CLEVELAND - The Browns head into Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens in search of back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
The Ravens have won the last nine meetings between the two teams and lead the overall series 19-7, including a 23-16 win at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this year.
The Browns have done a great job protecting the football over the last two games. The Browns have not turned the ball over in that time, marking the first time that has happened since week 11 and 12 in the 2009 season.
The Browns enter this week's game as healthy as they have been all year. Mohamed Massaquoi has been a full-go all week for the first time since week three and adds another weapon for Brandon Weeden against the aggressive Ravens defense. The Ravens, on the other hand, are already without team leader Ray Lewis, who is out with a torn bicep muscle and could be without All-Pro Haloti Ngata, who was held out of practice on Thursday with a bad shoulder.
You can expect a heavy dose of the run against the Ravens Sunday. Trent Richardson is coming off a career day in rush yards and carries in a win over San Diego. Richardson, who was held to just 47 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown in the first meeting with Baltimore, has now rushed for five touchdowns on the season; the most by a Browns rookie since William Green recorded six in the 2002 season.
Weeden threw to nine different receivers in the first meeting on his way to 320 yards passing, including a costly interception return for a touchdown. Weeden will benefit from a healthy Massaquoi to go along with rising rookie Josh Gordon, who leads all NFL rookies in touchdowns (4) receiving yards (379) and receptions of 20 yards or longer (6). The Browns rolled up 357 yards of offense against the Ravens, but gave up 403 yards of offense to Baltimore.
This is not your typical Ravens defense that we are used to seeing, allowing more than 400 yards per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. The Browns come in at 26th, allowing 392 yards per contest. Both defenses rank in the top 10 in turnover ratio, the Ravens (+5) the Browns (+3), but the Browns have been the hotter defense over the last few weeks where they have been a (+5).
Joe Flacco got off to a hot start against the Browns in the first meeting and went on to throw for 356 yards and a touchdown in one of his best starts against the Browns in his career. The Ravens needed every bit of it as the orange helmets clamped down on Ray Rice, holding him to 49 yards on 18 carries.
The Browns have won two of their last three games and are peaking at the right time, getting key healthy players back and you can see this young team is learning how to win together. It's only a matter of time before they put it all together. A win on Sunday would make it two-straight in the division, where the Browns have not been a factor in a very long time.
The Browns, with a win on Sunday, would not only end a nine-game losing streak to Baltimore, but it would square the team's record in the division at 2-2 and just a game behind the Ravens, who are 2-0. I know that may not mean much, but to a very young team that hasn't even been a factor in the AFC North, that is a huge step in the right direction.
The Browns will get some more good news when defensive tackle Phil Taylor returns to the starting lineup. Taylor was missed the first eight weeks of the season with a torn pectoral muscle and could see action on Sunday, which would add instant depth to the Browns lineup.
I know Sunday's game is just one game, but it's a huge game for the Browns that can send a big statement that they may have finally begun to turn the corner with a win over a Baltimore team that has along with Pittsburgh, dominated the north for a very long time.