Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens

This Week 17 AFC North matchup has huge playoff implications for the home team, with the Cleveland Browns traveling due east to Baltimore, MD to take on the Baltimore Ravens, who need a victory at their M&T Bank Stadium to stay atop the AFC North and in the playoffs, all happening on Sunday, December 30 at 4:25 pm, broadcasted by CBS.

The 7-7-1 Cleveland Browns:

Starting in preseason with HBO’s popular series Hard Knocks, the football world got to see the Cleveland Browns transform themselves from the 0-16 losers they were last season into possibly becoming 8-7-1 winners this season, having won five of their last six games.

Coaching changes midway through the season seemed to spark rookie Baker Mayfield, a brash young quarterback who is setting records and bringing wins to Cleveland, including their second defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 by a score of 26-18.

Cleveland is just 2-5 on the road but they’re 3-1-1 against the AFC North (including a prior defeat of the Ravens in Week 5) and given their recent surge of winning adrenalin, it’s entirely possible they could surprise the Ravens with an upset victory.

The 9-6 Baltimore Ravens:

Ever since rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson took over starting duties for the underperforming Joe Flacco in Week 11, the 9-6 Baltimore Ravens have gone 5-1, including an exciting Week 16 win over the playoff-bound Los Angeles Chargers, 22-10.

Jackson had a quiet game in the air, throwing 12-for-22 for 204 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, but he also ran 13 times for 39 yards, forcing the Chargers’ defense to use up a man to cover him.

Baltimore is 5-2 at M&T Bank Stadium and they’re just 2-3 against AFC North teams, but the Ravens are on a roll with Jackson and they’re playing for their postseason life so expect this to be a fierce battle fought on Sunday.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 39 times, with Baltimore winning 29 games and Cleveland winning 10 games. The Ravens have won 18 of the last 21 meetings but this season they lost to the Browns in Week 5 by a score of 12-9.

If the Browns win this matchup, they will have a winning record, 8-7-1, for the first time since 2007 and they’d remain in third place in the AFC North and would have eliminated the Ravens from the playoffs but that win also gives their nemesis the Pittsburgh Steelers postseason life.

But if the Ravens come out on top, they’ll be 10-6 and will have won the AFC North and become the fourth seed in the playoffs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers would be eliminated from postseason play.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Week 17 Browns-Ravens matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Browns and the Ravens and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Browns offense ranked 14th in the NFL

Baker Mayfield’s Browns score an average of 22.3 points per game and move the ball a total of 364.9 yards and their red zone touchdown scoring percentage is sixth best at 67.39.

With three more passing touchdowns, Mayfield could break Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdowns by totaling 27, to go along with several other franchise records he’s broken.

An injured receive corps didn’t help Mayfield this season, but receiver Jarvis Landry did with 76 catches for 874 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Browns’ rushing attack ranks 9th overall

It’s been a zig-zag ride for the Browns’ running back room, but when the dust settled from the departed (Isaiah Crowell and Carlos Hyde), rookie Nick Chubb and fourth-year player Duke Johnson Jr. have done more than impressed.

Chubb is approaching a 1000-yard season with 972 yards and 8 touchdowns (including a franchise record-breaking 92-yard touchdown run), which is even more impressive given that for the first six weeks Chubb averaged less than 3 carries per game.

Dual-threat Johnson has had 82 touches for 606 yards from scrimmage for 3 touchdowns, averaging 7.4 yards per touch.

Cleveland offensive Injuries

No Cleveland offensive players are currently listed as injured.

The 2018 Ravens offense ranked 12th overall

So far this season, the Ravens have scored 24.2 points per game and on average moved the ball 369.1 yards down the field.

Jackson has now started six games and thrown for 1,022 yards and 6 touchdowns with three interceptions, but his ability and willingness to run has forced opponents to change the way they game plan for the Ravens.

Currently John Brown is Baltimore’s best receiver, though he’s only caught 41 passes for 708 yards but for 5 touchdowns.

