At 3-5, the Cleveland Browns sit a half game out of second place in the AFC North behind the 3-4 Baltimore Ravens. They'll have a chance to swap their standing this Sunday as the two teams meet in a divisional matchup in Cleveland.
The Browns are coming off of a frustrating but encouraging loss to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, who they took down to the wire in a 23-17 thriller last weekend. The Ravens, meanwhile, have lost two straight, including a 19-16 defeat to the basement-dwelling Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8.
Meet the Browns
The NFL trade deadline came and went Tuesday and Josh Gordon is still residing in Cleveland. The wideout almost single-handedly kept the Browns' offense moving last Sunday against the Chiefs, catching five passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. His continued presence is good news for Jason Campbell, who looked good in his first start since filling in for an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago last season. The Trent Richardson-less running game continues to be an issue, however: leading rusher Willis McGahee is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry on the season.
Aside from Gordon, it was the Browns defense that kept them in the game with the Chiefs. Amid a season in which the team has had three separate starting quarterbacks, the defensive unit has been the backbone of an otherwise turbulent club. They rank seventh in yards allowed and have limited opponents to a solid 22.4 points per game. Anchored by former first-rounder Joe Haden, the secondary has been particularly stingy in 2013, allowing just 217 yards per contest.
Meet the Ravens
The Ravens Super Bowl hangover has been a rough one, particularly on an offense that has never been mistaken as high powered to begin with. Here's the odd thing, though: it's been the historically solid running attack that has dragged down the unit's production. The Ravens are 28th in the league with just 74 yards rushing per game and the always-reliable Ray Rice is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. Despite the success of deep threat Torrey Smith -- who is averaging over 20 yards per reception -- Joe Flacco hasn't looked capable of carrying an offense on his own and needs the ground attack to alleviate some pressure.
The Baltimore defense has allowed just two touchdowns in their last two games -- which includes a Week 7 matchup with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers -- but, thanks to the struggling offense, lost both. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, has recorded a sack in each of the first seven games, thanks in large part to the presence of Elvis Dumervil on the opposite side and the one-on-one matchups it's created.
Local Takes: Browns
Zach J. Miller at Dawgs by Nature was encouraged by what he saw out of Campbell last week in Kansas City.
[Campbell] showed good pocket presence, a couple times showing his ability to scramble for positive yardage. He was only sacked once on the day. Campbell finished the day 22-for-26 for 293 yards and 2 TD's. Those numbers are VASTLY improved over Weeden's. Obviously it's one game, but if Campbell can right the ship as he did Sunday, this team will be very interesting to keep an eye on.
Local Takes: Ravens
Despite a rough start to 2013, the Ravens are still in position to make a move for the division crown, though it will take an immediate turnaround. Jason Butt at Baltimore Beatdown breaks down the standings:
The Bengals have been able to open up a decent lead in the AFC North as they sit at 6-2. The Ravens are alone in second place at 3-4, with the other two AFC North teams under .500 as well. This week's game against Cleveland will be important in that regard as the Browns are 3-5 and looking to claw back in the division race too.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
I can't explain how happy I am that the #Browns kept Josh Gordon. Now let's build around him and keep him on the right track.— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) October 29, 2013
@MaryKayCabot - Browns beat writer
@jeffzrebiecsun - Ravens beat writer
Trade deadline comes and goes for #Ravens. No surprise. They've only made 2 in-season deals in franchise history and both were this season— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) October 29, 2013
Without a running attack to keep Suggs and the Baltimore pass rush from pinning their ears back, Campbell could be in for a long day Sunday. However, the Browns allowed just one sack last week against a Chiefs defense that leads the league in that category. This one will come down to Campbell's performance -- if he can replicate his success from last week, the Browns have a good shot at the upset.
The pick: 23-20 Browns
The Ravens opened as three-point favorites, though that line is trending downward among some of the larger sportsbooks listed on Oddsshark.com.