Rematch Dripping With Playoff Ramifications

The AFC North seemingly now has the potential to offer up a wild card playoff team. The Browns and Ravens will try to climb into the drivers seat for that position this Sunday...

If the worst of this season is behind the Browns, and evidence suggests it might be, there is still time enough to make the playoffs. Hard as it might be to believe, the Browns are only one game behind the second wildcard spot in the AFC despite a 3-4 record.

When the schedule was announced in April, it seemed only the division winner would come from the AFC North. But excluding the division leaders, only the Patriots (5-2) plus the Jets and Ravens (both 4-3) are above .500 in the AFC. Five non-division leaders are above .500 in the NFC.

On Sunday afternoon in Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Browns have a chance to get to even with one of those teams. They host the Ravens in a rematch of a game the Browns lost, 28-10, in Baltimore in September.

The early loss to the Ravens left the Browns at 0-3. Since then they have won three of four. The turnaround began by beating the Giants, 35-14, in a Monday night game. They are coming off a hard-fought 23-17 victory in Jacksonville. The Jaguars won three of four before the Browns beat them.

"If my guys will come to play the way they played (against Jacksonville), then we're going to be in it and we're going to have a chance," coach Romeo Crennel said.

The Browns have been through a lot of turmoil already this season and it doesn't hit the halfway point until Sunday. The low point occurred last week when the team suspended Kellen Winslow. The name on the suspension letter belonged to Crennel, but the decision to suspend him for making "disparaging" remarks about the team telling him to keep his staph infection a secret was not Crennel's alone.

There have been other low points. Anderson was charged with most of the blame for the 0-3 start, but Crennel stuck with him. Crennel still believes in Winslow and he believed in Braylon Edwards in 2006 when no one else did. Edwards caught 16 touchdown passes last year. He has had a rocky 2008, but Crennel believes Edwards can catch the ball consistently if he just relaxes.

No one needs to be reminded how poorly this season started. The schedule maker did not do the Browns any favors by making them play the Cowboys and Steelers at home and then sending them on the road to Baltimore.

While the Browns were opening against the Cowboys, at the time the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the Steelers got to play the Houston Texans at home.

It was no surprise the Browns were 0-3. They believe they should be riding a four-game winning streak, but they did not beat the Redskins because they could not score from the 1.

The slow start had a lot to do with Edwards missing the final three games of preseason with a lacerated foot and Anderson missing the last two with a concussion. Anderson has settled down after a slow start. He has thrown 105 passes without throwing an interception.

SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead the series, 12-7. The Ravens put the Browns in an 0-3 hole when the two teams met in Baltimore in September. The Browns are still trying to climb out of it after losing 28-10.

The key play in the 28-10 loss was a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ravens safety Ed Reed. Reed jumped a poorly run route by wide receiver Syndric Steptoe. The touchdown put the Ravens ahead, 21-10. Steptoe was playing because Donte Stallworth was out with a quadriceps injury. Steptoe's playing time has been reduced since Stallworth returned on Oct. 13.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Any hope the Browns had of Joe Jurevicius making a miracle comeback from complications following a staph infection has vanished. At 4 p.m. Monday, the window for the Browns to begin practicing him while he remains on reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list will close.

"We will be coming out with a statement about Joe toward the end of the week or the beginning of next week about what his status is," coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday. "Generally, it doesn't look very good."

Jurevicius had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in January. Two weeks later a staph infection developed. He had at least three operations to clean out the staph, most recently on July 1.

Jurevicius would have been the third receiver when everyone was healthy, but he would have been a starter during the four weeks Donte Stallworth was recovering from a strained quadriceps injury.

Jurevicius, 33, said at the end of last year this would be his last season. He still has one year left on his contract.

--The first time the Browns met the Ravens was an emotional game. The Ravens were in their fourth year in Baltimore after leaving Cleveland. The Browns were a stumbling expansion team. The Browns intercepted three passes from Stoney Case -- one by Daylon McCutcheon, one by Lenoy Jones and one by Rahim Abdullah. All the Browns had to show for the takeaways was a 17-10 loss. It was just the second start for rookie quarterback Tim Couch. Couch fumbled on the Browns 1 after being sacked by Peter Boulware. Case scored on the next play.

--Jamal Lewis rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries last season when the Browns beat the Ravens, 33-30, in overtime. In that game, Braylon Edwards caught eight passes for 85 yards.

--The Browns intercepted three passes in two games against the Ravens last season. Leigh Bodden picked off one when the Browns won, 27-13, in Cleveland and Brodney Pool and Sean Jones each had an interception in Baltimore. Pool returned his 100 yards for a touchdown.

--Kellen Winslow caught 21 passes in four games against the Ravens before being held to two catches in the game played Sept. 21.

BY THE NUMBERS: 36 -- The Browns have been outscored by 36 points, 45-9, in the third quarter this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've got this quote right here: 'Without struggle there is no progress.' I live by that quote. It's just going to make me stronger." -- Kellen Winslow, referring to a tattoo on his arm, after being suspended and then returning to the Browns

PLAYER NOTES

--SS Sean Jones has a swollen right knee and did not practice Wednesday. He had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in September.

--WR Donte Stallworth was limited in practice after aggravating a quadriceps injury against the Jaguars.

--A knee injury continues to keep OL Ryan Tucker sidelined. Tucker has practiced once and hasn't played in a game since starting against the Giants on Oct. 13.

--DB Mike Adams practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. He missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

--DE Corey Williams is nursing a sore shoulder and did not practice Wednesday.

--FB Lawrence Vickers did not practice so he could rest a sore ankle.

--DL Shaun Smith had the hard cast removed from his left hand. He missed the last three games with a broken hand.

GAME PLAN: Derek Anderson threw two interceptions in the third quarter when the Browns played the Ravens in Baltimore in September. One led to the touchdown that put the Ravens ahead, 14-10, and one was returned 32 yards by Ed Reed for a touchdown to make it 21-10.

Anderson has not thrown an interception in more than three games. His span of 105 passes without a pick dates back to the Browns' second possession of the third quarter in Cincinnati Sept. 28. The Browns won all but one of those games, including a 20-12 victory over the Bengals. The Browns can get even with the Ravens in the AFC North if they do not beat themselves.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns RB Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens LB Ray Lewis. Jamal Lewis carried the ball only 12 times against the Ravens in the September game. He said that was "pathetic." He did not have fewer than 19 carries in any of the four games that followed. Lewis started the season trying to make people miss. He is running over tacklers more. There should be some major collisions when the two Lewis' meet each other.

Browns CB Eric Wright vs. Ravens WR Derrick Mason. Mason caught four passes for 42 yards when these division rivals met in September. He was the Ravens' leading receiver in the game. Wright is playing more confidently now. Wright is playing more confidently than he was five weeks ago.

INJURY IMPACT: The secondary will be very thin if Sean Jones (knee) and Mike Adams (hamstring) have to sit out against the Ravens. Coach Romeo Crennel is hopeful both can play. Getting Shaun Smith back on the defensive line will help the defensive line rotation.



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