past seasons. I can’t see the Browns defensive secondary having what it takes to stop the Ravens offence even though, on paper, it should be a close-fought affair.

I also think the Browns offence will struggle as per the norm this season as I don’t think DeShone Kizer will be able to handle the pressure from the Ravens defence and I can’t see Isaiah Crowell having the same kind of good game he had last week against the Green Bay Packers as the Ravens defence is just better.

Let’s not forget that the Ravens are going to be fuming after their late loss last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re not going to come into this game without a bit of extra motivation after that hard to swallow one-point loss.

I see the Baltimore Ravens beating the Cleveland Browns by fourteen points in this game.