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Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview and Predictions 09-13-2020

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Two teams that know all about the weight of preseason expectations welcome the start of the regular season Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens take on the visiting Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens enter 2020 as the preseason pick to win the AFC North and contend for the Super Bowl. And why wouldn't Baltimore be on any short list of title contenders with veteran head coach John Harbaugh, 23-year-old quarterback and reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, and 11 returning Pro Bowlers from a team that was 14-3 last season.

The incandescent Jackson is a huge reason for the Ravens' sky-high expectations. Jackson threw for 3,127 yards and a league-high 36 touchdowns, against just nine interceptions. He also set an NFL record with 1,206 rushing yards as a quarterback with seven scores on the ground.

But a clunker in the divisional playoff round against Tennessee left some thinking Jackson still has something to prove as an NFL quarterback. Jackson said whatever external expectations exist won't affect how he or the Ravens prepare.

"I really don't care about the hype or what people expect," Jackson said Wednesday. "I expect for myself and my teammates to go out there and produce and win games."

The Browns, meanwhile, caved to preseason expectations a year ago. Cleveland was a chic pick to win the AFC North in 2019, but quarterback Baker Mayfield regressed, standout defensive end Myles Garrett missed the last the six games of the season with a suspension, and Cleveland finished 6-10.

After the season, owner Jimmy Haslam wiped the slate clean -- again -- by firing head coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey.

The latest leadership duo of head coach Kevin Stefanski and GM Andrew Berry are tasked with trying to get the franchise on track. Sunday will be Stefanski's first game as an NFL head coach.

"We're not interested in excuses. I don't think anybody wants to hear them," Stefanski said. "It's hard for me to look far ahead and too far behind. I like where we are right now."

Mayfield threw for 3,827 yards last year, but had 21 interceptions against 22 touchdown passes. He still has a full complement of talented skill position players -- running back Nick Chubb, and flankers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. for example -- and the Browns tried to rework the offensive line and added help at tight end during the offseason.

Stefanski will be Mayfield's third head coach -- fourth if interim coach Gregg Williams counts -- in as many seasons as a professional.

"(That) could be an excuse if you use it, but that's not what I'm doing here," Mayfield said. "(The) singular focus is on this year and what we can do."

Opening the year with a win would be a big statement for Cleveland. The Browns are just 1-19-1 in season openers since returning to the NFL for the 1999 season. The lone win came in 2004, against Baltimore, and Cleveland is winless in 15 straight season openers.

The Ravens won't be expecting anything easy, however.

The Browns handed Baltimore its last regular-season loss, on Sept. 29, 2019, when Chubb rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns on a defense that was at times a bit soft against the run.

Harbaugh tried to stiffen that front in the offseason with veteran acquisitions on the defensive line in Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe (13.5 combined sacks in 2019), and by drafting rookie linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison.

"It's a rivalry game," Harbaugh said. "We've had many knock-down, drag-out brawls with this football team and this organization. They played a great football game (last year) and beat us handily."

--Field Level Media

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Key Players to Watch

Stadium

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Capacity: 71,008

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Last Injuries

Baltimore Ravens

  • Brandon Williams

    Illness
    Prob Week 8 | probable

    Williams has been activated from the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list, and he is expected to be ready for Week 8 versus the Steelers.

  • Anthony Averett

    Shoulder
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Averett has been shifted to the injured reserve list with a slight fracture in his shoulder and will miss an extended period.

  • Mark Ingram II

    Ankle
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Ingram II exited the previous game with a left mid-to high-ankle sprain, and it is unclear if he will face the Steelers in Week 8.

  • Za'Darius Smith

    Ankle
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Smith is bothered by an ankle injury, and it has yet to be determined if he will partake in Sunday's tilt versus the Texans.

  • Derek Wolfe

    Concussion
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Wolfe sat out the last contest due to a concussion and a neck injury. It remains to be seen if he will take on the Steelers in Week 8.

  • Tyre Phillips

    Hand
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Phillips exited the last game with a hand injury, and it is unclear if he will be active Week 8 against the Steelers.

  • Anthony Levine Sr.

    Abdominal
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Levine Sr. has an abdominal injury and missed the previous game. It is unclear if he will play Week 8 against the Steelers.

  • Za'Darius Smith

    Ankle
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Smith is hindered by an ankle injury, and it is undetermined if he will face the Buccaneers on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns

  • Wyatt Teller

    Calf
    day-to-day | questionable

    Teller has sat out the last two games with a calf injury, and it is unclear if he will be ready for Week 8 versus the Raiders.

  • Jacob Phillips

    Knee
    day-to-day | questionable

    Phillips has been absent from the previous two contests with a knee injury, and it is undetermined if he will suit up against the Raiders in Week 8.

  • Austin Hooper

    Appendix
    day-to-day | questionable

    Hooper sat out the previous game after undergoing an appendectomy. It has yet to be established if he will return to face the Raiders in Week 8.

  • JC Tretter

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Tretter was forced from the previous game with an unspecified injury, and it is unknown if he will face the Raiders in Week 8.

  • Ronnie Harrison Jr.

    Concussion
    day-to-day | questionable

    Harrison Jr. sustained an ankle injury in the last game, and it remains to be seen if he will line up Week 8 against the Raiders.

  • Odell Beckham Jr.

    Knee
    out for season | out

    Beckham will miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.

  • Sheldon Richardson

    Achilles
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Richardson is tending to an Achilles injury, and there is no indication if it will prevent him from competing in Sunday's game with the Bengals.

  • Andrew Sendejo

    Shin
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Sendejo is hobbled by a shin injury, and it remains to be seen if he will take the field against the Bengals on Sunday.