What a great day it was to be a Ravens fan on Sunday. The defense performed as advertised all offseason, both Mosley and Brandon Williams made Pro Football Focus’ defensive players of the week. The offensive line, despite some penalties, performed exceptionally. They allowed Joe Flacco ample time and space on 10 of 17 pass attempts. Just to make things better, the run game got the job done and all of this occurred away in Cincinnati.
Now up next for the Purple and Black are the Cleveland Browns (0-1). Getting to play Cleveland in the home opener could be great for momentum if the Ravens are able to pull out the win. The Browns are always assumed to be an automatic win, but watching their game against the Steelers on Sunday, this does not appear to be the same basement dweller Browns of the past. I think this Browns team could muster up six wins. That being said, one of those six wins should not be against the Ravens.
Players to watch
QB – Deshone Kizer
Kizer had a promising NFL debut, with some rookie mistakes. The Browns invested a lot of money to improve their offensive line this offseason, and it looks as though the investment is paying off. But Deshone Kizer was sacked 7 times, how could this be an improved offensive line? Well, here’s an interesting stat. The average time of play before those 7 sacks was 3.8 seconds. This is highlighting that the sacks were not necessarily the fault of the offensive line, rather it was Kizer holding the ball too long.
Kizer is a rookie however, so there will be growing pains such as this and his third quarter interception that appeared to only go towards Steelers defenders. Overall I think this will be a key to the match. Our defense made Andy Dalton look like Rookie Jared Goff. Kizer does not have the same offensive weapons as the Bengals, nor does he have the pedigree that Dalton has. People seem to forget Dalton was 12-4 two seasons ago and put up phenomenal numbers. If the pass rush is overwhelming or the secondary is too much for the skill players and Kizer, this could be an ugly showing for the rookie.
QB – Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco had an easy day on Sunday. It makes sense that after having only 4 days of practice to ease Joe back in, especially with the lead we had and the run game getting the yards we needed to grind out the clock and secure the win. There has been a lot of people saying Flacco looks stiff, or that his mechanics were poor and these people seem to be alerted. Flacco himself said that the game was not fun but the win is important. When a team has AJ Green, you don’t give them the ball back without taking time off the clock.
That being said, with another week of practice and more familiarity with the new players, plus adjusting to life without Woodhead, expect Flacco to have a bounce back week against Browns. If anything is telling, the Browns were able to contain Le’Veon Bell, but had no real answer to Antonio Brown. Unless the game scripts dictates otherwise and the Ravens get another lead like Sunday, expect more out of Joe Flacco and expect it to be good. The offensive line will only start to play better as they have more time together, and expect Maclin and Flacco to improve their chemistry. If Flacco does not have turn overs and can regain his form from 2014 expect good things.
RB – Terrance West/Buck Allen
After the Browns stopped Le’Veon Bell, does the Ravens backfield have any chance this week? This will be a crucial thing to keep and eye on. The Ravens have been saying they want to pound the rock and improve the run game. This game will be telling of how much progress the Ravens have made. Expect moderate numbers from the run game, but also a higher increase in the passing numbers. It’s unlikely there will be 30+ rushes every game this season. When you are winning, you run the ball. When the game is close, you mix it up.
WR – Corey Coleman
The first round pick out of Baylor last year, Coleman as shown a lot of promise and the traits to be a number one receiver in the NFL. In college he was a touchdown machine and you can see that translate to the pro level. Against the Steelers he managed five receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. That’s a decent game, especially since Kizer only had 222 yards. That means Coleman accounted for 24 percent of Kizer’s yards and you can see that him and Kizer have developed decent chemistry throughout camp.
So far in his career he has a stat line of 38/466/4 which is pretty good, considering he got hurt last season and has had a revolving door at quarterback. It will be interesting to see if he can form a deadly duo with Kizer and be a consistent threat. Although promising, Coleman will be lining up against Jimmy Smith.
Jimmy Smith has been able to contain Antonio Brown pretty well and Corey Coleman is almost an Antonio Brown lite. Expect this matchup to go in Jimmy’s favor but still expect a catch or three from Coleman. With a revamped secondary it will be hard to find a hole for Coleman to attack, but if the Browns run game is decent and opens up the field, expect Coleman to make some plays and maybe get a touchdown or two.
At the end of the day the Ravens are all about the defense this year. This will be a test of the progress that the Ravens have made. Were the Bengals and Dalton just bad? Or will the Ravens have a defense that rivals the Seahawks and Broncos? The Browns offensive line should have fits trying to contain Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon and Co.
TJ Watt was able to explode on the scene against the Browns, so expect the pass rush to do more than the Steelers were able to achieve. Additionally, if AJ Green and Co. could not get open quick enough for Andy Dalton who on the Browns will give our secondary issues. This will be a crucial part of the game and dictates how the offense plays.
Overall this should be a win for the Ravens at M&T Bank to move onto 2-0. The Ravens are currently 8 point favorites over the Browns. The Ravens should win this game by a margin larger than 8. On paper the Ravens are a much better team than the Browns and the Ravens defense has been Elite at home over the years. Despite the promising look the Browns had against the Steelers expect the division to remain a hard fought battle between the Ravens and The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0).