Preview: Ravens Hit the Road to Battle Browns

Ravens linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen hit Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in a week 15 game played on December 17, 2022. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens are back on the road in week four, as they travel to Cleveland to take on the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens fell to 2-1 last Sunday after a heartbreaking over time loss to Indianapolis, while the Browns enter Sundays matchup also at 2-1 after their 27-3 victory over the Tennessee Titians in week three. Sundays contest is an important early divisional matchup as a Ravens win moves them to 2-0 within the division putting them in first within the AFC north.

The Ravens enter Sunday still banged up on both sides of the ball but are slowly starting to have key pieces return. Two of those key pieces being running back Justice Hill (foot) and center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle), both are listed as questionable, but there is optimism both will play. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but did not practice Friday and is officially listed as doubtful. Safeties Kyle Hamilton (back) and Marcus Williams (pectoral) both practiced in full on Friday and are both listed as questionable. Williams is attempting to play in his first game since week one. The Ravens have already ruled out wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Rashod Bateman (hamstring), as well as outside linebackers David Ojabo (ankle/knee) and Odafe Oweh (ankle).

The Browns on the other hand head into Sunday with only one player with an injury designation, but it may be the Browns most important player. Quarterback Deshaun Watson (right shoulder) was limited in practice all week, and reports have come out that Watson did not throw a pass in practice this week, Watson is currently listed as questionable. If Watson is unable to go on Sunday, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will get his first NFL start.

Players to Watch:

Brandon Stephens

Before the start of preseason there was talk that cornerback Brandon Stephens would move to safety in a depth move given the depth already at the cornerback position. Fast forward to week three and Stephens has become the Ravens best cornerback. With Marlon Humphrey yet to play this regular season and Rock Ya-Sin playing in a limited role, playing just 62 defensive snaps through three games, Stephens and Ronald Darby have become the top corners thus far on the roster.

In three games Stephens has 27 tackles and two pass deflections while helping the Ravens give up just 200 yards passing per game, good for 11th best in the NFL. Stephens is a big physical cornerback that has played his way into possibly being cornerback number two once Marlon Humphrey returns to the lineup.

Stephens will have his work cut out for him on Sunday as he will be matched up a lot against Browns leading receiver Amari Cooper, who has 17 receptions on the year for 243 yards and one touchdown.    

Jerome Ford

Jerome Ford is in his second year in the NFL, and while he played in 13 games for the Browns in 2022, he only carried the ball 8 times for a mere 12 yards. But entering the 2023 season Ford looked to be a change of pace behind Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb. Chubb carried the ball over 300 times last season, so entering 2023 it appeared Ford’s opportunities while increased from the prior year would still be slim with Chubb as the workhorse back.

Fast forward to week two on Monday night as the Browns battled the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chubb ran the ball up the middle in the second quarter, before being hit low by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The hit caused Chubb’s knee to hyperextend leading to a gruesome knee injury for Chubb and ending his 2023 season. Ford replaced Chubb as the lead back that night and made the most of it rushing 16 times for 106 yards.

The Browns have re-signed running back Kareem Hunt, but currently Ford appears to be the starter for the time being. While Ford isn’t the bruising back that Chubb is, he is quick and has a great ability to catch out of the backfield. The Ravens will have to honor Ford’s ability and the Browns running game as a whole, as the Browns have the fourth ranked rush offense in the NFL.


Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken will have a tough job trying to crack this Cleveland Browns defense. Through three weeks the Browns have the number one ranked defense have given up 163.7 yards per game during those three games. The Browns are equipped to stop the run and the pass and it all starts up front with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett who has 4.5 sacks so far this year.

The likely return of Justice Hill will have a big impact on not only the Ravens running game, but also the pass game as the Ravens desperately missed his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield last Sunday. Assuming that Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson plays, the key for the Ravens defense will be getting him off his spot and forcing him to move around in the pocket. Sunday won’t be easy for the Ravens both offensively and defensively, but even with several starters out, the Ravens overall have the better roster. In the end the Ravens will make enough big plays to get the win and move to 3-1 and 2-0 against the AFC north. Ravens win 23-17.

Line: Cleveland -2.0

Over/Under: 39

All-Time Record: Baltimore leads series 35-13

Last Meeting: 12/17/22 Cleveland 13-3

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