CLEVELAND - The Baltimore Ravens may be the last team you want to see when they are at home, let alone on a short week, but that is the task at hand for the 0-3 Browns.
The Browns have lost eight of their last nine meetings in Baltimore. The last win for the guys in the orange helmets in crab city was 2007. Since then, the team has lost eight in a row.
The Browns have 15 rookies on this roster and 25 players with less then two years experience, heading into one of the loudest stadiums in the league, and oh yeah, they have Ray Lewis.
Brandon Weeden is aware of M&T Bank Stadium's reputation:
"It's a division game too. When you're trying to win division championships, you have to win division games. It's a tough test. You basically have two and a half days to prepare and then we are playing a football game. It's not a physically draining week, it's all mental. We have to really understand what we're doing offensively, without getting a rep over and over. You have to learn with basically one or no reps at all. You have to be on your 'A' game and be ready to rock and roll."
Weeden and the Browns offense took multiple shots down field on the Bills secondary. The Ravens backs won't be as easy to beat. The Browns will have to run the football with some kind of success against Lewis and the aggressive Ravens defense.
Trent Richardson was asked about his first game against the soon-to-be hall of famer.
"It's going to be an honor being on the same field as Ray Lewis. I've looked up to him for years and I still look up to him, especially his leadership and how he handles stuff. But, it's going to be like another game. I've got to play it like it's my last, go out there and give it all I can."
The Browns offense is averaging just 19 points a game, but can't afford the inconsistency they showed last week. Penalties and drops killed the offensive rhythm.
The Browns have been in all three games with nothing to show for it. The Ravens are averaging an AFC-best 32.7 points per game. For all the talk about their defense, the offense has been pretty good. Ray Rice has had some huge games against the Browns. Thursday night can't be another one of them.
The Ravens rush attack is grinding out more then 118 yards per game. In the past, you slow down Ray Rice and force Joe Flacco to make plays, you had a chance to keep the score down and a chance to beat the Ravens.
The Ravens offense averages mroe than 300 yards a game. Flacco is a big part of that, completing better then 64 percent of his passes. Torrey Smith and Anquan Bolden are big play threats for Baltimore and without Joe Haden, the Browns secondary will be pressed again.
Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron talked about how to stop Flacco this week:
"It's hard. He's got great speed now at the receiver positions. He's got a very, very strong arm so he can reach about anywhere on the field with the ball. If the play lasts longer than you anticipate, it's hard to defend it. It's hard. We would like to disrupt them coming off the line of scrimmage, we just have to try to change up what we do trying to do that. We like to press, pressing speed is a little bit scary, but you can't just let them run at you either. It's got to be a combination of everything. The pass rush has to put pressure on him so he's not comfortable, and can't measure every throw. Then we're going to have to be on top of people down the field because they can run and he can throw it a long ways."
The best part about this year's Browns roster is also the worst part. The team is young, too young to have a history in this series, too young worry about last week.
On offense, the Browns need to avoid third and long. That is what the Ravens defense has lived off of for years. Pin your ears back and let it rip, average gains on first down will help keep the pressure off your rookie quarterback.
Just ask Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress:
"Putting yourself in a situation where you feel like you can run the ball and run it for four yards or so per carry. I'm mindful of the fact that we threw the ball a good bit in the second half, but we felt like that was the best way to be able to move the football at that point in time, but just being able to be consistent with it so you can continue to go back to it."
Richardson's touches have increased with every game, you can expect them to go up again on Thursday. The receivers have got to have a better game catching the football. The offense doesn't stand a chance if you don't move the chains on these guys.
You don't want to see Ray Lewis dancing around all night long, because if he is, that spells trouble for Cleveland.