Baltimore’s run game 2nd in the league

The Ravens have gotten lucky with their undrafted free agent Gus Edwards, who has run 125 times for 642 yards and 2 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Baltimore’s second most productive runner is quarterback Jackson, who has run 127 times for 605 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Baltimore offensive Injuries

Listed as Questionable for Week 17: guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) and tackle James Hurst (undisclosed).

Browns Defense ranks 29th in the league

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense allows opponents to score 24.4 points per game and gain an average of 388.3 total yards, their rush defense ranked 24th and their passing defense ranked 27th.

The Browns have the 24th most sacks with 35 and the second most takeaways in the league with 30, and of those, 17 are interceptions (4th most overall).

Browns Defensive Players to watch:

No Browns defensive players have made the 100+ tackle club yet, but two are close – watch for outside linebacker Jamie Collins (95 combined tackles) and middle linebacker Joe Schobert (89 combined tackles) to perhaps make the club in Week 17.

If you enjoy seeing endless hustle, watch defensive end Myles Garrett move full speed on every play, so far tied for the sixth most sacks (12.5), 28 quarterback hits, 43 tackles (11 for loss), 3 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles.

Strong safety Damarious Randall has intercepted four passes (tied for sixth most) while making 79 combine tackles, 9 passes defended and a forced fumble.

Browns defensive injuries

Listed as Questionable for Week 17: cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion).

Listed as Out for Week 17 is linebacker Tanner Vallejo (hamstring) and cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee).

Ravens Defense is ranked first overall

The Ravens defense allows opponents to gain over 100 yards less than the Browns per game (284.1) and score a touchdown less every time, averaging just 17.5 points per game.

With a rush defense ranked 3rd and a pass defense ranked 4th, Baltimore is tied for the sixth most sacks (43) in the league but is only tied for the 24th most interceptions (9) and the 30th most takeaways (14). 

Ravens Defensive Players to watch:

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is a tackle away from 100 for the season (5 for loss), plus he’s had 2 quarterback hits, a half a sack and 3 passes defended.

Baltimore’s sacking trio has 22.5 sacks between them – they are outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (8.5), Matt Judon (7.0) and Terrell Suggs (7.0).

Responsible for almost half the team’s interceptions are cornerbacks Brandon Carr (2 picks) and Marion Humphrey (2 picks).

Ravens Defensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Week 17: no Ravens currently listed.

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Cleveland’s punter, Britton Colquitt is in his third year and has punted 79 times (third most in the league) for a net average of 38.1 yards per punt, ranked 32nd in the league.

Baltimore’s punter, Sam Koch, is a 12-year veteran who has punted 56 times for a net average of 39.9 yards per punt, ranked 16th in the NFL.

Placekickers:

Cleveland’s front office hired rookie placekicker, Greg Joseph, after the Browns initial kicker missed critical field goals and extra points in the first two games.

Joseph is 16-for-18, his longest was a 51-yarder, and he has missed four extra point attempts (22/26).

Baltimore’s veteran All-Pro placekicker, Justin Tucker, has gone 31-for-35, his longest was a 56-yarder.

Tucker has missed one extra point attempt (34/35).

Punt Returners:

Cleveland’s punt returner, safety Jabrill Peppers, is ranked 25th in the league.

Peppers has returned 25 punts for 219 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 8.8 yards per return, his longest being 33 yards.

Baltimore’s punt returner, Cyrus Jones, is ranked 5th in the league.

Jones has returned 18 kicks for 259 yards, averaging 14.4 yards per return, his longest being a 70-yard return for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in Week 12.

Browns–Ravens prediction and odds

The odds makers have the Ravens favored over the Browns by 6.5 with an over/under of 40.5.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Pete Prisco goes with the under and has it Ravens 19, Browns 16

John Breech takes the over and the underdog and predicts it Browns 23, Ravens 20

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