It's game day, and that means it's once again time for Ravens101's five key matchups to watch for and today the Baltimore Ravens are in Cleveland to take on their AFC North rival, the Browns. Both teams will be looking to gain a game on the division leading Cincinnati Bengals after their loss on Thursday Night to the Dolphins, thus this game is vastly important to both sides.
As is the case in any game, there are several key matchups that will help determine the game, and we have narrowed it down to the five most important as the Browns host the Ravens this afternoon.
Ravens pass rush vs Browns pass protection
The Ravens are averaging the second most sacks per game on the opposing quarterback per game at 3.6, and the Browns have not done a good job of protecting their quarterbacks allowing 3.5 sacks per game. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, as well as the rest of the front seven, should be able to tee off on Browns quarterback Jason Campbell, but the key will be for the Ravens pass rush to take advantage of this favorable matchup and not allow the opportunity to slip through their fingers.
Browns pass rush vs Ravens pass protection
Just like the Ravens, the Browns have an advantage in this game as well with their pass rush. Cleveland is sixth in the league averaging 3.2 sacks per game on the opposing quarterback, and although the Ravens have been better at protecting their quarterback than the Browns have, they are still 19th in the NFL allowing 2.9 sacks per game. Baltimore's offensive line is banged up, and A.Q. Shipley will be starting in place of Kelechi Osemele, who is dealing with a back injury, thus the Ravens ability to protect Flacco is going to be critical in this game.
Ravens running game vs Browns running game
Before the bye week, we laid out our key matchups of the game for the Ravens against the Steelers, and the two team's running games were a key matchup. Much like that game, the Browns and Ravens running attacks are a big matchup in this game. Neither team runs the ball very well with Baltimore averaging 74 rushing yards per game (5th worst in NFL), and the Browns 82.6 rushing yards per game is (7th worst in the NFL). It's not going to be easy for either side as both defenses are in the top 13 in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. Which ever team's running game can be the most effective will likely coincide with the winner of the game, much like two weeks ago when Pittsburgh's running game emerged the victory.
Torrey Smith vs Joe Haden
Baltimore's wide receiver core has not been very effective this season, but Smith has been the one constant and with him likely lining up against Brown's cornerback Joe Haden, Smith is going to be a big factor in this game. Haden is in the top tier of corners in the league and Cleveland will likely feel confident in letting him go man-to-man against Smith during the game. If Smith can prove to the Browns that he can not only beat Haden one-on-one, but make big plays as well, Cleveland will have to resort to double teaming which could open the middle of the field for guys like Dallas Clark and Marlon Brown.
Ravens vs 'must win mentality'
Practically every player in the NFL approaches every game like it is a must win, but when you are in the position that the Ravens are in, this game is as close to a must win that an eighth game can be. A key thing to watch today will be how the Ravens respond to that mentality knowing the importance this game has in the AFC North race, as well as the wildcard race. It will not only be the players that need watching, but Head Coach John Harbaugh as well. He has yet to really be in this situation as a head coach, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts during the game and if he shows any panic.
These are our five key matchups to watch for today, what are yours? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!
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