When the Baltimore Ravens host the Cleveland Browns tonight we have teams with different objectives. The Ravens are looking to maintain their narrow lead in the AFC North Division while the Cleveland Browns need to win to stay out of the division cellar. With the Cincinnati Bengals blowing out the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier today, the Ravens need a win to stay a game ahead of the improved Bengals.
The Browns can pull to within one game of both the Bengals and Ravens with a win tonight.
Both the Ravens and Browns have had their seasons interrupted by crippling injuries.
Baltimore lost their top three runners to injuries early in the season, that is preseason, and All Pro quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed games with nagging injuries. He is a go tonight, after missing last week’s narrow 16-13 road win over the Chicago Bears. Perhaps no player is more vital to the success of their team than Jackson to the Ravens.
The fourth-year pro is missing receivers and runners, while he can do both. Problem for head coach John Harbaugh is that when the game plan puts Jackson’s talent in on nearly every tackle he takes a beating and misses games.
The Browns have also been hampered by key injuries on both sides of the ball. This week, quarterback Baker Mayfield was not on the injury report, which is a mystery in itself. Anyone following the Browns knows Mayfield has more bumps and bruises than the Knight in the Monty Python movie claiming it is only a flesh wound.
When Mayfield is out, the Browns have struggled.
He is in tonight, which is a plus for Cleveland but the real question is not whether he is going to start this game but whether he will be around for the entire contest. The Ravens would be willing to give up a roughing the passer penalty to pile drive the fourth year pro into the turf and out of the game.
Same goes for the Cleveland defense, which has a front four worthy of making life miserable for Jackson tonight.
For years, the AFC North Division was dominated by the Ravens and Steelers. Now, with the Steelers fading away the major competition for Baltimore is from the upstart Bengals.
The Browns would like to be considered in that conversation too, given they cracked the playoff field last season and had high hopes this would be a breakthrough campaign for them.
It hasn’t been so far in 2021, but a win tonight would go a long way to rekindling hope for the long suffering Cleveland fans.
The Ravens need this game to maintain a one game edge over the Bengals, but the Ravens need a win tonight for survival.
Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (+3) over Baltimore Ravens