John: It's week four in the NFL season. We're here to preview this week's Thursday night game as the Baltimore Ravens host the Cleveland Browns.
The big news heading into tonight's game is that the NFL has come to an agreement with their locked out referees and as a result the replacement refs are no more.
I really don't want to go on a rant about how bad the replacement refs were because we all saw it with our own eyes, but I'm very happy that the regular guys are back. Let's not pretend that they are always accurate. Not everybody is. They're better than what we saw over the last three weeks, though, so at least now all of the focus can be on the players rather than the guys in the striped shirts.
As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to break down tonight's game.
Standings after Week 3 (Straight Up)
Mike 28-20 (9-7)
John 27-21 (6-10)
Bret 26-22 (8-8)
My excellent 12-4 week two performance was quickly forgotten after this brutal performance. It can only get better, right?
Cleveland Browns (0-3) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1) - 8:20 PM
Baltimore coming off a grueling night game playing on an Anything Can Happen Thursday? I'm tempted....until I look who's on the other side of the @ and see Cleveland.
Still, I like Cleveland to keep this closer than the line. (And I'm calling it one of my 5 picks of the week.) Baltimore's defense has looked pretty pedestrian, and possibly down right BAD in the first three weeks. Susceptible to both the run and the pass. They're clearly missing Terrell Suggs.
Offensively the Browns don't do much well, but I give them credit for putting forth the effort. Weeden really lacks the skill, but he's not afraid to go after plays and stand in the pocket, and that counts for...well...something.
There's not a lot to say going the other way either. Baltimore is better offensively than Cleveland in every part of the game. I expect them to keep the offense vanilla and do just enough to win and get their rest. No huge game for Flacco, no Torrey Smith tearing it up - but a solid day for Ray Rice on the ground and in the short passing game. Baltimore 21 Cleveland 13
Mike: Well, this should be an exciting game. I guess they’re trying to get all the teams to play on Thursday, so we had to get to Cleveland sooner or later. I just don’t really care too much about how this one plays out. Cleveland is 0-3, their defense has just looked terrible (I know they forced a bunch of turnovers against Philly, but I’d blame that more on Vick than anything), and I don’t trust their offense to put up points against a competent defense. They’ve put up 20+ points once this season, against Cincinnati, who according to Football Outsiders has the worst DVOA in the league right now. And I won’t pretend that Baltimore has a shutdown defense or anything like that, but I could see them being on par with Buffalo, and the Browns had a real hard time moving the ball last week.
I expect Baltimore to be able to score quite a bit against the Browns, considering Andy Dalton was able to go 24/31 for 318 yards and 3 TDs a couple weeks ago. No offense to Andy, but he’s not putting up those numbers against a “good” defense, that’s for sure. Baltimore also gets this game at home, and more importantly, we can go back to hating and cursing out the real NFL refs when they blow bad calls instead of the imitation refs. At least now when your team is getting screwed, you know you’re getting screwed by the best the NFL has to offer. Enjoy. Baltimore 34 Cleveland 13
John: These Thursday games are tough to predict. I thought the Packers/Bears game would be high scoring two weeks ago and it wasn't. I thought the Panthers offense would do very well last week and they did not. This time I'm leaning heavily towards the Ravens to have a dominant win because they are simply the better team in every area.
The Browns are predictably sitting at 0-3 and while their offense is playing better than I expected them to be, they still have a long way to go. The best chance they have to be in this game is if they can control the time of possession by feeding rookie RB Trent Richardson and hoping he can find the endzone a couple of times. Of course the Ravens know they will want to do that, so I expect them to crowd the line and make Brandon Weeden beat them with his arm. Will it happen? I doubt it.
When the Ravens have the ball they will be successful. QB Joe Flacco is having a great year finding his weapons whether they are WRs Torrey Smith (amazing performance last week after finding out his brother died the night before), Anquan Boldin (still effective despite slowing down) and TE Dennis Pitta, who is an emerging talent that has Pro Bowl potential. Then there's RB Ray Rice, who is their best and most valuable offensive player. Last year in his two games against the Browns, Rice had 349 yards from scrimmage. I don't see anything changing this year. Rice will likely get 150 yards from scrimmage in this game and that will give the Ravens a big lead early as they cruise to the victory.
Don't worry Browns fans. The draft is only seven months away. Too soon? Ravens 31-10
Thanks for reading. We'll see you again on Friday for the rest of week four.
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