“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
There’s something about the Bay Area that bodes poorly for Cleveland’s sports teams. Not unlike their basketball counterparts, the Cleveland Browns (1-2-1) found only disappointment on their most recent West Coast trip. Now they return home, where they are undefeated, to host the ghosts of football past, the Baltimore Ravens (3-1).
The Browns enter the contest as three-point home underdogs. There is an argument to be made that if the Browns had a better kicker in Weeks 1 and 2 and better officials in Week 4 they could be 4-0. While it’s tempting to dwell in that misery I’d advise against. Clearly, Las Vegas only sees an underwhelming 1.5-win team and only the folks in orange helmets can change their minds.
Baltimore leads the all-time series 29-9. The Ravens have won five straight contests against the Browns with the most recent Cleveland win coming in October 2015. Travis Coons kicked a 32-yard field goal in overtime to silence the Maryland crowd. The Browns have not beaten the birds at home since a 24-18 win in 2013.
In 2018 the Ravens won their first game against Buffalo then dropped a contest in Cincinnati. Baltimore rebounded with wins against Denver and most recently Pittsburgh. The Ravens’ defense ranks third in the league (16.25 points/game) and the offense ranks fifth (30.75 ppg). It would seem the presence of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has lit a fire under Joe Flacco. The elite (?) QB has tossed 110-of-171 passes for 1,252 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions. Running back Alex Collins has picked up 158 yards and two touchdowns this season.
All eyes fixed on Baker Mayfield in Oakland last Sunday. The rookie had moments of both brilliance and frustration with well-placed touchdown passes and momentum-killing interceptions. Still, he has already passed Tyrod Taylor’s passing numbers in only six-plus quarters of play. Mayfield has completed 38-of-64 passes for 496 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The offense looks revitalized with Mayfield under center, scoring more points against the Raiders than in any game since 2007. The running game has also enjoyed a renaissance in 2018.
Carlos Hyde has accumulated 285 yards on 83 carries plus five touchdowns. Duke Johnson has chipped in with 40 yards on 12 attempts. Rookie Nick Chubb has been a revelation in the backfield. The Georgia product has 146 yards on ten attempts including 105 yards against the Raiders. While Hyde is certainly playing well, Chubb should almost certainly receive more touches against the Ravens. A strong run game should facilitate play action options and make life easier for Mayfield.
The past few seasons it seems that no matter where the Browns played the game ended the same way: the other team had more points. For Cleveland to truly turn the corner and transform into a respectable professional football team they need to make First Energy Stadium a home of horrors for the visiting team. Dressed to the nines in their color rush jerseys, the Browns will have a chance to begin a home winning streak on Sunday. May they win there, evermore.