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Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
Monday Night Football - 8:30 PM @ Cleveland Browns Stadium

Background:

The Ravens come into this game facing what seems to be a must win situation. A loss to the 1-7 Browns would solidify the 2009 season as a failure in Baltimore and would kill just about any playoff dreams this team had. It is easy to say this seeing as how after the Browns, the Ravens face the Colts, Steelers, and Packers in consecutive games. Simply, they cannot afford a loss while being in 3rd place in the division that features the Super Bowl Champions and a team that has beat them twice already. With the must win on their plate, the key to this game is to not take it lightly.

The Browns come into this game looking to score a touchdown for the first time since the 3rd quarter of their game against the Steelers on week 6. Actually, the Browns have only scored a touchdown in three of their eight games. They hope a quarterback switch from Derek Anderson back to Brady Quinn will help their cause. However, in week 3, the Ravens' defense shut down both Anderson and Quinn as they combined for zero touchdowns, four interceptions, and 115 yards on 17 of 27 passing.

Key Match-Ups:

Joshua Cribbs vs. Ravens' Special Teams

Joshua Cribbs is known around the league as an elite kick returner. For the season, he has 860 kick return yards with one touchdown. He averages nearly 28 yards per return. He is tied for first in the NFL in return yards with Minnesota's Percy Harvin and is 5th in yards per return. In addition to the kick returning, he is 2nd in the league in punt return yards with 295 and is 1st in yards per punt return.

Against the Ravens in week 3, Cribbs returned six kicks for 159 yards, an average of 26.5. On punts, he returned two for 26 yards.

It is important to note that in this game, Brendon Ayanbadejo was healthy and playing. He is a perennial Pro Bowler on the Ravens' team and a huge presence on special teams. He is currently sitting on the Ravens' injured reserve.

However, the Ravens' opponents for this season only average 20.3 return yards per kickoff. That is 3rd in the NFL behind only Tampa Bay and Washington.

Baltimore Ravens vs. the Referees

I believe this is the third week that this has been a key match-up and it still stands true up to this date.

Last week versus the Bengals, the Ravens racked up 80 penalty yards on seven yellow flags. Honestly, that isn't one of their worse games. For the season, the Ravens average 7.5 penalties per game and 73.75 penalty yards.

The last time the Ravens played the Browns, the guys in purple were flagged for 84 yards on 8 yellow hankies.

Players to Watch:

Joe Flacco - Quarterback - Baltimore Ravens

In week three against the weak Browns defense, Flacco put up some of the better numbers in his career. He passed the ball 35 times and completed 25 of those for then a career high of 342 yards. His QB rating of 111.8 in that game still is the highest so far for him this season.

However, after two great weeks against the Vikings and Broncos where he posted 109.2 ratings in both games, he hit a dry spell against the Bengals. He was lucky to come out of that game with a rating as high as 48.3. That number is his lowest since the AFC Championship game against the Steelers.

This game is exactly what Flacco needs to get back on track. The Browns are 22nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game with 239. The opposing QB's average rating is at 90.6 against them. They also allow 7.8 yards per catch which is 28th in the NFL.

Ray Rice - Running Back - Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice was not in mid-season form when he faced the Browns in week 3. Despite that, Rice ran for 48 yards on 11 attempts and tacked on a touchdown. He also caught 4 passes for 27 yards.

Now, he comes into the game looking to continue his streak of five straight games of over 100 yards from scrimmage.

It shouldn't be hard to make it six straight games as he is facing the weak Browns defense. The great part about Rice is that no matter if the Ravens go with a passing mentality or a running mentality, Rice seems to be the main target. Against the Bengals last week, Rice was targeted 8 times in the passing game. That was more than any other receiver not named Derek Mason. Against the Broncos, he was targeted 5 times - the same amount as Derrick Mason and only 1 time less than the leader Kelley Washington. In short, over the passed two weeks, Mason has been targeted 18 times while Rice was targeted 13 times. Not bad when you take into account who the two players are.

Derrick Mason - Wide Receiver - Baltimore Ravens

In the week three contest, Mason caught 5 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. He feasted and thrived on a weak Browns secondary. In fact, so did all of the Ravens' receivers. They caught 26 passes for 346 yards in all. Kelley Washington brought down 5 for 66 and Todd Heap pulled down 4 for 41.

The Ravens saw themselves thriving with the pass in week 3 against the Browns team and they are surely to go back to the well that is the deep ball. Mason will be the number one target on this as it is opened up by Ray Rice on short pattern, screen passes, and rushing plays.

However, Mason reminded the reporters from the teams' facility that no one should take the Browns' defense lightly.

Haloti Ngata - Defensive Tackle - Baltimore Ravens

The anchor for the run defense, Haloti Ngata was out against the Bengals last week and it made a huge difference. Benson was able to run for over 100 yards again and it opened up the passing lanes for Carson Palmer to air it out.

Now, it appears as if Haloti will play. It will be interesting to see how is sprained right ankle holds up.

Ray Lewis - Middle Linebacker - Baltimore Ravens

Here is a start to what could be terrible news for Baltimore football fans. Ray Lewis is listed as questionable and did not practice on Thursday because of an injury to his foot.

I doubt I need to explain the importance of Ray Lewis to the team, so I won't.

Brady Quinn - Quarterback - Cleveland Browns

Brady finally got his starting job back that he lost earlier in the season to Derek Anderson. In fact, he lost his job in the game against the Ravens.

Now, he gets a chance to redeem himself as he faces a Baltimore Ravens defense that was just listed in the "Who's Not" column of the recent issue of Sports Illustrated.

I'm pretty sure if he just leads the offense to a drive resulting in a touchdown, he has a good shot at keeping his job for another week.

Predictions:

There's a reason why Brady Quinn was the only player to watch from the Browns. The Browns are simply just weak. They are lacking a passing game and a running game. And on defense, they can't defend against either.

Look for a huge game from running back Ray Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco. However, look for more penalty from the Ravens as they pass their average of 7.5 penalties for 73.75 yards.

I picked the Ravens to win against the Vikings, Bengals (twice), the Patriots, the ... well, against everyone so far. Do you think I will change it up against the Browns? Ravens win big 30-6.

News:

Bengals' WR Chad Johnson was fined 20K by the NFL for his "joke" of trying to bribe the refs. Good.

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