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Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens Game Preview

Who: Baltimore Ravens

When: October 11 (Sunday, 1 p.m.)

Where: M&T Bank Stadium 

Series history (Last meeting): 8-24 (Ravens 20, Browns 10 in 2014 at M&T Bank Stadium)

The coach: John Harbaugh

The stakes: Though the score doesn't indicate it in the second matchup, Cleveland gave Baltimore a run for its money twice last season. Still, as Mike Pettine says, there is a phrase for almost winning – it's called losing. The Browns need to at the very least split with the Ravens in 2015. 

Matchup to watch: WR Steve Smith vs. CB Joe Haden. Smith hauled in 13 passes for 191 yards in two games against Haden in 2014. 

Offseason storyline: Stick to the system. The Ravens let several high-profile and beloved players go with Torrey Smith, Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones and Pernell McPhee headlining the list. General manager Ozzie Newsome has a strict monetary value for every player on his roster, and once a player exceeds it, he usually hits the road. The subtractions this season, though, seem more overwhelming than normal. 


Biggest addition: WR Breshad Perriman. Besides re-signing running back Justin Forsett, Baltimore was mostly mum during free agency. But the club opted for offensive playmakers in the draft and it may have found a steal in Perriman. The first-round pick from Central Florida ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash and averaged 20.9 yards per catch for the Knights.

He gone: Losing Ngata will probably be the hardest thing to replace. Not many human beings that weigh 340 pounds can move like Ngata, who patrolled the middle of Baltimore's line for a highly productive nine seasons.

The star: QB Joe Flacco. Is he in the Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers category of stars? No. But the 30-year-old Flacco continues to stand tall in the pocket, year after year, and deliver big-time throws. Ask the Steelers in the playoffs. Flacco tossed 27 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions last season. Expect a similar number in 2015.

The X-Factor: LB C.J. Mosley. In his first NFL season, the linebacker amassed a whopping 133 tackles and two interceptions. If you watched the Ravens, it was apparent that, even as a rookie, Mosley was taking command of the entire defense. 

They'll make the playoffs if...: Forsett proves he's not a one-hit wonder at running back; if cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb step up their level of play and if Harbaugh continues to keep the team on the same page.

The season will go south in a hurry if...: Injuries force more unproven players in the lineup than expected; new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman hits the wrong buttons on play calls and if the team struggles to stop the talented AFC North running backs.

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