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Burning Questions

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Burning Questions for Week 15 vs. Ravens

The biggest questions the Browns face in their second-to-last home game of 2022


The Browns' playoff chances are slim with four games left in the regular season, but Saturday's matchup against the Ravens is still an important game for one big reason: QB Deshaun Watson is making his home debut for the Browns and will face a division rival for the second straight week.

For Watson, it's all about continuing to knock off the rust after not playing in the NFL for 700 days. For the Browns, it's all about finishing the year on a strong note to build momentum for next season — and to DE Myles Garrett, as long as the playoff chances aren't zero, there's zero reason to change anything about the approach to each game.

"I know our chances aren't completely zero to make the playoffs, either," he said. "I heard a stat that our chances to make the playoffs right now are greater than the chances the Jets had to win with two minutes left in the game (in Week 2). So we have a chance, and as long as that's there, I'm going to do all I can, my teammates are going to do all we can to secure a win one at a time and see where we're at the end of the season."

Here's the biggest questions the Browns face in grabbing a victory Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens

1. Will Watson continue to show improvement in home debut?

This will likely continue to be the top question for the Browns every week the rest of the season. It'll be imperative for Watson to keep showing strides toward a return to the Pro Bowl QB he was from 2017-2020 for the Browns to end the year in a strong way, and the arrow seems to be pointing up for Watson to do that after two starts.

He looked better last week against the Bengals in his second start of the season, but he still believes he's got a long way to go playing like his former self.

"I'm not close to where I [want to be] at, and I don't want to be where I was in 2020 — I want to be better," he said. "I have a long way to go. I want to continue to improve. I want to be that player whenever I step on the field that no one can stop us. That's my mentality, but we have to continue to go out there and continue to show that and try to do that and not just talk about it but actually prove it on the field."

This week, Watson will look to build on his performance last game when he completed 26 of 42 pass attempts for 276 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The offense showed a few promising moments with Watson — none more than a three-play sequence where he hit TE David Njoku on three consecutive plays for his first passing TD with the Browns. But there were also a few plays Watson wanted back, like his interception on a poor throwing decision to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones in the fourth quarter.

Still, the majority of throws from Watson looked sharper than those made in his debut in Houston. Now, he'll look to show more signs of improvement against a Ravens defense that ranks 26th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (249.2).

"I'm nowhere near where I want to be," Watson said. "This team also is nowhere near where we want to be. We have to continue to just keep growing and finish the season strong."

2. Can Ravens slow down Huntley?

The Ravens' QB situation will be interesting, too, with QB Tyler Huntley set to make his second consecutive start for their injured Pro Bowl starter, Lamar Jackson (knee). Huntley started for the Ravens last week in their win over the Steelers but exited the game in the third quarter and was placed in concussion protocol. He was a full participant the last two practice days this week, though, and is expected to start.

The Browns remember Huntley well from when he started the Ravens' second game against them last season and nearly helped them pull off an 18-point comeback in the second half in a 24-22 Browns win. Huntley threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give the Ravens a chance late and also rushed six times for 45 yards.

The Browns are fully aware that Huntley poses dangers as a dual-threat QB and treated their preparation for him similarly to how they'd prepare for Jackson. While Huntley might not have the same arm strength as Jackson, the Ravens still don't have to change much about their offense — which is predicated on lots of run-pass option plays and pre-snap motions to confuse the defense — with Huntley under center.

"He's fast. He's elusive," Garrett said. "He's a lot of things that (Ravens QB) Lamar (Jackson) is, really. He just needs a little bit more polish. I think can be that capable of a player if he gets a chance somewhere. It just felt like you were trying to chase down a chicken like doused in honey or something.

"He shook me. He shook JD (DE Jadeveon Clowney). Took down one of the Maliks (former Browns DTs Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell) and then another play got the other Malik (laughter). It was ridiculous. It was all in like a two-play span. The guy is athletically one of the top guys in the league. Just have to be prepared for that, try to keep him in the pocket like we would Lamar and treat him with a lot of respect."

3. Can Browns re-spark the run game?

The Browns could make the operation a lot easier for Watson this week if they're able to revive their run game, which was slowed to 71 total yards last week against the Bengals and hasn't scored a touchdown the last two games.

RB Nick Chubb was slowed to 34 yards last game and 80 yards the previous game against the Texans' last-ranked run defense. It's been a challenge for the Browns to generate the same rushing production since Watson became the starter, and it's something that will likely have to improve for Watson to take bigger strides in his game, too.

"We have to do the little things right," Watson said. "That's taking the little easy plays that the defense gives us and the run game and getting that going. Once we can kind of put all of that together, then the big plays are going to take care of itself."

Starting the run game will be a huge challenge for the Browns this week — the Ravens rank second in the NFL against the run and have averaged 81.2 yards allowed per game. They've completely dominated against the run the last six games and haven't allowed more than 100 total rushing yards in a game in that span.

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