scouting report

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens run offense vs. Browns run defense: The Ravens controlled the clock with their running game against Cleveland six weeks ago, but it should be more of a challenge this time. Bothered by knee and ankle injuries, Willis McGahee (questionable) has averaged less than 3 yards a carry in three of his past four games. The Ravens' ground game has dried up on the road, averaging 3.4 yards a carry at Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Miami. Cleveland's run defense bounced back last Sunday against a ragged Jaguars offensive line, holding Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to 53 yards on 20 carries (2.7-yard average). In the previous two weeks, Cleveland had allowed 100-yard rushers (the Giants' Derrick Ward and the Redskins' Clinton Portis). Edge: EVEN

Ravens pass offense vs. Browns pass defense: Rookie QB Joe Flacco has a better rating on the road (81.1) than at home (60.6) this season, averaging 221.7 passing yards in three road games. But the Browns' pass defense, which is ranked 10th in the NFL, has stepped up recently. In the past four games, Cleveland has allowed just one quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards, giving up five touchdowns and making six interceptions. It'll be interesting to see how Ravens LT Jared Gaither, who missed a couple of practices with a neck injury, handles Cleveland pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley. SS Sean Jones (knee) is questionable. Edge: BROWNS

Browns run offense vs. Ravens run defense: Earlier this season, Jamal Lewis was trying to sidestep tacklers. Now, the Browns running back is running over them. After being limited to 56 yards on 12 carries against the Ravens, Lewis has gained at least 79 yards in four straight games, scoring three touchdowns in that stretch. Only one running back (the Colts' Dominic Rhodes) has gained more than 56 yards against the Ravens. Rhodes is also the only one to score a rushing touchdown. In three games against his former team, Lewis has averaged 70.6 yards and has scored two touchdowns. Edge: RAVENS

Browns pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: Ravens CBs Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are expected to be out of the starting lineup for the third straight week. The Ravens will start Fabian Washington and Frank Walker, who has played better than he did earlier this season. But unlike Miami and Oakland, the Browns have weapons in the passing game (WRs Braylon Edwards and Donte' Stallworth) to hurt the Ravens. Cleveland QB Derek Anderson hasn't thrown an interception in 105 passes and has been sacked only twice in his past three games. In his past two games, Ravens LB Terrell Suggs has 17 tackles, two sacks and one interception return for a touchdown. Edge: BROWNS

Special teams: The Ravens' Matt Stover is the third-most-accurate kicker in NFL history (83.6 percent), and the Browns' Phil Dawson is fourth (82.9 percent). The Ravens have to worry about dangerous returner Joshua Cribbs, who has yet to break out this season. The Ravens' punt and kickoff coverage teams rank sixth in the NFL. Yamon Figurs, out two games with a bruised knee, is expected to return. The Ravens have to decide whether to go back to Figurs (7.1-yard average) on punts or stick with Jim Leonhard (13.7). Edge: EVEN

Intangibles: The Ravens have rebounded by winning two straight games, but injuries are starting to take their toll. The Browns are starting to find a rhythm in winning three of their past four games, including upsets of the Giants and Jaguars. A win today could put Cleveland back into the playoff picture. The Ravens haven't won back-to-back road games since December 2006. The Browns have won three of the past four meetings with the Ravens in Cleveland. Edge: BROWNS

Prediction: The Ravens did an admirable job beating Miami and Oakland without three starters in their secondary. But this is the game in which the Ravens will really feel the loss of McAlister and Rolle. BROWNS, 27-13

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