In the NFL, there is truth in the phrase "every game counts." Not every game holds an equal amount of importance as far as the playoffs are concerned, but every team in the NFL is looking to win each and every week.
This week's Thursday Night Football matchup featuring the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns is no different. The Ravens are looking to stay atop the AFC North. The Browns are seeking their first victory of the season. Which team will count one in the win column?
Ravens Looking to Remain Atop AFC North
The Baltimore Ravens went into last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on a four-game losing streak. But they came out and completely dominated. The Ravens only won 21-14, but it was a performance unlike any from the team this season, and it put them in the division lead.
This week brings another division rival and another test for a team that's still finding its way. If the Ravens have turned a corner, they should steamroll the winless Browns. They're currently 10-point favorites. If the Ravens revert to previous form, the game could become a letdown. Intra-division games are always dangerous, given the familiarity teams have with each other. Joe Flacco and the Ravens ultimately just want to put some space between themselves and the Steelers, who have the same record. Will this one turn out to be a blowout or a squeaker?
Flacco has not had a very good season, and it shows in his stats. He's passed for more than 2,000 yards and six touchdowns, but he also has seven interceptions. Making matters worse, he has been sacked a staggering 18 times in just eight games. Some of these stats can't be blamed entirely on him. His once-stout pass protection isn't holding up. The Ravens' signal-caller has good targets in Mike Wallace, Steve Smith Sr. and Dennis Pitta, but can't get them ball without a little time.
Winless Browns Need to Contain Ravens Offense
The Browns have the worst overall defense in the NFL. So containing the sub-par Ravens offense will likely be a challenge.
They were absolutely decimated (35-10) by the Dallas Cowboys last week, showing just how far they have to go to contend. The Browns have kept a few games close this season, but the danger of a winless season is very real.
Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns have a decent offense, despite the revolving door at quarterback from one week to the next. So far in nine games this season, the Browns have played six different players at QB. Those six quarterbacks combined have been sacked 26 times, thrown nine interceptions and completed just 10 touchdowns.
Rookie Cody Kessler will likely get the starting nod against the Ravens, and he'll be looking for Terrelle Pryor, who is turning into a true threat at wide receiver. But they can't do it all on their own.
It's gut-check time now for the Cleveland Browns. The team just doesn't have the talent or skill players to get over that hump. The playoffs are out of the picture. All they have left to play for is pride.
That won't be enough against a Ravens team fighting for their playoff lives. Cleveland will have to wait at least another week to get their first win.
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 28 - Cleveland Browns 13
Danny Cox has been covering the NFL for the past decade and has been watching it for two more. From injury reports to playoff races, he follows every single team and longs for the months of July to February.
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