Quarterback Joe Flacco is coming off the worst game of his career, having uncorking four interceptions in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s been throwing off his back foot, regressing mechanically. He has thrown into heavy coverage. And he seems to be pressing with the heightened expectations triggered by the Ravens upgrading their receiving corps with Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
How will Flacco react to his setback?
Following two previous three-interception games, he posted quarterback ratings of 120.0 or better.
If Flacco and the offense, which has produced only 20 points and two touchdowns, can’t perform markedly better against the winless Cleveland Browns, then this isn’t a legitimate Super Bowl contender. “Everybody plays bad games, and I’m going to have more bad games,” Flacco said. “The majority of them, I’m going to play well and I expect myself to. You just have to bounce back, keep your head up and know that you have the ability to do that.” Flacco is currently the lowest-ranked quarterback in the league with a 41.2 rating. But despite his struggles, the Ravens have no intentions of inserting $3.8 million backup Marc Bulger.
“You want to put the best guy out there that you feel gives you the best chance to win from week to week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s why we feel Joe is our guy.” However, no quarterback has thrown as many interceptions as Flacco, who has five INTs, one touchdown and one lost fumble. Last season, he threw a dozen interceptions for the entire year and set a franchise record with an 88.9 quarterback rating. He’s also 31st in completion percentage (48.1), 29th in average gain per pass (5.22), tied for 30th in touchdown percentage (1.3) and 28th in interception percentage (6.5).
Keys for the Ravens
• The Ravens must contain dangerous Browns return specialist and wide receiver Josh Cribbs. He’s one of Cleveland’s few difference-makers — they can’t let him beat them.
• The Ravens need to get Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice established early in the game to grab the momentum and take pressure off of Flacco.
Keys for the Browns
• The Browns need to keep the Ravens off balance with some Wildcat formation gadgets and take advantage of quarterback Seneca Wallace’s mobility.
• The Browns will need to provide help to rookie cornerback Joe Haden, whom the Ravens are likely to target downfield.
The Ravens will win their fifth consecutive game against the Browns because of their superior overall talent and a strong home field advantage. Ravens 27–9