NFL MVP Lamar Jackson leads the Baltimore Ravens into battle in week one as they welcome the Cleveland Browns to town on Sunday. The Ravens went 14-2 in the regular season in 2019 before losing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs to the Tennessee Titans. The Browns, on the other hand, had a disappointing season, going just 6-10. These two teams split their two games last season, with Cleveland winning 40-25 in week four and Baltimore winning by a score of 31-15 in week 16.
Browns look to bounce back from disappointing 2019 seasonThere were a lot of high expectations for the Cleveland Browns entering the 2019 season. They were coming off a 7-8-1 record in 2018 and they seemingly had found their quarterback of the future in Baker Mayfield. Many experts were picking the Browns to compete for a playoff berth or even a division title. However, things didn’t go as planned, and, well, the Browns are the Browns, so they limped to a 6-10 record, which ultimately cost head coach Freddie Kitchens his job after just one season.
Kevin Stefanski, who was the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator last season, steps into the hot seat as the Browns new head coach in 2020. The 38-year-old will be making his head coaching debut on Sunday. Alex Van Pelt joins Stefanski as offensive coordinator. Van Pelt, who broke many of Dan Marino’s passing records at Pitt, has been coaching in the NFL since 2006, most recently as the quarterbacks coach of the Cincinnati Bengals the last two seasons. On the defensive side of the ball, Joe Woods was named defensive coordinator. He was the pass game coordinator/DBs coach for the San Francisco 49ers last season.
"It's very exciting obviously for me and my family," Stefanski said after his hire on clevelandbrowns.com. "We're really looking forward to moving out here and getting situated in Cleveland and the adventure of it all. From my professional level, I just could not be more eager to get to work with this group. I think we have some really good players here. I think we have some outstanding people in this building.
After completing 63.8% of his passes for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns in 14 games in his rookie campaign, quarterback Baker Mayfield had somewhat of a sophomore slump in 2019. Playing in all 16 games last season, he completed less than 60% of his passes for 3,827 yards. He threw for just 22 touchdowns, while throwing 21 interceptions. He was also sacked 40 times last season. He had his best game of the season last year versus the Ravens, as he went 20-for-30 for a season-high 342 yards in Cleveland’s 40-25 victory in Week Four.
Nick Chubb is back to man the backfield for the Browns. He rushed for 1,494 yards, which was second-best in the NFL, on 298 carries, which was the third-most in the league. His 5.0 yards per carry was ninth-best in the NFL. Expect a similar amount of carries, though with Kareem Hunt around for a full season, they don't have to rely just on Chubb. They have one of the best running back duos in the league. The Browns also return a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. Landry topped the team with 83 receptions, 1,174 yards and six touchdowns, while Beckham wasn’t too far behind, catching 74 passes for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns.
The Browns scored just 20.9 points per game last season, while they gave up 24.6 points per game. They were pretty good against the pass on defense last season, giving up just 216.9 yards per game through the air. Their rush defense wasn’t as good, though, as they gave up over 2,300 yards on the ground for an average of 144.7 yards per game. They will have to step big time on run defense against the run-crazy Ravens.
The Browns had a -8 turnover ratio last season. Cleveland may be missing a few key starters on their defense on Sunday, as defensive end Myles Garrett, linebacker B.J. Goodson, and cornerback Greedy Williams are all listed as questionable with various injuries.
Ravens look for deeper run in 2020After securing the top seed for the NFL Playoffs last season, the Baltimore Ravens were one-and-done in the playoffs as their promising season came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens hope this year ends differently, as they are poised to make a long run in this year’s postseason. They are ranked second in ESPN’s Football Power Index heading into week one, behind just the Kansas City Chiefs. Baltimore, who lost just two games last season, has the easiest schedule in the NFL based on last season’s records, so another division title and top seed may be in the making for the Ravens this season. The Ravens enter the season relatively healthy, as only backup wide receiver Chris Moore and backup defensive end Justin Madubuike are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Lamar Jackson led the NFL last season with 36 touchdown passes on his way to his first MVP Award in 2019. He took a major step forward throwing the ball last season, completing 66.1% of his passes for 3,127 yards and just six interceptions. He also led the Ravens in rushing, gaining 1,206 yards for a 6.9 yards per carry average and seven rushing touchdowns. Mark Ingram II returns in the backfield after a 1,018-yard season in which he led the team with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Tight end Mark Andrews was Jackson’s favorite target last season, catching 64 passes for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. Three of the Ravens top-five pass catchers in 2019 were tight ends. Wide receivers Marquise Brown (46 catches , 584 yards, seven TD’s), Willie Snead IV (31 catches, 339 yards, five TD’s), and Miles Boykin (13 catches, 198 yards, three TD’s) join Andrews in the starting lineup. Brown has put on around 20 pounds in the offseason and should have a big year, but the Ravens probably should have added another veteran receiver. Jackson didn't trust his receivers last season other than Brown. Boykin has the size at 6-4, 225 to become a key number two receiver and target in the red zone.
The best kicker in NFL history returns for the Ravens in 2020. Justin Tucker has made 90.8% of his kicks in his career, including a 28-29 (96.6%) performance on field goals last season. He has scored 141 points in each of his last four seasons.
Baltimore outscored its opponents last season by an average of 33.1-17.6 last season. They gave up just 207.2 passing yards per game and 93.4 rushing yards per game. The Ravens had a +10 turnover ratio in 2019.
The Ravens run defense will be tested right off the bat against the Browns. Baltimore added speedy linebacker Patrick Queen in the draft and former All-Pro DE/T Calais Campbell and DE Derek Wolfe to enhance the run defense.
“That's [Browns Head Coach Kevin] Stefanski's bread and butter, going all the way back in that system that he's been a part of," Head Coach John Harbaugh said about the running game on BaltimoreRavens.com. "He talks about how important it is, and you can see it in the offenses that he's coached in the past. So, yes. It's going to be a big part of what we do, and we're about to find out, because we're going to play a really good running team on Sunday."
Trends found on oddsshark.com:
- The Ravens are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games overall
- The Ravens are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games versus an AFC opponent
- The Ravens are 4-1 ATS in their last five games in week one
- The Browns are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall
- The Browns are 3-6 ATS in their last nine games versus Baltimore
- The Browns are 0-6 ATS in their last six games on the road
- The Browns are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games in week one