Ravens look to extend mastery over Browns
The Baltimore Ravens are in the midst of a three-game road trip and will face a division rival for the second straight week when they visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.
The Ravens moved into a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North with a 26-14 victory at bitter rival Pittsburgh Monday night blanking the Steelers in the second half.
Baltimore has beat up on the Browns regularly over the years, winning five in a row and 18 of 20 in the series, but Cleveland (1-2-1) has been rejuvenated this season after going 1-31 over the past two seasons.
Rookie Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, came off the bench to spark a 21-17 win over the New York Jets in Week 3. Mayfield had the Browns in position for a second straight win in his first NFL start but they fell in overtime at Oakland 45-42 on Sunday.
"He's played very well," Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said. "Just what we thought coming out, he's the same quarterback in the NFL that he was in college. Very accurate, very aggressive, and a lot of juice, a lot of energy, and he's making plays for them.
"Excited about the opportunity, going up there, a division game. We expect the crowd to be very into it. (This is) a very good Cleveland Browns team, a very young team. They've transformed the team over the last couple years, and they're playing very well, so it'll be a big challenge for us."
Both of Cleveland's losses came by three points and the team is convinced they could easily be 4-0 with a little luck and a better kicking game in the first two weeks.
Mayfield did commit four turnovers last week, including a pair of interceptions. That is twice as many turnovers as Tyrod Taylor made in 2 1/2 games, but head coach Hue Jackson has no thought of sending Mayfield back to the sideline -- and the players are fine with that.
"Baker is that type of guy," Browns center JC Tretter said. "That's what we've seen through the training camp and through the season. He's energetic. He's positive. He's never going to let a bad play, a bad quarter or anything like that kind of get to him.
"He's always expecting to make the next play. That's something the offense, the receivers, the offensive line and the running backs can all feed off of. Understanding that no matter what happened in the past, we're one play away from breaking it back wide open."
Mayfield can lean on a running game led by Carlos Hyde, who has rushed for 285 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson said the Browns need to get Nick Chubb more touches after the rookie running back rushed for 105 yards on three carries against the Raiders, breaking off touchdown runs of 63 and 41 yards.
Baltimore ranks fourth against the run, allowing 82.5 yards per game, and will get a key player back on both sides of the ball. Cornerback Jimmy Smith will return from a four-game suspension and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), the first of the team's two first-round picks, is expected to make his season debut.
Hurst provides another weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense, which is averaging 30.8 points. Flacco has thrown for 1,252 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He will test a Browns' secondary that is allowing 278 passing yards per game.
"We're only four games in. Obviously, we like some of the stuff we're doing," said Flacco. "We can get better at a lot of stuff, like always."
Mayfield, who has thrown for 496 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in parts of two games, will be tested by a defense that is permitting 193.3 yards through the air.
"We've played some really good teams these first four weeks, and we're going to play some even better ones as we go," Jackson said. "I think our players know that we can play with anybody. Now we have to play well enough to win. That's what we have to do for 60 minutes, 70 minutes or whatever it's going to be.
"We have to go find a way to go finish these games. I know that's some of the same cliches that you heard a year ago, but that's the way football is, especially in the National Football League."
Updated October 3, 2018