The Browns are a 2-4 football team, but they're still undefeated in one crucial part of their record as they head into Baltimore for Week 7.
Cleveland is 1-0 in the AFC North and needs to keep that record unscathed Sunday against a 3-3 Ravens team that's also had an inconsistent start to the year. With two divisional games ahead — the second being a Monday Night showdown against the Bengals in Week 8 — the Browns can pick themselves up in a big way by taking care of business in Baltimore and bringing them one step closer to a .500 record before a bye week in Week 9.
"Right now, it's the biggest game of the season, and that's not only because it's the next one," Myles Garrett said. "Right now, we have to get rolling. It's a very crucial game for us. The next one will be as well, but we have to focus on this one."
These are the biggest questions face as they head into Baltimore:
Can the defense find their footing against Jackson?
It's a must for them to snap their skid.
Everyone has known what Jackson is capable of as a mobile and highly elusive QB since he won the league's MVP honors in 2019, and he's shown glimpses of matching that potential again this season — he's fifth in the league with 451 rushing yards and third with 13 passing touchdowns. He's only totaled more than 218 passing yards in one game this season, but that's because he doesn't always need his arm to beat opponents.
"My thoughts (on him) are pretty similar to last year," LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said. "As time goes on, I'm pretty sure it will be similar. He's a dynamic player. He will always be a dynamic player. Focusing on keying him and making sure we slow him down, whether it's play-actions or whether it's zone-reads, etc. I think my mindset will always be the same."
The Browns slowed Jackson significantly in Week 12 against the Ravens last year and held him to only 233 scrimmage yards while intercepting him four times. Even though the result of the game was still a 16-10 loss, the performance was one of the defense's best of the season and the start of a strong finish to the year on that side of the ball.
The defense has reviewed tape from that game this week, but it also needs to find solutions from their overall inconsistencies to have a shot at replicating their success from a year ago. The Browns rank 19th in the league against the pass (229.8 pass yards allowed per game) and 24th against the run (131.5 yards allowed per game) and have allowed the most yards before contact on designed runs per carry (3.37), per ESPN. They entered Week 7 ranked 31st in the league in points allowed per game (27.2).
Somehow, someway they need to reverse those trends and stop Jackson.
"Is it possible? Of course," Owusu-Koramoah said. "It's also possible that hey, we may make some mistakes. The key is to make sure we get our fundamentals down and our communication the right way, try to do some of the similar things that we did last year and make sure that we contain those playmakers that they have over there with No. 8 (Jackson) and No. 17 (RB Kenyan Drake). They have a lot of playmakers and a lot of people who are emerging. That's what we are focusing on."
The Browns should get a lift from LB Deion Jones, who is set to be activated from injured reserve and make his Browns debut. A Pro Bowler in 2017, Jones was acquired from the Falcons in a trade last week and has recorded at least 100 tackles in the last three seasons.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens
Will the Browns get Clowney back? Teller?
One player who could help the defense step their game up is Jadeveon Clowney, who is listed as questionable for the game with an ankle injury but looked good in practice this week, according to Myles Garrett and head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Clowney has played in only one game since Week 2 due to injuries and started the year on a strong note with 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble in the first two games. Garrett — who aggravated the shoulder injury suffered in his September car accident Sunday against the Patriots but will still play — was confident that Clowney would reunite with him.
"I'm feeling good enough to play," Garrett said. "I know JD is, too, so we'll both be looking forward to going out there and making a difference."
Stefanski liked what he saw from Clowney in practice this week. Clowney didn't practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday.
"I would say he's looking like himself," Stefanski said. "He's getting better, but I'm going to continue to monitor that throughout the weekend."
The Browns will be down two Pro Bowlers, however, in RG Wyatt Teller (calf) and CB Denzel Ward (concussion). Hjalte Froholdt will step in for Teller, while the onus will fall on Greedy Williams, Greg Newsome II and M.J. Emerson Jr. to fill the void from Ward's absence.
Can the Browns reignite the run?
It won't be easy to do against the Ravens, who rank eighth in the league against the run and haven't allowed a team to cross 145 rushing yards in a game this season.
The Browns, meanwhile, are coming off a game where Chubb was held to a season-low 56 yards against a well-schemed Patriots defense led by Bill Belichick. New England stacked the box well against Chubb to close rushing lanes, and it's likely Ravens coach John Harbaugh deploys a similar tactic Sunday. The fact that Teller is out will also make the job harder for the Browns, although Froholdt did grade well as a run blocker last week with a 71.2 grade from Pro Football Focus.
For his career, Chubb has carried the ball 99 times against the Ravens for 453 yards (4.6 yards per carry).
"Just taking what I do, how I run the ball, my patience and all of those things, I just stick with that," Chubb said. "I know eventually the line will do a great job blocking and we will open something up, but it never came for us (last Sunday). That's part of it. That happens, but back to work today."
Which Ravens playmakers are healthy?
The Ravens are banged up, too, with injuries to all of their top skill position players in RB J.K. Dobbins (knee), TE Mark Andrews (knee) WR Rashod Bateman (foot) and QB Lamar Jackson (hip).
Dobbins has already been ruled out for the game, while Andrews and Bateman are questionable. Jackson is expected to play after he first appeared on the injury report this week. Andrews has yet to miss a game this season, while Bateman hasn't played since Week 4.
With Dobbins out, the Ravens will likely deploy Kenyan Drake as the starting RB after he rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries last week against the Giants.