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4. Will Ray Rice be a bigger part of the game plan?
Call it an educated hunch, if you will, but two-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice figures to carry the football a lot more Sunday than the season-low nine attempts that he had against the Houston Texans.
The Ravens are aware that Rice needs to get a lot more touches for several reasons:
* He's their most impactful playmaker on offense.
* Running the football could boost time of possession and rest an ailing defense.
* Rushing success could take pressure off of Joe Flacco and open up play-action passes.
* A more physical approach with Rice running behind bruising All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach could wear down a Browns defense that's 24th in the NFL at stopping the run, giving up 131.6 yards per game.
* The Browns' linebackers, including well-respected formerMaryland standout D'Qwell Jackson, aren't particularly fleet in the open field and could have a lot of trouble with Rice's elusiveness out of the backfield.
* Rice has a strong track record against the Browns, including a career-high 204 rushing yards in a win in Cleveland last December. In nine career games against the Browns, Rice has rushed for 824 yards, his most against any NFL opponent. Rice has 1,009 total yards from scrimmage against the Browns, an average of 112.1 per game. And he has 33 first downs and 19 runs of 10 yards or more against the Browns.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has talked about preserving Rice, but that can't come at the cost of winning football games.
September 23, 2012