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Browns treating Ravens matchup with mindset that AFC North 'goes through Baltimore' - News & Notes

The Browns had a front-row seat to watch the Ravens celebrate their 2018 AFC North crown.

That, along with what they've already seen so far from the defending division champions, is more than enough for them to acknowledge winning the division in 2019 "goes through Baltimore."

"Baltimore has played some really good football. Everything we do in this division goes through Baltimore; they are the defending champs of the division," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. "We are looking forward to the challenge. It is going to be a physical game, they always try to create that and we want to form our identity to do the same thing."

The Ravens enter Sunday's matchup with a one-game lead on the Browns for first place in the AFC North. Yes, it's still the first quarter of the season, and there's so much football left on the schedule, but this marks the first division game for either of these teams.

As many coaches like to say, division games count as two on the schedule, and the Browns know they have to be better than they were at the conclusion of the 2018 season, when their late comeback fell short in the 26-24 loss. They have to be better because the Ravens, led by second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, appear to be much better than they were last year, when Jackson was a rookie and the offense wasn't completely built around his strengths.

"It being the first divisional game, I think, is the most important aspect of this, looking at it where we can stand in our division," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "We separate the season into four quarters and so this last game in this first quarter of the season is a very important one going up against the Ravens."

Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Ravens Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey

-- Browns tight end David Njoku has elected not to have surgery on his injured wrist, a Browns team spokesman said Wednesday.

Njoku sustained a concussion and injured wrist in Cleveland's Week 2 win over the Jets. He was placed on injured reserve last week. The Browns are able to designate two players to return from injured reserve during a season, but the player is still required to miss at least eight weeks.

A decision on surgery has not been made regarding LB Christian Kirksey, who suffered a chest injury against the Jets and is also on injured reserve

-- Nick Chubb liked the increase in playing time he saw Sunday against the Rams.

Chubb was on the field for all but two snaps and finished with his best numbers of the season. After averaging 21 touches in the first two games, Chubb finished with 27 after carrying the ball 23 times for 96 yards and catching four passes for 35 yards.

"It gives me a chance to get going and get more opportunities to make plays," Chubb said. "So I enjoyed it."

Chubb is second on the team with 11 receptions. He caught just 20 all of last year.

"I feel better doing it, just getting the opportunity to get out there and run more routes and build off that," Chubb said. "But I do feel better."

-- Mayfield acknowledged the loss of Njoku is a big one for the Browns offense but he's been impressed by the players helping to fill the void.

Demetrius Harris took the bulk of the snaps at tight end Sunday and was on the receiving end of Mayfield's lone touchdown of the night. Ricky Seals-Jones, who spent the past two years with the Cardinals, saw an increase in his playing time and caught his first pass as a Brown, a 14-yarder in the second quarter.

"It is tough when you lose a guy like that because he is a monster in the mismatch world, having him line up in different spots seeing how they are going to play him," Mayfield said. If they are going to play him man, who are they putting on him? Different stuff like that. It is tough losing him, but I think our tight ends played well.

"As we continue to realize who they are, I think we can use Ricky as somebody like that and somebody similar to one of the receiver type and just play to their strengths."