Finishing on a High Note – What to Do?
While the playoffs are long gone, this game against the Ravens still matters. The visiting club has a shot to affect the AFC postseason picture – even though that is an extremely difficult task. I am going to fully admit the Browns have little to zero chance at winning in Baltimore; however, should they accomplish a handful of tasks – there is a small chance of victory. Let’s take a glance at those…
#1 – Play Loose
There’s not a ton to lose for the Cleveland Browns, right? Exactly; and the team needs to play with that philosophy on Sunday. The Browns cannot afford to worry about every key moment – whether it’s a critical third down or the ramifications if they fail to execute on a long pass attempt. I think Brian Hoyer has a carefree mentality, so as long as he can make a few plays here and there – this could be a close contest.
#2 – Don’t Give the Fans a Reason to Cheer
It has been apparent that the Browns offense has been susceptible to turn over the ball and negative (yardage) plays in the past few weeks. They must eliminate these to have any shot at winning. Doing either of the two will liven up the crowd, regardless of who is ahead, and swing the momentum toward the home team. I do not feel confident that the Browns can take care of the ball, but I have been known to be incorrect from time to time.
#3 – Always Take Advantage
Beating a very good team requires a few things; one of those is to always score when the opponent presents you with an opportunity. Scoring touchdowns off turnovers and while in the red zone are vital – field goals in those scenarios could lead to a loss. That was the case against the Colts a few weeks ago – had the Browns’ offense stepped up a few times, and they would have put away the AFC South champions. It will require a similar effort against Joe Flacco.
#4 – Remember the Last Time
The near victory and the gut-wrenching loss should still stick with many members of the orange and brown. Paul Kruger, a former Raven, is likely still kicking himself that his new team blew it against his former one. I understand there has been several new starters inserted since that contest (especially at quarterback), but the Browns can still play with those guys in purple. The difference this time is to make that one big play when it matters most.
#5 – Focus on that Achilles’ Heel
The downfall of the Browns’ defense has been the strength of the Ravens’ offense – running the football. The visitors will have one final chance to slow down a tremendous athlete (Justin Forsett) in order to alter their opponent’s game plan. I predict that the rusher will have a fair amount of success; but preventing runs over ten yards (and more importantly touchdowns) could be a key for this defense.
Conclusion: This roller coaster of a season is finally about to come to an end. There have been many ups and downs, multiple injuries, and significant roster moves. I desperately want the Browns to get at least one victory against each division foe this campaign – but fear this won’t happen against the old Browns.