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Ravens vs. Browns scouting report for Week 16: Who has the edge?

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Lamar Jackson threw for five touchdowns for the third time this season in the Ravens’ 42-21 Week 15 victory over the New York Jets. The story of Jackson’s second year has been efficiency over volume. He ranks 24th in the league in pass attempts and 29th in yards per game but leads the NFL in touchdown passes and ranks second in passer rating. As a team, the Ravens rank 26th in passing yardage but eighth in yards per attempt. Tight end Mark Andrews leads the roster with 58 catches for 759 yards and eight touchdowns. After a pair of unproductive performances, rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown bounced back against the Jets, catching all four passes thrown his way for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also drew an interference penalty in the end zone. Jackson has thrown touchdown passes to nine players this season. In the Ravens’ 40-25 loss to the Browns in Week 4, he completed 24 of 34 for 247 yards but threw two interceptions (out of six total for 2019).

BROWNS PASSING GAME: After a promising rookie year and preseason talk of a possible MVP run, 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield has struggled, throwing as many interceptions, 17, as touchdown passes. Though Mayfield has faced a tough slate of pass defenses, he ranks second to last in passer rating among quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify for the league lead. The Browns have struggled to get the ball to prize offseason acquisition Odell Beckham Jr., who has just two 100-yard receiving games and two touchdown catches. Jarvis Landry leads the Browns with 74 catches for 1,018 yards. Mayfield had one of his best games in the Week 4 win over the Ravens, completing 20 of 30 for 342 yards and a touchdown. He was particularly effective going to Landry, who caught eight passes on 10 targets for 167 yards. Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones also had his best game of the season against the Ravens with three catches for 82 yards.

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EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens ran for 218 yards against the Jets’ No. 2 rush defense and lead the league in rushing by 55 yards per game. Jackson broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback and leads the Ravens with 1,103 rushing yards. At 963 yards on the season, running back Mark Ingram II is poised to pass 1,000 yards as well, and he leads the Ravens in touchdowns with 14 (including four receiving). Gus Edwards has quietly posted an excellent season as the team’s third option with 515 yards and a 5.2 per-carry average. The Ravens ran for a modest (for them) 173 yards in their earlier loss to the Browns.

BROWNS RUNNING GAME: Nick Chubb has been perhaps the best pure runner in the league, averaging 100.6 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. Kareem Hunt has been an effective second option over the past six games, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and catching 30 passes out of the backfield. The Browns outrushed the Ravens 193 to 173 in Week 4, one of only two teams to do so all season. Chubb gained 165 of those yards on just 20 carries and scored three touchdowns.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens have allowed five of their past six opponents to rush for at least 100 yards and allow 4.5 yards per carry, 11th worst in the league. Jets running back Le’Veon Bell, who has struggled most of the season, gained 87 yards on 21 carries against the Ravens in Week 15. Chubb will present a far more dangerous test. The Ravens have been strongest in the middle, where linebacker Josh Bynes and interior linemen Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and Chris Wormley have all played well against the run. They’ve struggled on the edges, where Chubb’s speed could hurt them.

BROWNS RUSH DEFENSE: The Browns rank 27th in rush defense and allow 4.9 yards per carry, fourth worst in the league. They surrendered 226 rushing yards to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and 179 to the Cincinnati Bengals, so they’re not trending in the right direction as they prepare to face one of the most productive ground attacks in NFL history. Linebacker Joe Schobert leads the Browns with 116 tackles but grades as a mediocre run defender, according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has delivered his usual stellar work inside and ranks third on the team with 56 tackles. Despite his individual excellence, the Browns have played poorly against every type of run, from short-yardage to open-field.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens rank seventh in pass defense and have allowed opponents to average 5.9 yards per attempt, 10th best in the league. They did not have cornerbacks Jimmy Smith or Marcus Peters when they last played the Browns and have risen steadily in the league rankings over the past 10 games. Peters grades as the third-best cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Fellow Pro Bowl selection Marlon Humphrey did outstanding work shadowing Beckham in Week 4. The Ravens rank eighth in the league with 22 takeaways. They’re tied for 18th with 34 sacks and have moved into the league’s top 10 in pressure percentage, a product of their astronomical blitz rate under defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Improved outside linebacker Tyus Bowser had a strip-sack against the Jets and ranks second on the team to Matthew Judon with five sacks.

BROWNS PASS DEFENSE: The Browns have defended the pass much better than the run, ranking sixth in the league and holding opponents to 6.2 yards per attempt. Schobert has been outstanding in coverage, with nine passes defended and a team-high four interceptions. Cornerback Denzel Ward and safety Damarious Randall are talented players. But Cleveland’s pass rush took a major step back when defensive end Myles Garrett got himself suspended for swinging his helmet at Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Garrett still leads the team with 10 sacks; no one else has more than 5½. Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and defensive end Olivier Vernon (who hasn’t played the past two weeks because of a knee injury) both had sacks in Week 4 against the Ravens

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Tucker has made 23 of 24 field-goal attempts, but he missed his second extra-point try of the season against the Jets. Sam Koch has put 48.6% of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which would rank fourth in the league if he had enough kicks to qualify. Koch had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown against the Jets, part of a dismal all-around performance for Chris Horton’s special-teams unit. The Ravens have been especially bad on kickoffs, averaging 17.3 yards per return while allowing 22.6 yards per return in coverage.

BROWNS SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Austin Seibert has made 23 of 27 field-goal attempts but has missed three PATs. Jamie Gillan has been solid, putting 44.4% of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Browns have been good on kickoff coverage and returns, with Dontrell Hilliard averaging 24.8 yards per runback. But they’ve been less successful on punts, averaging 6.8 yards per return while allowing 8.9 yards per return in coverage.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens will not lack for motivation as they look to lock up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and avenge their Week 4 loss to the Browns. They’ve won five straight road games and 10 straight overall. If the Ravens win in Cleveland, coach John Harbaugh could rest his top players in the Week 17 finale against the Steelers.

BROWNS INTANGIBLES: The Browns have been one of the league’s most dysfunctional teams, fading out of playoff contention in a season marred by Garrett’s suspension and to a lesser degree, Mayfield’s second-year struggles. They’ve been disappointing enough to inspire speculation that Freddie Kitchens might be fired after one season as coach. The best they can do against the Ravens is play spoiler.

EDGE: Ravens

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PREDICTION: It’s startling to look back at the Browns’ Week 4 victory at M&T Bank Stadium in which they outdueled the Ravens through the air and on the ground. Was it a fluke or do the Browns present matchup problems for the Ravens despite their overall dysfunction? It’s hard to imagine a repeat given the Ravens’ improvement on defense and the seeming mismatch between their ground game and Cleveland’s porous run defense. The Ravens won’t look past this week; they have too much to gain by winning. Ravens 34, Browns 24.

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