PFF Preview: Browns @ Ravens, Week 17
The NFL always leaves Week 17 flex scheduling until the playoff picture is almost clear. Four weeks ago this AFC North matchup had potential as both the Cleveland Browns (7-8) and Baltimore Ravens (9-6) were playing meaningful December games. While the Ravens fight for the sixth seed, the Browns hope to put the brakes on a stop a four-game skid and finish with a non-losing record for the first time since Joe Thomas’s rookie season in 2007.
These teams met in Week 3 in Cleveland in a game that came down to a Steve Smith 32-yard pass over Joe Haden to set the visitors up for a game-winning, last-second 32-yard field goal. This regular season finale will have a drastically different looking Browns team to walk out onto M&T Bank Stadium as they have been absolutely devastated by injuries. Cleveland could be starting their third-string quarterback on Sunday in rookie Connor Shaw as Johnny Manziel has been placed on Injured Reserve and Brian Hoyer is questionable with a shoulder injury. The QB situation is well documented, but the Browns may also be without Haden for the second straight week, along with wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (who missed practice Wednesday) and the multitude of other players who have already been place on IR. Clearly, though, if Shaw starts Sunday, it will continue a trend for the Browns, starting a third different QB in a season.
The Ravens counter with consistency and continuity at their QB position. Joe Flacco was drafted in 2008 and the Ravens have not trotted out a different QB to start a game since. Flacco missed the playoffs for the first time last year after winning the Super Bowl. Last week, I touted Flacco for a great year and he in turn had the worst game of his career as he received no mercy from Watt and the rest of the Texans. Flacco was asked to drop back 53 times as he finished with under 200 yards and a trio of interceptions. Clearly the superhuman performance of J.J. Watt affected Flacco’s play, so expect him to perform more in line with his ability. Taking away that game, Flacco’s accuracy under pressure jumps from 56.9% to 63.5% while his PFF QB Rating goes from 89.88 to 94.92. His deep passing accuracy also took a major hit from that game as he was tops in the league at 55.6% and is now down to sixth at 48.1%.
With big questions facing the Browns once again, Flacco looks to start his 112th consecutive game with a playoff berth on the line.
Three things to watch for:
Josh Gordon – Gordon had an impressive return-from-suspension game but has been inconsistent since. While he has logged consecutive positively graded games the past two weeks (+1.2 and +1.0), his 2.20 Yards Per Route Run is well below his 2.68 YPPR from a year ago.
Joel Bitonio – Bitonio somehow slipped under the radar as he wasn’t voted to the Pro Bowl despite being our second-best guard at +23.4 and giving up just his first sack of the year last week.
Karlos Dansby – Despite missing four games due to injury, Dansby is still our ninth-best inside linbacker at +12.9. Before his injury, he was fifth. He showed no ill effects in his return last week as he graded at +2.7 without missing a snap.
Kelechi Osemele – Osemele is the “other” guard on the Ravens and he is a road grader with a +15.0 run block grade. His +20.6 is sixth in the NFL while he has allowed just nine total pressures for the second-best Pass Blocking Efficiency at 98.5.
Terrell Suggs – Probably the most well-rounded defensive player for the Ravens, Suggs defends the run (+12.0) just as well as he rushes the passer (+12.6). Suggs also has a 9.0 Pass Rush Productivity with 52 total pressures in 467 snaps.
Will Hill – Hill has provided stability in the defensive backfield as he hasn’t had a single negatively graded game this year. Coming off his best performance a week ago (+2.8), Hill’s +9.6 season total ranks fourth since his first action in Week 7.
Recently at PFF