Prediction No. 6
Writer: Elliot Kennel
Game: Cleveland Browns (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
Summary: The first game will be an error-filled panzerblitz fought on the ground, with a few ordinances exploding at the wrong time.
The Cleveland Browns have a new coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive scheme, a new defense, and a new defensive scheme and zero games to test them out. Although all of those changes will prove to be positive in the long run, in the short run they have not had the repetitions to match Baltimore. This is not going to be pretty for either side.
Both teams are likely to feature a run-first offense, with the Browns usually featuring two tight ends and giving carries to both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Of course, in the Ravens offense, quarterback Lamar Jackson is the most dangerous threat on the ground as well through the air.
On the other hand, the Browns have had an entire off-season to study the films to figure out how to slow down Jackson and the Baltimore dual-threat offense, which is only going to be more dangerous with the addition of former Ohio State Buckeye J.K. Dobbins. The Ravens still have feature back Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hil. Plus, 6-foot-3, 311-pound Patrick Ricard is a Pro Bowl fullback when he is not playing defensive line. They are a LOAD on offense. Still, the Browns have beaten the Ravens twice in the past two seasons, so they are a threat.
We get that the Browns figure that linebackers are overpaid and that is why Joe Schobert was let go. But they also play the Ravens twice a year and they gain 200 yards per game on the ground. How are the Browns going to stop 311-pound fullbacks? Denzel Ward can go man-to-man with Marquise Brown, the main Baltimore receiving threat, and they can play eight in the box to try to slow down the Baltimore running game. Are their young linebackers and extra defensive backs up to the task? We are about to find out.
The Ravens are going to miss Earl Thomas, but they still have awesome corners in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Last season they loved to blitz and according to Pro Football Focus led the NFL in the highest percentage of blitzes. Baker Mayfield will be looking for Chubb and Hunt, plus fullback Andy Janovich and his cadre of tight ends, including Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant, Stephen Carlson, and David Njoku. Eventually, things will open up for OBJ and Jarvis Landry. The short game preferred by coach Kevin Stefanskiy and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt may actually be the best way to attack the Ravens defense.
Week one games across the NFL are going to be a little tentative and a little sloppy, so do not be upset if there are some turnovers or blown assignments. In the end, however, this is going to be tank warfare, like World War II panzerblitz, and this one may favor the Ravens.
Score Prediction: Baltimore 35, Cleveland 27