Cleveland Browns (0-1) vs. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland -- TV: CBS, Carter Blackburn, Chris Simms.
SERIES HISTORY: 35th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead the series, 25-9. Baltimore has traditionally dominated its AFC North rival and won three of the past four match-ups. The Browns managed a thrilling 33-30 overtime victory in Baltimore last season with McCown at QB. Baltimore, however, won seven of the past eight games in Cleveland.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Josh McCown starts at quarterback in the Browns home opener against Ravens because Robert Griffin III is on injured reserve with a broken bone in his shoulder. McCown had little work with the first team in training camp, but he is a 14-year veteran with good recent history against Baltimore. Although he was only 1-7 as a Browns starter last year, the game he did win was against the Ravens when he passed for a franchise record 457 yards in a 33-30 overtime victory.
McCown is 2-1 vs. Ravens with four TDs, zero interceptions. There won't be any designed running plays for McCown as there was for RGIII. McCown is an accurate passer on quick inside routes, so more of those could be in the scheme this week. The Browns want to run the ball, but they won't be able to if they fall behind quickly
The Ravens will look to keep McCown under steady pressure to prevent him from getting too comfortable in the pocket. Baltimore unveiled several exotic blitz packages last week against the Bills. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees likely has some more surprises for Cleveland.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco still appears to be getting adjusted to some of the new players on offense, but he has the tools to strike quickly. He will take several shots against the Browns' secondary. Baltimore needs to get its running game on track early after rushing for just 83 yards on 28 carries in the opener.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Ravens WR Mike Wallace vs. CB Jamar Taylor. Wallace, who signed as a free agent, is already becoming a favorite target for Flacco. Wallace had three receptions for 91 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown, in the season opener against the Bills. He will present a challenge for Taylor, who was acquired in the offseason from the Miami Dolphins. Taylor played solid throughout the preseason, climbed the depth chart and earned a starting role.
--Browns TE Gary Barnidge vs. Ravens SS Eric Weddle. Barnidge uncharacteristically dropped two passes in the opener vs. Philadelphia. He will be out to reverse that and should get the opportunity because he was one of Josh McCown's favorite targets last year. Barnridge totaled 15 catches for 230 yards in two games vs. Ravens last year. Weddle is a free-agent purchase who was a team leader in San Diego.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Browns center Cameron Erving actually hopes he isn't in the spotlight. He has trouble snapping the ball accurately when a quarterback is in the shotgun, so the pressure is on him to help McCown. He seems to get the blame from fans and media for any breakdowns in the interior of the line. The 2015 first-round draft pick played only five games at center at Florida State.
INJURY REPORT: Baltimore -- Out: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot). Questionable: LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), CB Jerraud Powers (ankle), LB Za'Darius Smith (ankle), G John Urschel (shoulder). Cleveland -- none listed.
FAST FACTS: Ravens coach John Harbaugh won 14 of 16 games against the Browns. ... Ravens CB Shareece Wright had one of the best games of his seven-year career last week with a team-high 11 tackles, including three for a loss. ... It has been 14 years since a Browns quarterback has started all 16 games in a season -- Tim Couch (2002). ... Browns rookie WR Corey Coleman (58 yards) and converted QB-to-WR Terrelle Pryor (44) each had catches of at least 40 yards last week.
PREDICTION: Despite McCown's past success against the Ravens, not even the snap from center is a sure thing this time and Flacco seems to have regained his passing touch (22 of 34 for 258 and a TD last week).
OUR PICK: Ravens, 34-21.