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Ravens-Browns preview


Three keys to victory for the Ravens

1)      Spread the football around

Because of how successful the Steelers and Saints were able to throw the football on the Browns, expect the Ravens to employ a similar strategy. Browns coach Mike Pettine said earlier this week that receiver Steve Smith seems like the missing piece for Baltimore's offense. Watch for Flacco to try and stretch the field early in the game to both Smith's (Torrey included) which will then make it easier for underneath passes to tight ends Owen Daniels and Dennis Pitta.

2)      Stop Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell

The Ravens goal on defense is to make Cleveland's offense one-dimensional. The Browns' reliance upon the running game is why their offense has been clicking to begin the 2014 campaign. Rookie running back Terrance West is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, while Isaiah Crowell has been a battering ram legitimately striking fear in would-be tacklers. Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his unit won't be frightened by rookies, though. Watch for the Ravens to stuff the box and try and be the first team to stifle the "Baby Backs."

3)       Pick off Brian Hoyer

Cleveland's quarterback hasn't thrown an interception in 131 straight attempts, tied for the second longest active streak in the league. Hoyer is off to a flying start in 2014, but even he's admitted the Steelers and Saints have dropped one, or two interceptions they should've had. If Baltimore can get their paws on any errant throws, it may be the decisive factor in earning a victory on the road.

Three keys to victory for the Browns

1)      Sack Joe Flacco

Pressuring and knocking down the Ravens quarterback won't be enough in this game. The Browns will have to wrap up the lengthy quarterback and toss him to the turf. Not only will the plays result in negative yardage, it'll get the Dawg Pound rocking FirstEnergy Stadium. Drew Brees will be the first to tell you the Cleveland crowd stalled the Saints' offense in the first half of their Week 2 loss. If the Browns sack Flacco four times, their chances of victory will dramatically increase.

2)      Secondary has to show up

The Browns' front office put a premium on their secondary in the offseason. Adding Donte Whitner and Justin Gilbert told the rest of the league it'll be tough to throw on Cleveland – no matter if you are a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Outside of safety Tashaun Gipson, not one player in the unit has truly had a standout game. Against Baltimore, this must change. Look for either Joe Haden or Whitner prove why they routinely play in Pro Bowls at the end of the season.

3)      Another receiver must elevate their game

Andrew Hawkins has been one of the most reliable targets in the NFL through two weeks of action. The 28-year-old has pulled in 157 yards on 14 receptions, the latter number tying him for fifth in the league. Cleveland will need more than Hawkins to expose Baltimore's iffy back end. Jordan Cameron remains questionable with a shoulder injury. Miles Austin has flashed the ability to get open and caught a touchdown last week and could surprise the Ravens. But watch for undrafted rookie Taylor Gabriel. The jitterbug wide receiver had success on routes over the middle of the field in the preseason and can fly in the open field.

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