Browns-Ravens Preview

In prime-time, it's the Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Will the same slow starting Browns show-up, or will Pat Shurmur lead an enthusiastic team to an upset? Stranger things have happened.

A few emails were exchanged amongst friends this week in the days between last Sunday's debacle at Cleveland Browns Stadium and the team's only nationally televised primetime game this season, Thursday night at Baltimore.

My friends, most of whom are married and have kids, wanted to go to a bar to watch the Browns play to apparently ease the pain with booze. As one friend said, "it's getting so bad, my two-year old son keeps saying ‘kick the ball' every time he watches the Browns, not ‘score a touchdown' or ‘good play.'"

To be fair to his son, Phil Dawson has been the team's best and most consistent player since 1999.

The same friend also offered up some pre-written tweets for myself and @BarryMcBride. By the way, the latter fella does an excellent job of describing Browns games in 140 characters or less.

So to save him some work Thursday night, my friend offered up some pre-tweets for the first quarter of Thursday's game:

"Rice rumbles for 50 yards on the first drive. Capped off by Boldin TD burning Skrine"

"Cribs takes it out from 9 yards deep in the corner of the end zone. Browns start on the 10."

"TRich 2 yard gain. Holding on the offense."

"Weeden-to-Marecic in the flat."

"Weeden-to-Jordan Cameron in the flat."

"Straight up G-Little open, dropped on third down, Browns forced to punt"

These tweets are for the forth quarter:

"Weeden kills come back with 6th and 7th INT."

"Phil Dawson nails a 50-yard FG with 5 mins left to cut the Ravens lead to 21."

You see, not many people are expecting the Browns to do much against the Ravens. The last time Cleveland beat Baltimore was 2007. The Browns have nine consecutive games and their last 11 against AFC North opponents.

To paraphrase Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah, "It's bad, man."

"There's so much negative vibe outside this locker room. It's everywhere," Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said on Tuesday. "In this locker room, my goal and I think the rest of the guys' goal is to keep the positive vibe in here. It's good right now. Yeah, we're all frustrated, we all want to be 3-0, but any time you let all the outside frustrations come into this locker room, it starts breaking guys apart. That's a recipe for disaster."

So what's the recipe for success? The Ravens are playing their fourth game in 17 days. The Ravens are coming off a hard-fought Sunday night win over the New England Patriots. The Ravens' defense is ranked 27th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (401.3).

Baltimore isn't going to win every game, right?

So far, the two Thursday night games early in the season have been clunkers.

Week 2: Packers 23, Bears 10.

Week 3: Giants 36, Panthers 7.

"It's a tough test," Weeden said. "You basically have two and a half days to prepare and then we are playing a football game. It's not a physically draining week, it's all mental. We have to really understand what we're doing offensively, without getting a rep over and over. You have to learn with basically one or no reps at all. You have to be on your ‘A' game and be ready to rock and roll."

The Browns ‘A' game depends on Weeden and Richardson playing to their potential while the defense can limit Ray Rice. In three games, Rice has 268 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 46 carries and 14 catches for 127 yards.

Last season, Rice posted a 204-yard game against the Browns on Dec. 4 and 20 days later added 87 yards. In three games this season, the Ravens offense is averaging 32.7 points per game and quarterback Joe Flacco has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 913 yards with six touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Regardless, the Browns defense's No. 1 priority is Rice.

"He's really clearly one of the very best players in the league on the offensive side of the ball," Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. "He's an outstanding receiver, got great balance, he's got really good speed. He hits the hole fast, he finds the holes. They're good up front. It's a combination that really stresses a defense. He's just a tremendous player."

Clearly the Browns are up against a monumental task, but a task that can be achieved. Funny things happen in the NFL, like a 51-yard field goal hitting the cross bar and bouncing back onto the field, which confused everyone if it was good or not. It was good and it forced overtime.

Dawson did that against the Ravens in 2007. The Browns won that game 33-30 in OT. It was their last win over the Ravens.

Baltimore isn't going to win every game against the Browns, right?