Week 4: Browns-Ravens preview

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Cleveland Browns (0-3) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Thursday, 8:25 ET, NFL Network, Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan
Last Meeting: The Ravens won, 20-14, at home last Dec. 24 with QB Joe Flacco throwing a pair of touchdown passes.
Streaking: The Ravens have won 12 straight home games and 20 of their last 21 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The engine that can: Browns RB Trent Richardson's first career 100-yard rushing effort has been bookended by games in which he combined for 66 yards on 31 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Not coincidentally, fellow rookie QB Brandon Weeden threw a combined six interceptions in Weeks 1 and 3 while having a clean slate in that second game. Despite whispers of MLB Ray Lewis struggling against the run in his 17th season, Baltimore is allowing only 3.3 yards per carry. While the Ravens don't generate a strong rush from their front four, the Browns don't want to see Weeden trying to decipher their blitz packages while also being wary of S Ed Reed baiting him into mistakes on long passing downs.
Establishing an identity: The Ravens used their no-huddle offense on 44 of 65 snaps against New England on Sunday night, although the shotgun formation wasn't utilized as heavily (24 of 29 passes vs. 37 of 44 in Week 2). More telling was FB Vonta Leach being on the field for 47 percent of the snaps as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made a concerted effort to keep RB Ray Rice involved. That balance is imperative against a Cleveland defense that has quietly racked up nine sacks through three games. Given time, Flacco is showing a penchant for lofting deep passes to WR Torrey Smith, and the Browns' back end isn't as solid minus suspended CB Joe Haden.
Need to know: The Browns lead the AFC with five interceptions. ... Baltimore hasn't lost to the Browns since drafting Joe Flacco in 2008.

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