Five keys to the game

Aaron WIlson gives us his five keys that will determine the victor of this Sunday's game

1. How much improvement can the Ravens' secondary demonstrate one week removed from one of the group's worst performances in recent memory?

Not only do the Browns pose a significant challenge in terms of their passing game, but Baltimore broke down a week ago in terms of alignment and assignments. Was that because of the Steelers' quality offense, or did the Ravens lose their composure while debating wideouts Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward? The improved health of nickel back Tom Knight is a positive development. However, if veteran cornerback Corey Fuller can't play or is hampered by a strained quadriceps, the Ravens could find themselves vulnerable again in the deep patrol.

It's a fine line that Baltimore has to walk as it contends with receivers Kevin Johnson, Quincy Morgan, Dennis Northcutt and Andre' Davis. They have to play more aggressively, but they can't overdo that gambit for fear of being burned deep. This will be a battle of strategy between Browns offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Ravens defensive boss Mike Nolan as they try to utilize their personnel in search of mismatches.

2. Will powerful Ravens running back Jamal Lewis control the clock and the football game with his deceptive speed?

He has quite a history of success against the Browns, and Brian Billick has made it abundantly clear that Lewis will be given ample opportunities to move the Ravens down the field. Plus, the Cleveland linebackers are relatively green even though they are mobile and performed well last week. This is an area where Baltimore could press its advantage. They have a much heavier, more physical offensive line than the Browns' front four. Also, Baltimore is 17-2 when Lewis carries it 20 times or more. They were 4-1 in last year's 7-9 campaign when he rushed for 100 yards or more and 6-2 when he carried the football 20 times or more.

3. Rookie quarterback Kyle Boller made a noticeable progression each week during the preseason. How much will he improve in one week and can he diagnose the Browns' Cover 2 schemes and remain patient?

This game might mirror some of the choices Boller was faced with during the Redskins preseason contest where the first-round draft pick from Cal didn't make big plays, but didn't throw an interception.

4. As rookie outside linebacker Terrell Suggs put it quite correctly, "Tommy Maddox sat back there too comfortable. He really wasn't worried about us and he threw the ball. It's hard for a secondary to cover when you ain't got no heat back there."

5. Obviously, the Ravens must avoid penalties and turnovers after being flagged 10 times against the Steelers along with an interception and four fumbles, losing one.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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