Friday, September 22, 2006

The Sum of All Fears

For Tom Clancy, it was terrorists getting their hands on a nuke and heading for Baltimore. For me, it's Baltimore getting their hands on a real NFL QB and heading for Cleveland. This, my friends, could get extremely ugly.

The Ravens' defense is usually intimidating, but so far this year, it's been downright terrifying. Nobody's scored a touchdown on the Ravens yet, and that may be the team's least impressive defensive stat. Baltimore not only leads the league in total defense and scoring defense, but also boasts the lowest average yards allowed per play and per game. They've forced nine turnovers in two games, and lead the league in turnover margin.

Offensively, the Ravens still aren't a juggernaut, but they do have a potent rushing attack and rank sixth in the AFC in rushing and fourth in scoring. They aren't setting the world on fire through the air, and actually rank lower than the Browns in passing offense.

The relative weakness of the Ravens' passing attack isn't something from which the Browns should draw a lot of comfort. First of all, I doubt the Ravens' passing game is as bad as it looks on paper. In saying this, I'll admit to a certain partiality toward Steve McNair. I love how McNair plays the game, and think he is a tough, smart, competitive SOB who still has some gas in his tank. He may not be lighting up the scoreboard, but he's only thrown one interception, and his leadership is a huge intangible for a Ravens offense that has lacked leadership at the QB position since, well, forever.

What's more, I'm sorry to say that our beloved Pumpkin Helmets usually bring out the best in McNair. As this article points out, in his last eight starts against Cleveland, McNair has 8 touchdown passes and a QB rating of 104.3. Given the current state of the Browns' secondary, I'm afraid that Sunday will be another solid day for McNair. I think Ralph Brown shares my fears.

The news for Browns fans doesn't get any brighter on the special teams front. Ravens' return man B.J. Sams leads the NFL in kick returns and is fourth in the league (second in the AFC) in punt returns.

So, Browns fans, here's what we've got to look forward to this Sunday. The Browns and their anemic offense get to face the NFL's premier defensive unit, while an already high-scoring Ravens team that runs the ball as well as anybody in the league gets to strut its stuff against an injury-plagued Browns defense that has allowed 150 yards rushing in each of its first two games.

I've misjudged either the game's outcome or the Browns' effort in each of the first two weeks of the season. Not everybody is as downbeat as me, so here's hoping that I'm wrong again. All things considered, however, I think I'd rather take my chances with the terrorists than with the Ravens. Baltimore 30, Cleveland 3.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Not only are the Browns going to be going up against a lockdown defense, they'll be going up against a healthy Jamal Lewis and a Ravens quarterback who actually knows what he's doing in Steve McNair.

McNair might be way past his prime, but a McNair even 60 percent of what he used to be can overmatch an inexperienced and undertalented Browns defense. And we haven't even mentioned that there will be no Orpheus Roye, probably no Willie McGinest and Gary Baxter will still be lugging around a shoulder brace if he even plays.

Side note:
McGinest is reminding me more and more of Keith Hernandez: a well-accomplished star signing on with a sad-sack Cleveland team desperate for star power so he can sit in a whirlpool and collect a paycheck at the tail end of his career.

Charlie Frye is going to sacked and knocked down repeatedly tomorrow. He's going to get hurt. Don't know how severely, but he's going to get hurt and Ken Dorsey is going to take snaps.

Going to get ugly tomorrow. But what Browns game isn't ugly?

Ravens 30, Browns 0