Ron Schwane / USA Today Sports
Fellow rookie Terrance West is stealing the headlines in Baltimore because of his Towson and Northwestern High connections, and it's good to see him entering his first game against his hometown team carrying some success. But it will be Crowell, who scored twice in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and has 16 rushes for 86 yards, who produces the most in Cleveland's running game. The undrafted rookie from Alabama State won't get as many carries as West, who's slated to be the primary back, but I think his will be the bigger ones -- Crowell's two Week 1 touchdowns were from the three- and 15-yard lines, respectively. In less than half as many carries as West, Crowell is averaging more yards per carry (5.4 to 4.8). Crowell isn't your typical undrafted small-school rookie, either. He was the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2011 at the University of Georgia. He had his high-major career derailed because of criminal issues, but he showed himself as a strong runner in the SEC and through two weeks in the NFL with starter Ben Tate out. It's not a revelation to say this game will be decided in the red zone. The run-happy Browns are facing a Ravens defense that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season and hasn't given up a touchdown in the red zone at all. We'll see which gives first, but I think the Browns do damage here.
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Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun
Through two weeks, the Ravens passing game has centered around wide receiver Steve Smith and the tight ends, with Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Owen Daniels combining for 53 of the Ravens' 91 pass targets (nearly 60 percent). Smith has been a revelation and will likely continue to be so, especially if Cleveland's star cornerback, Joe Haden, lines up against Torrey Smith. Daniels was the primary red zone target last Thursday against Pittsburgh, but expect that to change. I think Pitta leads the team in both catches and touchdowns as quarterback Joe Flacco continues to get into a rhythm and works the underneath passing game as offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak wants him to. The Browns held Steelers tight end Heath Miller to three catches for 26 yards in Week 1, but Saints tight end Jimmy Graham ripped the Cleveland defense for 10 catches for 118 yards and a pair of scores last week. Sure, Graham is the best tight end on the planet, but he may have exposed a weakness for the Ravens to take advantage of. The Ravens have basically lived in two-tight end sets through the first two weeks, which for most teams would be a run formation. The Ravens are more than willing to throw out of it, though, and if the Browns don't have a linebacker that can run with and cover Pitta, he's a prime candidate to lead the offense.
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Some sports name three stars of the game after the game. Jon Meoli does one better, naming them before the Ravens even play. These will be the three stars of the game when the Ravens (1-1) travel to Cleveland for a third straight AFC North matchup against the 1-1 Browns.
By Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun