Ravens Vs. Browns

Nfl Week 16

Today, 1 P.m., Cleveland Browns Stadium, Chs. 13, 9

December 21, 2003|By JAMISON HENSLEY

SCOUTING REPORT

Ravens run offense vs. Browns run defense -- RAVENS

Three months ago, Jamal Lewis rushed for an NFL-record 295 yards against Cleveland and the Ravens racked up 343 yards on the ground overall. Lewis, who has gained 100 yards in all five of his meetings with the Browns, has averaged 168 yards a game and 7.0 yards a carry for his career vs. Cleveland. The trend has not changed for a Browns defense that still relies on a young linebacking corps. Over the past three weeks, opponents have averaged 146.6 yards rushing on 35.6 carries.

Ravens pass offense vs. Browns pass defense -- EVEN

Teams have begun to get a read on Anthony Wright. After completing 55 percent of his throws in his first three starts, he has connected on 43 percent in his past two. Last Sunday, the Ravens failed on 10 of 12 third-down conversion attempts. Wright's favorite target, Marcus Robinson, was held without a catch in Oakland after making 13 receptions in his previous three games. At cornerback, Daylon McCutcheon (ankle) is banged up and rookie Michael Lehan likely will start his second game in place of Anthony Henry (knee). In Cleveland's past three games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 65 percent of their passes for an average of 273 yards.

Browns run offense vs. Ravens run defense -- RAVENS

Injuries and off-the-field problems have forced the Browns to turn to Jamel White, their third starting running back of the season. In six games against the Ravens, White has gained 87 yards on 26 carries (3.1 yards) and has not broken a run longer than 14 yards. Cleveland has had one 100-yard rusher in two months and has not had a 100-yard rusher in nine games against the Ravens, its third-longest drought against any team. The Ravens give up 3.5 yards per carry, which is fifth best in the league. Nose tackle Kelly Gregg has been a steady force in the middle and will match up against Melvin Fowler (Maryland), who will be starting his fourth straight game at center.

Browns pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense -- EVEN

Tim Couch is the starter in what has been a season-long yo-yo at quarterback. In his first start since Oct. 26, he completed eight of 18 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns Sunday in Denver. But Couch took advantage of his big-play receivers, with half of his completions going for 27 yards or more. Cleveland's leading receiver, Dennis Northcutt, has caught a pass on third down in each of the 13 games he has played this season. The Ravens are ranked fifth in the NFL in pass defense, and half of their secondary (cornerback Chris McAlister and safety Ed Reed) was named to the Pro Bowl. Over their past three games, the Ravens have produced six interceptions and six sacks while holding teams below 186 net yards passing. Cleveland will look to target cornerback Corey Fuller, who plays in nickel situations, by playing a majority of three-receiver formations.

Special teams -- EVEN

Field position could be a deciding factor in a close game, but the coverage and return teams are comparable. The Ravens have the edge in the kicking game, with the nearly automatic Matt Stover over the recently signed Brett Conway. But Browns punter Chris Gardocki has a more consistent leg than Dave Zastudil.

Intangibles -- EVEN

The Ravens have playoff aspirations on the line, but the Browns would like nothing better than to ruin Art Modell's final season as Ravens owner. Despite a 4-10 record, Cleveland has not quit, losing its past two games by a total of nine points. The road has been nothing but trouble for the Ravens, who have dropped their past four games away from home. The Browns, though, have been one of the NFL's worst home teams (2-5) this season.

Prediction -- RAVENS

The loss in Oakland should be a wake-up call for the Ravens. With Cincinnati expected to lose in St. Louis, today's game represents the Ravens' best shot at regaining control of the AFC North. But like everything on the road this season, it won't be easy. Ravens, 17-13.

GAME FACTS

Records

Ravens 8-6 Browns 4-10

Line

Ravens by 3

Vs. spread

Ravens 8-5-1 Browns 5-9

Series

Ravens lead 6-3

Last meeting

Ravens won, 33-13, on Sept. 14 in Baltimore.

NFL rankings

Ravens offense: Overall (21), rush (2), pass (32).

Ravens defense: Overall (5), rush (8), pass (5).

Browns offense: Overall (28), rush (29), pass (22).

Browns defense: Overall (13), rush (20), pass (9).

Quick hits

Ravens are 25-13 in the 38 games in which LB Ray Lewis and RB Jamal Lewis have played together.

Ravens lead the NFL with 126 fourth-quarter points.

Ravens have forced two or more turnovers in nine games this season and are 8-1 in those games.

Browns' Chris Gardocki has not had a punt blocked in an NFL-record 968 attempts.

Browns' Jamel White is tied for most third-down catches by an AFC running back (17).

Injuries

RAVENS: Out: LB Adalius Thomas (elbow-IR). Questionable: LB Ray Lewis (shoulder); G Edwin Mulitalo (groin); FB Alan Ricard (ankle); RB Chester Taylor (leg).

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