Every game features important matchups that could play a huge role in determining the outcome of the game. Here are a few of the ones that jump out in this week’s matchup between the Browns and Ravens.
Ravens DL Haloti Ngata/Chris Canty vs. Browns RG Oniel Cousins
With Shawn Lauvao not quite recovered, Cousins will be in the line up again and the Ravens are certainly going to attack him as often as possible. Depending on the lineup they choose to go with, Ngata or Canty could be attacking him and if Cousins does not play significantly better than he did last week, the Browns offense could be short circuited before it starts as they collapse the pocket consistently.
Ravens LOLB Elvis Dumervil vs. Browns RT Mitchell Schwartz
Schwartz had problems last week when it came to blocking Cameron Wake. Dumervil is not quite on Wake’s level but is a terrific player nonetheless and one of the reasons Schwartz struggled, having Cousins inside of him, is still there and in an even worse matchup. Schwartz basically has to assume he is getting nothing from Cousins and do everything he can to stop Dumervil by himself. If the left side of the Ravens defensive line has similar success to what the Dolphins did last week, the Browns offense may have similar results.
Ravens ROLB Terrell Suggs vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas
The best matchup in terms of talent, Thomas has had a lot of success in stopping Suggs, but he is still a great pass rusher who can make a big impact, in part because of his versatility. Suggs is a dangerous rusher but he is as good as the NFL has to offer in terms of being able to drop into coverage. Thomas cannot and will not take his success for granted and give Suggs all he can handle.
Browns DT Phil Taylor vs. Ravens OC Gino Gradkowski
The Ravens have some incredibly talented offensive linemen but they are expecting the former sixth round pick to take a big role left over by the retiring Matt Birk. Taylor was impressive in his first game, even against one of the better centers in the league in Mike Pouncey. It will be a tall order for Gradkowski to stop Taylor and he could collapse the interior of the line, which would make it difficult to run the ball as well as for Joe Flacco to step up to throw in the pocket.
Browns OLBs Jabaal Sheard/Barkevious Mingo vs. Ravens LT Bryant McKinnie
McKinnie has a habit of trying to work himself into shape during the season. He is also not quite as big as he used to be but has remarkable length and really handles power well. He could make a big difference powering the running game to the left side but if the Browns can put the Ravens in obvious passing situations, Sheard and especially Mingo could have success. This will be Mingo’s first regular season game and his speed and quickness against McKinnie’s strength, size, and savvy could be a key to the game.
Browns OLB Paul Kruger vs. Ravens RT Michael Oher/Kelechi Osemele
As long as the ankle sprain suffered last week does not keep Oher out of the game, he is a terrific right tackle. If he cannot go, they will slide Osemele over from left guard. Kruger has a chip on his shoulder from only playing 19 snaps in the Super Bowl and is coming off of an impressive debut against the Dolphins both against the run and the pass.
Browns CBs Buster Skrine and Chris Owens vs. Ravens WRs Brandon Stokley and Marlon Brown
With Joe Haden covering Torrey Smith, much of the focus from the passing game is going to be on the other wide receivers. Brian Hartline had a big game last week and while neither Stokley nor Brown are on that level, they will likely get some opportunities because of the way the Browns attack with so many rushers at times, leaving holes in the coverage.
Ravens CBs Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham vs. Browns WRs Greg Little, Davone Bess and Travis Benjamin
Basically, Smith and Graham have to find a way to stop whoever Lardarius Webb is not covering. Last week, the Ravens did a fantastic job of stopping the Broncos running game, but were eviscerated by Peyton Manning and the passing game. Brandon Weeden has to prove he can be even an average quarterback and there will be openings and he needs to take advantage. The wide receivers need to do a better job of catching the football and making plays for the offense.
Ravens ILBs Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes and Ss Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo vs. Browns TE Jordan Cameron and RB Trent Richardson
Last week, Julius Thomas had a ton of success against the Ravens coverage and Cameron has that type of athleticism. The Ravens will probably put more in terms of manpower to stop Cameron than they did Thomas, but he is coming off of a good performance against the Dolphins and is one of the only mismatches the Browns offense has in this game. With Richardson, the running game is going to be important but he could also be featured more prominently in the passing game and the Ravens will have to try to put someone on him in coverage.
Browns ILBs D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson and Ss T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson vs. Ravens RBs Ray Rice, Vonta Leach and Bernard Pierce
Again, the running game will be a big part of this, but a quarter of Flacco’s 62 throws were at running backs last game. Rice in particular is a dynamic threat as a receiver out of the backfield but Leach can make plays as well. And while he was not targeted last week, Pierce could get more looks in that capacity this week as well as potentially being involved in fakes with play action to open up opportunities for the other backs.