Monthly Magazine: Ohio Edition

September 25, 2023

What’s Next in the 27-Year Tension Between Browns and Ravens NFL Rivalry?

© Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Grudge. Match.

There’s just no other term. It’s been 27 years since Art Modell picked up from Cleveland and bolted for Baltimore, leaving one of America’s greatest football towns emptyhanded without its beloved Browns. Guilt free, Modell set up shop in Maryland and his newly founded Ravens took flight. 

Since that time, the Browns have toiled in mediocrity – or many times worse – while the Ravens have become one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. Cleveland’s “old” team has been the playoffs 14 times, won the division six times and the AFC twice. And if that wasn’t enough salt in the wound, the Ravens have hoisted two Lombardi Trophies, too.

And do you think Cleveland has forgotten?

Never. Sunday’s matchup, featuring a pair of 2-1 teams – both with high hopes for the season at hand – could be pivotal in breaking up the bottleneck atop the AFC North. When the Ravens visit the Browns, it’s always must-see TV, but this year could be epic.

What to like about the Browns…

  • So far this season, the Browns have arguably been the NFL’s very best home team. In their two games at home, Cleveland held Cincinnati to three points in Week 1 and Tennessee to three points on Sunday. Baltimore won its lone road game of the season, but gave up 24 points to the same Bengals team that Cleveland manhandled in its opener.
  • Deshaun Watson could be returning to form. The idea that the Browns offense would turn in a commanding performance without the help of star running back Nick Chubb wasn’t a popular opinion heading into the weekend. But that’s exactly what happened, as Deshaun Watson looked a lot like the quarterback he was in Houston. Watson’s rating of 123.5 was fueled by an efficient 27-of-33, 289-yard, two-touchdown performance. Best yet, Watson didn’t throw an interception, which he’d done in both previous games.  

What not to like about the Browns…

  • History. Like it or not, the personal nature of this matchup has traditionally favored the Ravens. In fact, they hold a 35-13 record in head-to-head matchups. From the beginning – when Baltimore rubbed salt in the wound by winning the first four games – to the hear and now – where Lamar Jackson has a 6-3 record against the Browns – it’s hard to deny what could a slight edge – real or perceived – that favors the Ravens.
  • Speaking of Lamar Jackson, he’s still one of the game’s most dynamic players. Sunday’s loss to the Colts was a bit of an oddity, as it was the Ravens defense that gave up a game-tying drive with under a minute before losing in overtime. Jackson, however, turned in a solid game that featured 202 yards through the air and 101 and two touchdowns on the ground.  The Browns defense against Joe Burrow and Ryan Tannehill was outstanding, but neither of those quarterbacks offers the same style of play Jackson does. Can the Browns keep him in check? With Jackson, it’s always an atypical challenge for any team.

Steve Quinne’s Pick: Cleveland -2.0 (-110)

The AFC North has been a surprise this season, as the Bengals – a Super Bowl contender in the eyes of many – dwell in the basement, while Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland all sit at 2-1 with a share of the division lead. If played at a neutral site, this weekend’s divisional rivalry could be a pick ‘em kind of game, but with Watson coming off his best performance as a Brown, and in front of a blood-thirsty Cleveland crowd, the lean should be toward the Browns. Take Cleveland and the points this time around.