The 9-3 Cleveland Browns have a huge divisional matchup against the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.
After the Steelers dropped their second straight game to Buffalo to go to 11-2, a Browns win could narrow the gap between the two teams to just 1 game.
The Ravens beat the Browns in Week 1 (which feels like years ago at this point) in a very one-sided game by the score of 38-6.
Let’s look at the 3 keys to a Browns victory, and there are no surprises or spoilers here.
These are the same keys that have helped the Browns get to 9-3.
1. Run the Ball
The Browns are second overall in rushing yards per game. (157.8) They're the only team in the top 4 that doesn't have a QB significantly running the ball. (BAL NE AZ)
They've accomplished this despite Nick Chubb missing almost 4 games.
This is CLEVELAND football. pic.twitter.com/VOWRCZHor1
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) December 9, 2020
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the engines that spur this offensive machine.
How they go is most often how the team goes.
The offensive line deserves as much credit as Chubb and Hunt for the success of the 2020 Browns running game.
Needless to say, these two need to be unstoppable this evening.
In Week 1, the tandem rushed for 138 yards collectively which was not bad since the Browns were taken out of the running rhythm because they trailed 24-6 by halftime.
2. Dominate Time of Possession
You’re probably thinking that this is a no-brainer.
Remember I said there were no spoilers because the keys to victory do not change much from week to week.
Browns need to hog time of possession today. Control the tempo and the clock. Nice long drives and 3rd down conversions will be key. The Titans are awful on 3rd down defense. I hope browns get ball first to set the tempo. #browns
— Ryan🏈🏈🍂 #D4L (@FlyRy97) December 6, 2020
This means the Browns are able to convert third down plays to keep the chains moving.
Converting on third down was a problem in Week 1; the Browns only converted 3 out of 12 or 25% of their third down opportunities.
The Ravens converted 6 out of 11 or 54% of their third down opportunities.
And look for Baker Mayfield to continue to execute timely, well thrown completions to keep the Ravens defense on their heels.
So far this year, the Ravens average time of possession per game is 30:31; the Browns is 30:40.
3. Control Lamar Jackson
He’s the reigning NFL MVP.
And even though he’s coming back from COVID-19, his legs and arm looked great against the Cowboys last week.
The Cowboys gave him time, did not take away his options, and he found running lanes so wide open that there was literally no one near him for what looked like miles.
Run this like I'm LAMAR JACKSON❗️
TOUCHDOWN @Lj_era8❗️ | ProBowl Vote
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 9, 2020
Lamar Jackson drops a dime to extend the Ravens (-8.5) lead to 24-10 pic.twitter.com/RvZnO2myZ7
— Barstool Sports Commenter (@BSScommenter_) December 9, 2020
I am sure Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods has been busy this week pouring over the Ravens vs. Cowboys film as well as the last Ravens vs. Browns game in Week 1 to figure out ways to prevent this from happening.
Browns Need Confidence
It’s not an official key to the game, but one of the many problems with Week 1 is that the Browns looked shell-shocked and outplayed almost from the opening whistle.
I am sure Coach Stefanski (could be NFL Coach of the Year) is talking to them about this.
They need to approach the game as the favorite, not the 1 point underdog they are.
Because in terms of momentum and growth from Week 1 until now, the Browns are the better team.
They need to come out knowing they can win the game.
Let the media and the rest of the world be surprised when they actually do it.