It looked like the Ravens were picking up where they left off from 2019, too.
The Ravens won 38-6. It was a horrendous debut for new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. Given how bad Cleveland has been this century, it wasn’t too surprising of a result.
If you watched that game, you’d have never predicted that going into the rematch it would be the Browns riding high and looking like a playoff lock while the Ravens are battling just to get in. The 9-3 Browns host the 7-5 Ravens on Monday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
The Browns are comfortably in the playoff field going into the game, but they’ll want to show everyone that they’re a much different team from that Week 1 blowout.
Browns have bounced back since Week 1
The knock on the Browns had been that they hadn’t beaten many quality opponents. That started with the blowout loss to the Ravens. A 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t help the perception either.
That’s what made last week’s win a big one for Cleveland. They won 41-35 against a Tennessee Titans team that led the AFC South coming in. The Browns led 38-7 at halftime. Baker Mayfield threw four first-half touchdowns. It was impressive and against a good team.
That might quiet critics for a week, but if the Browns get blown out by the Ravens again the same questions will return. Cleveland is a good team. It’s hard to get to 9-3 without being very good. The Browns run the ball very well. Now that Jarvis Landry is healthy, the passing game has been much better. The defense hasn’t been great but does have a few difference makers, led by defensive end Myles Garrett.
But because of the Browns’ sorry history, they’ll have to keep proving themselves. The rematch with the Ravens is less about playoff positioning, and more about gaining some respect.
Ravens need wins to ensure a playoff spot
After that Week 1 win, the Ravens couldn’t have thought they’d be looking up at the Browns in the standings by mid-December.
The Ravens were 14-2 last season and started this season 5-1. The offense wasn’t as efficient this season but the Ravens were still winning games.
Then the trouble started. They lost four of five. They had a COVID-19 outbreak that forced their Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be rescheduled, and they were extremely shorthanded for a loss at Pittsburgh. The Ravens did rebound to rush for almost 300 yards in a win over the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday night, but it’s hard to tell if that was taking advantage of a horrible Cowboys defense or a sign that the Ravens are rediscovering their 2019 form.
Both teams are desperate, but for different reasons. The Ravens need wins to make sure they get a wild-card spot in a competitive AFC. The Browns don’t have anything clinched and it would be devastating to blow a playoff spot after a 9-3 start, but there is likely a little extra for them on the line Monday night.
Either way, it should be a much different matchup than anyone would have figured after Week 1.