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Sizing up the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns' Week 2 and 10 foe


One by one, is breaking down each of the Browns' 2016 regular season opponents as the dog days of the offseason unfold.*

Today's preview dips into the AFC North for the first time against an opponent that provided the Browns with their best and worst of memories in 2015.

Who: Baltimore Ravens

When: Week 2 (Sept. 18, FirstEnergy Stadium, 1 p.m.), Week 10 (Nov. 10, 8:25 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium)

Series History (last meeting): 9-25 (Ravens 33, Browns 27 in 2015 at FirstEnergy Stadium).

The coach: John Harbaugh - 9th season

The stakes: When the teams meet in Week 2, Cleveland will have the opportunity to notch its third straight home-opening victory after failing to win a single home opener from 1999-2013. The Browns have not swept the season series with the Ravens since 2007, as they came up just short last year when the Ravens escaped with a dramatic, Monday night victory in late November.

Matchup to watch: Steve Smith Sr. vs. Joe Haden - The football world was robbed of this matchup last season, as Smith was out for both games with injuries and Haden missed the second game because of a concussion. Smith, who originally intended to retire after the 2015 season, got the best of Haden throughout 2014 (13 receptions, 191 yards) but Haden will have all the motivation in the world coming off a disappointing, injury-plagued 2015 season.

Offseason storyline: There's nowhere to go but up, right? Injuries galore hurt the Ravens during the second half of the season, but the team wasn't exactly cooking during the first half. Every move Baltimore has made, whether it's the first-round selection of Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley or the free-agent signing of tight end Benjamin Watson, was geared toward getting this team back in the playoff hunt ASAP after its 5-11 campaign in 2015.

Biggest addition: S Eric Weddle - The 31-year-old gives Baltimore the thumper, veteran presence and instant credibility in the defensive backfield it lacked in 2015.

Biggest loss: OL Kelechi Osemele - You know it's a big loss when the head coach says the team lost "one of the best offensive linemen in football." Osemele is now with the Raiders, and his departure began a chain reaction of moves along Baltimore's offensive line. It's hard to envision this group will be better after a losing a player of this caliber.

The star: QB Joe Flacco - He's a stabilizing presence under center, and the Ravens are clearly a much better team when he's healthy. His loss last year was felt in a big way and was one of the major reasons why the Ravens' season went even more South than some anticipated. If he can create some chemistry with this year's group of wide receivers, the Ravens will be back in playoff contention.

The X-Factor: LB Terrell Suggs - His injury was the first in a string of debilitating blows to the Ravens in 2015 and arguably had the biggest impact on the season. Not only did the Ravens miss Suggs' production, but his absence also made things tougher on fellow pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, who had just six sacks. A healthy Suggs can give Baltimore the menacing pass rush it lacked last season.

What makes this game(s) tough: Cleveland always gets Baltimore's best shot no matter what, and that was clearly on display when the Ravens found a way to win with Matt Schaub at quarterback, a rookie backup running back and a patchwork wide receivers group last season at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens were a little more active in free agency than in recent years, and they were able to address their concerns at tight end, wide receiver and defensive back. With all of the injured players of last season expected to be healthy and raring to go Week 2, the Ravens should be viewed as the playoff contender they've been in the past.

What makes them beatable: Flacco throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL, but it's unclear if he'll have a target who can stretch the field in that fashion. Breshad Perriman missed all of his rookie year with an injury and has battled some nicks and bruises throughout the offseason. Baltimore added veteran Mike Wallace, but it's unclear what he can bring to the table. Questions still remain on the defensive side of the ball, too, after a season in which Baltimore surrendered 25.1 points per game (24th in the NFL).

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