Joe Haden vs. Steve Smith
Back in Week 3, Smith got to the best of Haden, hauling in a 32-yard reception with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter to set up a Ravens game-winning field goal. Haden said the loss was his fault, and, in turn, went back to the drawing board to rediscover his identity as a Pro Bowl cornerback. There's little arguing the fifth-year cornerback has been Cleveland's defensive MVP during the second half of the season. If he's able to play through a shoulder injury, expect him to want revenge on Smith.
Coach Mike Pettine indicated Hughes, who is back off the injured reserve list, will play and possibly receive a large number of snaps. The third-year defensive linemen injured his knee Oct. 26 against the Raiders and has been rehabbing ever since. Hughes is known as a run-stuffer, and the Browns badly need a big body to plug holes. "It's been so long since I've been out there," Hughes said. "I'll definitely be fired up to help the team win."
Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin
The last time Cleveland played Baltimore, it was these two speedy receivers who almost tipped the game the Browns' way. Benjamin caught a 43-yard pass to set up a Browns touchdown while Gabriel torched the Ravens for a 70-yarder. Baltimore has the 28th-ranked secondary in the NFL and they are susceptible to giving up big pass plays. Even if it is Connor Shaw starting at quarterback, it might be worth it to take some chances down the field at M&T Bank stadium.
Last week's hidden gem at linebacker will likely play an even larger role this week, as the Browns move toward evaluating players for next year's roster. Read our feature story on why Cleveland wasn’t surprised to see Solomon make an immediate impact against the Panthers.
Free agents going into next year
The Browns have a boatload of cap room headed into free agency, but there are also several guys whose contracts will expire.
Unrestricted: DL Ahtyba Rubin, LB Jabaal Sheard, CB Buster Skrine, WR Marlon Moore, S Jim Leonhard, QB Brian Hoyer, K Garrett Hartley, DL Sione Fua, RB Shaun Draughn, TE Jordan Cameron and WR Miles Austin.
Restricted: DL Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, S Tashaun Gipson, LB Craig Robertson, OL Ryan Seymour, P Spencer Lanning and OL Andrew McDonald.
Things got physical in Week 3 against these two teams, and the Browns committed some mental mistakes. Cleveland boasted a season-high 12 penalties, causing Pettine to say "we lost our cool." It will be even more ramped up on the Baltimore sideline, as this truly is a playoff game for the Ravens. If San Diego loses and Baltimore wins, the Ravens will sneak into the postseason with a 10-6 record. Everything is on the line for the Ravens, and the Browns greatly want to reach a record of at least .500 for the first time since 2007.