Scouting report for Sunday's Ravens-Browns game

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson delivered his best passing game of the season in last Saturday’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers, completing 12 of 22 attempts for 204 yards and a timely 68-yard touchdown to fellow rookie Mark Andrews. Andrews, who’s averaging 16.6 yards a catch, has caught the two longest passes of Jackson’s career. The Ravens’ wide receivers, on the other hand, are still searching for their connection with Jackson. John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead IV caught just three passes on a combined 10 targets against the Chargers. The Ravens rank 21st in the league in passing yards per game and 24th in yards per attempt.

BROWNS PASSING GAME: Despite a few error-plagued performances, quarterback Baker Mayfield has lived up to his status as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. In the Browns’ past five victories, he’s thrown 13 touchdown passes against just one interception. With Mayfield leading the way, Cleveland’s offense has been the second-most efficient in the league over the past six weeks, according to the analytics website Football Outsiders. Slot specialist Jarvis Landry leads the Browns with 76 catches for 874 yards on 140 targets. Former Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman has emerged as a deep threat, with five catches for 188 yards over the past three games. The Browns offensive line, led by guards Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler, has done a solid job protecting Mayfield.

EDGE: Browns

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens would have been thrilled to run for 159 yards in a game during the first half of the season. But that total, which they achieved against the Chargers, was their lowest since Jackson took over as starter in Week 11. Rookie running back Gus Edwards continued his second-half breakout with 92 yards on 14 carries at Los Angeles. But poor ball security undermined the rushing attack, with Jackson fumbling for the 10th time this season and running back Kenneth Dixon fumbling to set up the Chargers’ only touchdown. Despite the relative down game, the Ravens rank second in the league in rushing.

BROWNS RUNNING GAME: Rookie running back Nick Chubb has provided a dynamic complement to Mayfield, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and accumulating 278 yards over the past three games. Pro Football Focus has graded him the best running back in the league through 15 games. With Chubb leading their attack, the Browns rank ninth in the league in both yards per game and yards per carry. They rushed for 112 yards against the Ravens in Week 5.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: Even with Melvin Gordon back in their lineup, the Chargers managed just 51 rushing yards against a Ravens defense that ranks fourth in the league in fewest yards allowed per attempt. Linebacker C.J. Mosley made his fourth Pro Bowl in five years and leads the Ravens with 99 tackles. Pro Football Focus continues to grade interior linemen Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams and Brent Urban as outstanding run defenders.

BROWNS RUSH DEFENSE: The Browns have been vulnerable here, allowing the ninth-most rushing yards per game in the league. They gave up 187 to the Houston Texans in a 29-13 loss in Week 13. Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. is their leading tackler, and safeties Damarious Randall and Jabrill Peppers have played well against the run. Defensive end Myles Garrett is primarily known as a pass rusher, but he’s underrated as an every-down force.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens neutralized another elite quarterback last weekend, holding Philip Rivers to a season-low 181 passing yards and intercepting him twice. They’re tied for sixth in the league in sacks despite no individual player having more than 8½ (Za’Darius Smith). They continue to lead the league in fewest yards allowed per attempt. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey did not make the Pro Bowl, but grades as the sixth-best cornerback and fifth-best cover corner in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

BROWNS PASS DEFENSE: The Browns have played sound pass defense for much of the season, holding opposing quarterbacks to just 7.0 yards per attempt. Cornerback Denzel Ward made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and played one of his best games in the Browns’ Week 5 victory over the Ravens. Ward hurt his shoulder last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Linebacker Joe Schobert and safeties Randall and Peppers have also excelled in coverage. Garrett leads the Browns with 12½ sacks and made his first Pro Bowl.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Cyrus Jones has averaged 14.4 yards per punt return. Justin Tucker missed field-goal attempts from 53 and 65 yards against the Chargers, but rebounded to hit a clutch 56-yarder. He’s made 31 of 35 field-goal attempts on the season, with the other two misses coming on blocks. Sam Koch has quietly fallen to 11th in punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and 16th in net punting average.

BROWNS SPECIAL TEAMS: This is the one real weakness for the Browns, who rank last in special-teams efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. Kicker Greg Joseph has made 16 of 18 field-goal attempts, but has missed four extra points. Peppers has not broken a punt return longer than 33 yards or a kick return longer than 28. Britton Colquitt has been a bright spot, ranking fifth in the league with 32 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens could not go into their must-win season finale any higher after a dominant defensive performance on the road against the playoff-bound Chargers. Coach John Harbaugh will be back next season after his job security was a story for much of the year. The Ravens are unlikely to take the streaking Browns lightly after losing to them in Week 5. But they went into Week 17 in a similar position last year and came up short against the Bengals, so that bad memory lingers.

BROWNS INTANGIBLES: The Browns are a team on the rise, with five wins in their past six games and a collective sense that they’ve finally turned the corner toward a bright future. They technically have nothing to play for in Baltimore, but coach Gregg Williams has said his team will treat this as its playoff game.

EDGE: Even

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PREDICTION: The Browns bear little resemblance to the team that scraped by the Ravens in overtime in Week 5. Their offense has been one of the best in the league over the past six weeks, and they surely believe they can win in Baltimore. The Ravens have the defense to control Mayfield and Co., but they’ll have to sweat out every minute of a 26-24 victory to clinch the AFC North.

 

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