Here’s how The Baltimore Sun sports staff views the outcome of Monday night’s game between the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium:
C.J. Doon, editor
Ravens 31, Browns 27: The Cowboys’ leaky defense allowed the Ravens’ rushing attack to get back on track. Could the banged-up Browns secondary do the same for the Ravens’ stagnant passing game? Cleveland ranks 22nd in the league in pass defense efficiency, per Football Outsiders, and will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward. With tight end Mark Andrews and receiver Willie Snead IV returning and Marquise Brown coming on strong lately, Lamar Jackson should be able to exploit a Browns defense relying on Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph, two of the league’s lowest-graded safeties.
Daniel Oyefusi, reporter
Ravens 25, Browns 20: Much has changed since the Ravens’ season-opening blowout of the Browns. Cleveland has finally started to take off under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski and is on the cusp of clinching its first playoff berth since 2002. On the other side, the Ravens are fighting for their playoff lives in a season they entered as Super Bowl favorites. The Ravens benefited from the return of a handful of players from the reserve/COVID-19 list against the Cowboys and should be at near full strength with Matthew Judon, Mark Andrews and Willie Snead IV coming back Monday night. The Browns have played better in the past month, but the Ravens are the more experienced team that typically thrives in December.
Mike Preston, columnist
Ravens 27, Browns 24: The Browns have improved since these teams faced each other in the season opener. The offensive line has gotten physical and the defensive line might be one of the best in the NFL. Cleveland’s offense is similar to the Ravens’ because both like to pound the ball, but I have more trust at this point in Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson than Cleveland signal-caller Baker Mayfield.
Jonas Shaffer, reporter
Ravens 24, Browns 20: Ignore their records for a second. Is this Cleveland team really better than the Ravens’? For the season, the Browns have a negative point differential. Even before Week 13, they did barely enough to string together three wins. Cleveland’s best hope is to run all over the Ravens and have its depleted secondary not give the game away. If the Ravens can’t win in prime time, they’re not a playoff team.
Childs Walker, reporter
Ravens 27, Browns 23: Some fans seemed startled when the Ravens opened as a slight road favorite against the 9-3 Browns. But here’s a reality check: The Ravens have outscored opponents by 85 points while the Browns have been outscored by 15. That’s not the end of the story, but it suggests the teams’ respective records are misleading. Expect a tense battle here, with the Browns trying to show they’re for real and the Ravens fighting for their season. The Ravens’ turnover-hungry pass defense will make the final difference against Baker Mayfield.