However, this might not be the ideal time for Lewis to try to prove that Baltimore erred in cutting him and trading for Willis McGahee. Although Lewis ranks third in the NFL in rushing and gained 216 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, he has managed to total only 91 yards in his two other outings. Baltimore leads the NFL in rushing defense, surrendering a stingy 61.7 rushing yards per contest with only three runs of 10 yards or more, which is also the best in the league. The Ravens haven't allowed a rushing touchdown in 10 consecutive contests and are giving up just 2.9 yards per carry.
2. Will the Ravens' secondary be able to withstand the Browns' outside threats?
The defensive backs have been reeling for the past two weeks, allowing three touchdown passes. Plus, they'll be without starting cornerback Samari Rolle again due to an undisclosed illness. Corey Ivy, Ronnie Prude and David Pittman have their work cut out for them against Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicius, three sizable downfield targets with good hands and route-running ability. The X-factor is former Baltimore quarterback Derek Anderson. He's definitely up and down, throwing five touchdowns against the Bengals, but completing less than half of his passes in his other two appearances. Last season, he was just average against Baltimore, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions on 23 of 32 accuracy for 223 yards. Watch out for the no-huddle offense, which has exposed the Ravens' lack of depth over the past two weeks.
3. Will this be Willis McGahee's breakout performance?
McGahee should be able to exploit the NFL's second-worst run defense, a poor-tackling unit that hasn't shown much backbone so far. The Browns' undermanned personnel could struggle against McGahee, who seems to be picking up steam with each week and gained 98 yards against the Arizona Cardinals a week ago. In his only career game against the Browns in 2004, McGahee rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
4. Should the Ravens be just as eager to throw the football?
The Browns have already given up 11 touchdown passes and have been confounded with assignment issues. With Cleveland's pass rush generating just four sacks, opposing quarterbacks have had plenty of time to complete 59.6 percent of their throws for a combined 113.5 rating.
5. Will quarterback Steve McNair play the entire game?
Ravens coach Brian Billick has said he won't hesitate to insert backup Kyle Boller due to concerns about McNair's nagging groin pull. If he rests him this time, it's unlikely it will happen unless the Ravens have a bigger lead or if McNair's mobility and delivery are affected by the injury.
Who has the Edge?
Total (16) Rushing (14t) Passing (17)
Steve McNair isn't necessarily looking over his shoulder yet to hold off Kyle Boller, and there's no quarterback controversy here. Still, it would be good timing for him to cut out the turnovers after three consecutive outings dating back to last season's playoff game where he hasn't taken proper care of the football.
Willis McGahee nearly got into the end zone running the football last week for the first time since being acquired in a trade. McGahee is running pretty hard, but he needs to commit to the hole and stop stutter-stepping before he reaches the line of scrimmage. This is football, not ballroom dancing.
The Ravens are demonstrating signs of beginning to hit on all cylinders outside, particularly with veteran Derrick Mason having rediscovered his youth. Still, this passing game has only scratched the surface of what it's truly capable of. Demetrius Williams and Todd Heap need to be more involved.
Jonathan Ogden is scheduled to be a game-time decision despite a nagging turf toe and foot sprain. Ogden made it through practice safely and the Ravens are liable to see if he can hold up at left tackle. If he starts and stays on the field, then Adam Terry would move back to right tackle. First-round pick Ben Grubbs is pushing guard Chris Chester for more playing time on the right side.
Total (8) Rushing (1) Passing (17)
With Trevor Pryce sidelined with a broken wrist, Dwan Edwards and Antwan Barnes had absolutely no tackles and just one quarterback hit a week ago. That can't continue. It's putting more pressure on Terrell Suggs, who remains sackless. Interior linemen Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata have been especially stout against the run.
Ray Lewis didn't practice much this week with an ankle injury, but he's healthy enough to chase around his old pal, Jamal Lewis. There could be some ear-splitting impacts. Bart Scott has been far too quiet with the Ravens having him take up the slack in pass coverage created by Adalius Thomas' departure. Jarret Johnson has been as solid as concrete against the run.
The Ravens are being overrun by no-huddle attacks, and Corey Ivy, Ronnie Prude and, possibly, Derrick Martin or David Pittman have to hold up better today against Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Chris McAlister has shut down his side well enough that teams are avoiding him for the most part. Safety Ed Reed needs to rise to the occasion with some impactful plays.
In 16 games against the Browns, kicker Matt Stover has made 92.7 percent of his field goals (38 of 41) and connected on all 31 point-after attempts. Last season, he hit a game-winning 52-yard field goal in Cleveland. Rookie return specialist Yamon Figurs is the reigning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his 75-yard touchdown return against the Cardinals.
Total (9) Rushing (12) Passing (11)
QuarterbackFormer Ravens sixth-round pick Derek Anderson is a streaky passer, but he has a smooth, over-the-top delivery and can make virtually any throw. He's prone to interceptions, though, and has already thrown four by forcing passes into coverage. Which Anderson will show up today?
Jamal Lewis has lost nearly 20 pounds, regaining a portion of his old speed and burst that was absent during his final two seasons in Baltimore. He's still big and strong enough to punish tacklers, but has his work cut out for him against the NFL's top-ranked run defense that's familiar with all of his instincts and tendencies.
Braylon Edwards' maturing skill set presents a challenge for the Ravens' secondary. Especially with the absence of starter Samari Rolle. If Chris McAlister is checking Edwards, then how will 5-foot-9, 188-pound Corey Ivy fare against 6-foot-5, 233-pound wideout Joe Jurevicius? Tight end Kellen Winslow has vowed to play despite a shoulder injury.
