Browns/Ravens Match-Ups For Keys To Victory Week 4

September 30, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens Matchups to Watch:

1 – Deshuan Watson vs. Lamar Jackson


What is key in this match-up is remembering how much the Ravens need Lamar Jackson to play well to win, including Jackson running the ball.  The Browns do not need the same from Deshaun Watson, but without Nick Chubb, it is important that Watson moves the ball down the field and not turn it over allowing the defense to rule the day.

Watson does have a sore shoulder, but it sounds like it will not hamper him.  Either way, I believe in this game Watson will need to find all receivers as I can see the Ravens trying to take away Amari Cooper.

This is an important game for Watson not just because it is a division game, but to prove that he is truly back while playing against a team that some experts believe will win the AFC North.

Going back to Jackson, the Browns defense, which has been spectacular in the first three games, must contain Jackson in the pocket while pressuring him to throw downfield.  In the past, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been key in keeping from Jackson going off, he will be important again on Sunday, along with the normal big names.


Heading into Sunday, the biggest playmaker on the field for the black and purple is still Lamar Jackson, as he has shown time after time that he can disrupt game plans. After a sluggish week one, Jackson has started to perform better in recent weeks as he gets accustomed to the new offense under Todd Monken.

No offense underwent as much change as the Ravens this offseason, as they operated from the shotgun 73% of the time this year, compared to only taking 33% of snaps from the true shotgun last season. Despite undergoing changes with a lot of moving pieces around him due to injuries, Jackson is still playing at a very high level.

Deshaun Watson is coming off his best game as a Cleveland Brown, where he connected with receivers despite solid coverage from the Titans’ backend. That game came at a cost, as he has been limited every day in practice this week with a sore shoulder.

Injuries on the other side could help Watson, with key contributors in question all over the defense. Not taking all the reps during practice isn’t ideal, but the Browns will be fine if Watson plays smart and makes the plays he’s asked to make. The Ravens provide another test defensively, but Watson doesn’t have to outplay Jackson in order to win this game.

2 – Head Coach Kevin Stefanski vs. Head Coach John Harbough


A lot that goes into this matchup deals with how the coaching staff in general plans for the opposition. On the Browns’ side, the defense has been fantastic, playing a lot of man coverage combined with an elite pass rush. The new Ravens’ offense is much more typical of an NFL offense, where they will operate from the shotgun and work concepts downfield. Jim Schwartz has to be careful with the use of man coverage, but the health of the Ravens’ receivers makes it likely to see a heavy dose of man with the hope that pass rushers can continue to get home.

Kevin Stefanski had a tough task trying to change the offense in a short week after losing their engine in Nick Chubb, but they came out and had a great game and executed well. Although injuries really hamper this unit, they are probably a worse version of the Titans’ defense we saw a week ago. Their front doesn’t compare to Tennessee’s, and the secondary is beat up to the point where Stefanski can take advantage in all facets.


In regard to the coaching match the key to me is the analytics aggressiveness of both coaches. Both like to take chances and both live and die by analytics.  Lately, some of the downfall for both coaches has been taking risks and making analytics-driven decisions instead of conservative plays.

For our guy Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, Sunday would be the time to be conservative on certain decisions.  The Ravens always play aggressively on defense and special teams, and I am sure Head Coach John Harbough is going to force Stefanski into deciding or two on fourth down on their side of the field in the past for Stefanski it would be an automatic go for it rather than kick the field goal or punt.  But with new kicker Dustin Hopkins who has been great so far making seven out of eight kicks and with Brown’s defense being so dominant punting rather than going for it makes a lot of sense.  It should be a kicking day rather than going for it.

Curious to see if Stefanski will make the conservative kicking calls on Sunday rather than aggressively going for it on fourth down which would be what he would do in the past.  Kick Kevin kick!

3 – Browns Rush Defense vs. Ravens Rush Offense


So far in 2023, the Browns defense has only surrendered 156 rushing yards in three games, only 52 yards per game.  That is so amazing for a defense that had a hard time stopping the run against most teams in 2022.  This is a new 2023 defense indeed and it is just not stopping the pass, and sacking the quarterback, this defense is making big plays in stopping the run as well. 

Most importantly, what the defense is doing is limiting plays against the opposing defenses which makes it hard to run because of the low number of plays teams are getting.  Brown’s opponents get behind, and the pressure of needing to score forces the pass which limits the run so far in 2023, it is a winning combination.

This is the first team in the Ravens that truly loves to run in the past, but with new coordinator Greg Roman, in 2023, they do rely more on the pass.  We will have to see if they go back to old habits, because if they don’t I see the Browns running wild with Myles Garret, Za’Darius Smith, and others going after Lamar Jackson.  In a weird way, that would be a winning formula if the Ravens decide to pass more than run as the Browns pressure will be too much for the Ravens offensive line and for Jackson.


Speaking of the coaches, this isn’t the same Ravens team we’re used to from years past with Greg Roman calling the plays. They are no longer the super unique pistol-rushing attack that gave teams headaches because of how differently they did things. The Ravens are much more simplified now, and they won’t have to spend days worrying about exactly how to fit up all the crazy run concepts with odd formations and personnel.

Because of the shift in offense, the Ravens’ rushing attack is not nearly what it used to be. For the Ravens to gain yards on the ground, it’s likely going to come on broken play scrambles where Jackson breaks the pocket. Their running backs aren’t anything special, and the offensive line is definitely manageable. The Browns have faced more formidable rushing attacks, and containing the Ravens should allow them to shut down the run plays.

4 – Browns Wide Receivers vs. Raven Secondary


The Ravens’ secondary is very beat up, with All-Pro corner Marlon Humphrey missing practices this week, along with rookie safety Kyle Hamilton also being absent. Through three weeks, the Ravens rank 26th in pass EPA/play, following a week where Gardner Minshew found some success. Without Humphrey, nobody on the Ravens is capable of handling Amari Cooper one-on-one, and he could be in for another big day.

It isn’t unlikely to think that the Ravens could bracket Cooper to try and limit his effectiveness, which could lead to an Elijah Moore breakout game. He’s a true route runner with great after-catch potential, and the Browns are trying their best to get him involved. While attempting to give him opportunities in the run game is fine, matchups like these ones point to sending Moore on quality routes to create opportunities downfield.

The Browns’ offense has the opportunity to get both parts of their offense going, and it’s a great chance for the passing game to make even more progress heading into the bye. With the health of the Ravens’ defensive backs and pass rushers in question, there should be a great opportunity to thrive in the passing game.


As I mentioned before, I really think the Browns must get other wide receivers involved outside of Amari Cooper as I see the Ravens try to take opportunities away from him forcing Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones to make plays.  Tony mentioned that Cooper could be in for a big day because of the injury to Marlon Humphrey, which is a big injury, but the Ravens in my opinion typically do a great job scheming to mute top receivers in the game.

I do see the Browns having the advantage in this particular match and I do believe that other receivers are going to get involved on Sunday.

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