Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: A ‘must-win’ AFC North match-up
The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football, a matchup with huge playoff implications in the AFC and one described as “must-win” by Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms.
The Ravens (7-5) come into the contest as the No 8 seed in the conference, currently on the outside looking in, after a tough few weeks which has seen them loose a number of players to positive Covid-19 tests – most notably, their quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson.
The Browns (9-3), meanwhile, clinched a first winning season in 13 years with a 41-35 statement victory at the Tennessee Titans last week and the current No 5 seed are eyeing a first trip to the postseason since 2002.
The Ravens have had the better of the divisional rivalry in recent years, however, including a 38-6 blowout win over the Browns in the season opener this year.
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“This is Ravens-Browns; the game really counts,” former NFL quarterback Simms said on Pro Football Talk (weekdays, 7pm, Sky Sports NFL).
“The Browns are the team with the advantage, the team that are sitting pretty; the Ravens are the ones that are in the position I thought the Browns would be in, honestly – it’s almost ‘must win’.
“We’ve seen the Ravens have their way with the Browns in the Lamar Jackson era, but this Cleveland team are showing that they’re for real. Last week [against the Titans], they showed up.
“I’m excited for this game. There’s a lot of pressure on both sides; neither one of these teams are guaranteed a playoff spot – Cleveland have some tough games coming up on their schedule.
“This game is going to be won in the trenches, we know that; both teams want to run the football and can’t really depend on the passing game to win.
“The Ravens pass game, in particular, is concerning but I have more confidence that the Ravens can run the ball on Cleveland. I think Cleveland can run on the Ravens, but I’m not sure.
“That’s the matchup that determines the game. If the Browns can run on Baltimore, I’m confident they will win.”
The Browns have back-to-back road games in New York, against the Giants and the Jets, to follow Monday night’s game, before they host current AFC North leaders the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17.
The Steelers (11-2), who had been chasing an undefeated season, are coming off two-straight loses to the Washington Football Team and Buffalo Bills – with the first of those prompting a tweet from Browns defensive end Myles Garrett that the Steelers “might have opened the door”.
PFT‘s Mike Florio says Monday night offers the Browns the chance to set up a potential season-ending clash with Pittsburgh for the division, similar to when the San Francisco 49ers earned the No 1 seed in the NFC last year with a goal-line stand to beat the Seattle Seahawks.
“It’s important to the psyche of the Browns,” said Florio. “If you get blown out again by the Ravens, that erases what you did to the Titans – it shows that what you did was a fluke.
“Validate what you did by at least keeping it close on Monday night against the Ravens. And, if you beat them, then maybe the Steelers really do have to worry about blowing the division to the Browns.
Steelers might have opened the door 👀
“We saw the tweet from Myles Garrett earlier this week, that the Steelers may have opened the door. Maybe they have.
“Maybe Week 17 will be the nationally televised game to cap the season, to determine who is the No 2 seed or No 5 seed, like we saw last year with the Seahawks and 49ers.”
Watch the Baltimore Ravens at the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am, Tuesday
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