September 27, 02012
After an emotional come-from-behind victory to avenge last season’s AFC Championship loss, the Baltimore Ravens are once again looking like the top dogs in the AFC. However, they can’t look past the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, even if their fellow rivals are 0-3. The Browns are likely headed into a steady rainfall over the Baltimore Harbor, which will need to factor into the gameplan.
As Midwestern storms flow East towards the Chesapeake, NFLWeather reports there is a 60% chance of rain with a likely scattered thunderstorms over Baltimore Thursday evening. Mix that with the humidity hovering around 74% and this will be an extremely muggy match-up. And to top it all off, a foggy, hazy fourth quarter with mild 5-10 mph winds from the west is being forecast.
Statistics alone do not favor the visiting Browns, with the Ravens having taken the previous eight meetings. However, the last two games have only been by a touchdown apart. It’s also been a while since Cleveland won a regular season game, over 300 days ago. Even harder to believe is that it’s been over a year since their last victory away from home, when a Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts hosted Cleveland in mid-September.
Making matters worse, the rain has treated the Ravens well in recent years, especially at home. According to NFLWeather.com’s historical analysis, since 2009 the Baltimore Ravens are 5-0 at home when raining and 3-0 against Cleveland, which includes two victories at M&T Bank Stadium. Furthermore, the Browns were outscored in those three meetings by a 52-point margin. Baltimore hasn’t lost in it’s last 13 straight home games and has a nine game win streak over AFC North opponents.
The AFC North was a division dominated by stifling defenses ,but is evolving into a set of high octane offenses. In 2008 Baltimore took Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco and Rutgers running back Ray Rice and both are the foundation to an increasingly dangerous attack, having just outscored the New England Patriots’ juggernaut last week. The Ravens’ offense is fourth in the league in total yards per game (419.3).
Heading into Thursday, the Browns are pretty dinged up despite it being only week four. Tight end Alex Smith is still out with his head injury and joining him in street clothes is wide out Mohamed Massaquoi. On the positive side, Trent Richardson was a full participant Tuesday and Wednesday and is listed as probable meanwhile Josh Cribbs was limited in practice but listed as probable. Given all the standout injuries on the Cleveland offense, guys like Greg Little and Benjamin Watson will be called upon often in the driving rain. If the Browns are hoping to have any success against a speedy Ravens’ D, deception might be the main ingredient.