Coming off of their first win in four weeks, Baltimore Ravens now face a must-win game Week 14. Baltimore started their big five-game stretch towards the playoffs by beating the Dallas Cowboys 34-17 on Tuesday Night Football. The win against the Cowboys was the Ravens first since beating the Indianapolis Colts in early November. The Baltimore Ravens playoff chances may require winning their final five games and this week may be their biggest game of the season.
The Ravens have already played the Cleveland Browns once this season. It was Week 1 at FirstEnergy stadium where the new look 2020 Ravens came into Cleveland and beat the breaks off of a shellshocked Browns team 38-6. Lamar Jackson threw for a season-high 275 yards and the Ravens offense looked impressive.
However, since this meeting, the two teams have looked very different than the ones that took the field opening weekend. Behind debatably the best running back in the NFL in Nick Chubb, Cleveland at 9-3 has already clinched their first record over .500 since 2007. Their Week 13 win over the Tennessee Titans was arguably their best win since being reinstated as a franchise in 1999. The Ravens on the other hand sit at 7-5 and have lost two of their last six games since coming off of their bye in Week 7.
Baltimore’s playoff chances remain up in the air but a win against Cleveland would be a huge step towards making the postseason. Beating the Browns would mean the Ravens getting a win against the toughest opponent left on their schedule and could thrust Baltimore into a playoff spot as soon as next week. They will be in must-win mode for the remainder of the season but the Baltimore Ravens playoff chances would improve with a Week 14 win against the Browns.
Baltimore Ravens Playoff Chances Improve With Week 14 Win Against Cleveland Browns
Current AFC Playoff Landscape
Baltimore currently holds the ninth seed in the AFC playoff race. After the Miami Dolphins, Colts, and Las Vegas Raiders won this past weekend, the AFC standings from the sixth to ninth spots have not changed. The Dolphins hold the sixth seed, the Colts hold the seventh seed, and the Raiders hold the eighth seed. Las Vegas currently has a better record within the AFC (5-3) than the Ravens (4-5), which gives the edge to the Raiders in the standings.
The Browns (9-3) have all but locked up the first wild card spot in the AFC and actually still have a statistical chance to win the AFC North over both the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1). Cleveland’s two opponents right after their game against the Ravens are the New York Giants (5-7) and New York Jets (0-12). The Giants beat their first team with a record over .500 with a win in Week 13 over the Seattle Seahawks, while the Jets remained winless after giving up a hail marry touchdown on the final play of their game against the Raiders. Pittsburgh will play Cleveland for their second time Week 17.
Where the Ravens catch some luck is with the Week 14 schedule. The Dolphins draw the best team in NFL this week, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Colts will play against the Raiders. This guarantees that at least one of the teams Baltimore is fighting with for a wild card spot will lose this week. There is also a high probability that Miami will struggle with and possibly lose to Kansas City. Having either the Colts or Raiders lose will allow the Ravens to potentially jump up into the eight-spot with a win over the Browns. If the Dolphins were to lose as well, there would be a four-way tie for the two last playoff spots. Baltimore would then have the easiest remaining schedule between the four teams.
Ravens Have Proven They Can Stop The Browns
Baltimore absolutely manhandled the Browns during their Week 1 matchup. Their 32-point victory was their largest margin victory of the season. The Ravens forced a season-high three turnovers while Jackson threw for a season-high 270 passing yards. It was maybe the Ravens most complete game of the year.
The key to the Ravens pulling off a similar victory in Week 14 will likely be an element that made them so successful in their first matchup. In every game Nick Chubb has played 15+ snaps in 2020, he has cleared either 80 rushing yards or recorded a touchdown. Against Baltimore Week 1, he did neither. Chubb has been a dominant runner in every game he has played this season and the Ravens have been the only team who has even come close to containing him. Against Baltimore in Week 1, Chubb registered a season-low 60 rushing yards on just 11 carries and did not find the end zone. He is currently averaging 99.9 yards per game, 0.9 touchdowns per game, and 6.2 yards per touch this year.
For the first time since Week 9, the Ravens defense will finally have all these guys playing together:
DE Calais Campbell
DT Brandon Williams
DE Derek Wolfe
OLB Matthew Judon
OLB Yannick Ngakoue
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) December 11, 2020
Brandon Williams is back healthy for the Ravens now and is a huge boost to their defense. Baltimore currently ranks 13th in run defense and is giving up 111.3 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. In the four games that Williams has played fewer than 10 snaps, the Ravens defense has given up 152 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. That scary difference in production will need to show itself against the Browns number-two overall rushing attack.
The Browns run game is their biggest strength but the Ravens have the tools to stop it. If Baltimore can hold Chubb and company to another less than stellar game, the rest of their team should be able to do enough to steal a victory.
A Loss Would Hurt the Ravens Playoff Chances
While the NFL is a league in which anything can happen on any given week, the Ravens would most likely be on the outside looking in on the playoffs if they drop their Week 14 game against Cleveland. A loss would drop the Ravens to 7-6 and they would need to win out and get help to make the playoffs. Baltimore would then have a 2-3 record within the AFC North and a 4-6 record against AFC opponents.
Baltimore would not be completely eliminated from postseason contention but the Ravens only hold the tiebreaker with the Colts as of right now. Therefore, they would need one of the Dolphins or Raiders to finish above the Colts and one to finish with fewer wins than the Ravens. The Raiders currently hold a 3-1 divisional record while the Dolphins sit at 2-2. Both teams then have the same .500 winning percentage in common games when compared to Baltimore.
If the Ravens can beat the Browns, their record against common opponents becomes 3-2 (tied with the Raiders). The results of Dolphins and Raiders games are important. In the scenario in which both the Raiders and Dolphins win, they would both have an identical or better winning percentage in those common games with the Ravens.
The Ravens have dug themselves a hole by being the third-placed team in the AFC North and likely cannot rely on tiebreakers to get them into the playoffs. But their fate is still in their own hands and a win against the Browns creates their most ideal path to becoming a playoff team in 2020.