This is the most improved part of the Browns with the arrival of gifted rookie left tackle Joe Thomas and Pro Bowl left guard Eric Steinbach. Plus, Kevin Shaffer is an upgrade at right tackle. Center Hank Fraley and right guard Seth McKinney are ordinary players.
Total (31) Rushing (31) Passing (23)
The Browns are old and immobile upfront, especially nearly 400-pound nose guard Ted Washington. They don't get off blocks particularly well. Robaire Smith is the only lineman that has recorded a sack.
Kamerion Wimbley is the Browns' most athletic defender, leading the team with two sacks. He has been commanding double-team blocking attention, curtailing his impact. Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson and Chaun Thompson make most of their tackles on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage.
Leigh Bodden is the Browns' top cover guy, but rookie Eric Wright has been getting picked on opposite him. Safety Sean Jones is a hitter, but Phil Savage should have re-signed Brian Russell. Brodney Pool isn't ready yet.
Kicker Phil Dawson had his last-second field goal attempt blocked a week ago, erasing a potential win over the Oakland Raiders. It was McKinney's missed block at left guard that botched the kick. Former Baltimore punter Dave Zastudil is averaging 43 yards, but he has a sore back. Return specialist Josh Cribbs is dangerous. He already has a 99-yard kickoff return this year.
EDGES: Quarterback: Baltimore; Running back: Baltimore; Receivers: Even; Offensive line: Baltimore; Defensive line: Baltimore; Linebackers: Baltimore; Secondary: Baltimore; Special teams: Baltimore.
Three Downs with …
Ravens running back Willis McGahee
1. On the red-zone struggles: "I've always said I hated the red zone because that's the toughest part of the game right there. Any one thing can mess up. Missing half a block can mess the red zone up. I feel I've got to get better. There are times when I could have gotten in and I didn't get in."
2. On his approach to the game: "My goal is not to fall backwards, but always to go forward. I look for contact. I'm not scared of it. You've got to run with it all. I'm not finesse. I want to be finesse, but I can't do that."
3. On running against the Browns' porous defense: "If we do what we're supposed to do, we can run against any defense, to tell you the truth. We've got a good line, we've got a good scheme going on and our coaches are preparing us well for it.
"It's up to us to go out there and do what we have to do as far as moving the ball and opening up the passing game for the receivers and the quarterback. It might be a different team coming here to play us. They might decide they want to shut the run down. You can't look at it like that because they are a good team."
Three Downs with …
Browns running back Jamal Lewis
1. On being in Cleveland: "It feels like a fresh start since Day One. Just coming in here, everybody welcoming me and bringing me in, it's a good feeling, like a new beginning."
2. On how he's playing: "I think I've grown a lot as a football player. Not just physically, because I'm naturally talented, but at the same time just the things I've learned from the coaches that's kind of raised me and brought me up as a pro. So, I think I'm more patient in my game and study more now and just really learned to become a pro.
"I'm running great. I owe that to not just myself and what I can do personally, but I have a great offensive line. That's a key to my position and what I do."
3. On his emotions playing against Baltimore, and matching up with Ray Lewis: "Oh yeah, because I grew up in this league with most of those guys over there. Of course it's an emotional feeling, but at the same time, it's still football.
"It will be great. Ray has always said straight up that I'm probably one of the best backs in the league and he's one of the best linebackers in the league, so it'll be a great matchup."
How the Ravens can win
1. Stop the no-huddle offense. The Ravens allowed the Jets and Cardinals' receivers to execute the hurry-up to roam free, recording six or more catches of 20 yards or higher against Baltimore as quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Kurt Warner combined for 327 yards in the fourth quarter and notched a 114.0 rating.
2. Give Willis McGahee the football. The Browns' porous run defense ranks 31st in the NFL, surrendering 176.3 rushing yards per contest. Opposing runners are averaging 5.9 yards per carry. McGahee should be tired after this one from a heavy workload.
3. Attack Derek Anderson. Although Anderson has only been sacked seven times this year and Baltimore ranks 20th in sacks per pass play, the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder is such a stationary target as an immobile pocket passer that defensive coordinator Rex Ryan won't be able to resist bringing the house. Nor should he.
How the Browns can win
1. Tackle Willis McGahee. The Browns simply can't play the way they did against the Oakland Raiders' Lamont Jordan and have any hope of winning the ball-control battle, let alone the game. This is a suspect 3-4 defense in every way, and it's gut-check time.
2. Get the football in the hands of their playmakers. With cornerback Samari Rolle out for the second consecutive week with an undisclosed illness, the Browns are liable to test out Corey Ivy and go outside to talented receiver Braylon Edwards and brash tight end Kellen Winslow.
3. Establish the run. The Ravens rank first in the NFL against the run, but the Browns still have to find out if a highly-motivated Jamal Lewis is capable of making a dent in their front seven. Lewis is lighter and quicker than the lumbering, unhappy runner who was cut by Baltimore in February.
Former NFL Offensive Player of the Year running back Jamal Lewis isn't the only high-profile former member of the Baltimore Ravens now working for the Cleveland Browns. Of course, there's general manager Phil Savage, the Ravens' former director of player personnel as well as former Baltimore national scout T.J. McCreight, who's the Browns' director of player personnel. Plus, former Baltimore quarterback Derek Anderson, who was cut following training camp in 2005, will start today under center for Cleveland. Other former Ravens on the Browns' roster: safety Gary Baxter, who played four years in Baltimore, punter Dave Zastudil and tight end Darnell Dinkins. Former Ravens personnel assistant Daniel Jeremiah is now the Browns' national scout and former personnel assistant Chisom Opara is the Browns' Southeast area scout.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
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