Browns Battle in Baltimore

The Baltimore Ravens hope a quarterback change can turn around their fortunes. One already has for the Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens go back to Kyle Boller while the Browns hope Derek Anderson rebounds from a subpar performance when these AFC North rivals face off Sunday in Baltimore.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Cleveland –2.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 44 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 89% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland –2.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Only one game separates Cleveland (5-4) and Baltimore (4-5), but the gap feels much wider given the opposite directions these teams appear to be heading.

After a 4-12 season last year, the Browns have found new life behind Anderson, who took over as the starter in Week 2 and is fourth in the NFL with 20 touchdown passes. Three of those came in the first half last Sunday as the Browns built a big lead at Pittsburgh, but he was ineffective in the second half en route to a 31-28 defeat.

The Ravens returned 20 of 22 starters from last year's 13-3 squad, but the top-ranked defense has softened while their long-suffering offense has put up just 15.3 points per game - 28th in the NFL. Baltimore has averaged 9.3 points during a current three-game losing streak, which includes last week's 21-7 home loss to Cincinnati.

"It doesn't feel like rock-bottom," said Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs. "It depends on what we do from here on out. If we end up with a top 10 pick, then that's rock-bottom. Cut and dried."

With Steve McNair nursing a sore left shoulder and struggling, Boller will start Sunday for coach Brian Billick's team.

Boller, the team's first-round pick in 2003, is 2-1 with an 82.1 passer rating as the starter this year, though the victories were against one-win squads in the New York Jets and St. Louis. He was the starter the last time the Ravens lost four straight, in November 2005, and has never lived up to the team's expectations, leading the Ravens to trade for McNair before last season.

Billick wasn't ready to name Boller the starter permanently.

"We've got some more work to do before I can definitively tell you that's the direction we're going," Billick said. "I have a great deal of faith in Kyle. What I'm waiting on is more information to be available to us before going forward."

The Browns, on the other hand, have a significantly better quarterback situation. Many expected rookie Brady Quinn to step in at some time this year, but after Charlie Frye struggled in a season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, the 6-foot-6 Anderson took over and led the Browns to wins in five of their next seven and three straight before last week.

Cleveland led the Steelers 21-6 in the second quarter, but was held to a season-low 163 total yards and fell two games behind Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead.

Anderson completed a season-worst 45.7 percent of his passes, going 16-of-35 for a season-low 123 yards.

"We're a team," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "It's never one person's fault, it's everybody - coaches, players and everybody else."

Cleveland remains in good shape, however, with the easiest remaining schedule in the AFC. The only team with a winning record left on the Browns' slate is 5-4 Buffalo.

The Ravens were 2-1 when they traveled to Cleveland on Sept. 30 and fell behind 24-6 at halftime en route to a 27-13 loss. Baltimore gained more yards in that game (418) than any other this season, but only found the end zone once while Anderson threw for two scores.

"They're supposed to be the physical bullies," Browns linebacker Willie McGinest said after that game. "But we hit them back."

Cleveland running back Jamal Lewis ran for 64 yards and a touchdown in that game, his first against his former team.

Lewis is likely to get a warm welcome from Baltimore fans as he returns to the city where he spent his first six NFL seasons, having rushed for more than 7,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. He has struggled lately, however, with 72 yards on 36 carries over the last two games, though he did run for four TDs two weeks ago against Seattle.

He's going against a Ravens defense which has sagged to 11th in points allowed at 19.8 per game - a touchdown more than they surrendered last year when they ranked first in virtually every category.

Lewis' replacement with the Ravens, Willis McGahee, has run for a touchdown in four straight games and has rushed for 749 yards this season compared to Lewis' 515. McGahee has rushed for more than 100 yards both times he's faced Cleveland.

The Ravens are 3-1 at home while the Browns are 1-3 on the road, and Baltimore has won four straight at home in this series.

Cleveland is 6-11 against the Ravens since the revival of its franchise in 1999, after former owner Art Modell moved the old Browns to Baltimore in 1995.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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