Ravens-Browns matchup of the day: Wednesday

Posted Dec. 22, 2010 @ 11:13 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Here's a key matchup to watch in Sunday's Ravens-Browns game. 

The Browns' passing game vs. the Ravens' pass defense

The Ravens can be vulnerable against powerful passing games. Houston nearly pulled off an improbable comeback vs. Baltimore two weeks ago on the strength of QB Matt Schaub's passing, and New Orleans had success attacking the Ravens' pass defense, too. 

The question is whether the Browns are willing to employ a pass-first attack in the rematch vs. Baltimore after having so much success rushing in the first meeting between the teams. Browns RB Peyton Hillis racked up 144 yards on 22 carries, and his success allowed the Browns to emphasize the ground game, with 29 rushes vs. 24 passes.

QB Seneca Wallace, who got the start in the first meeting, completed 18-of-24 passes for 141 yards with one TD and no interceptions. His longest pass went for 20 yards. Rookie Colt McCoy, who's since emerged as the Browns' starter, was impressive last week at Cincinnati, completing 19-of-25 passes for 243 yards and a pair of scores. 

McCoy's favorite target a week ago was TE Benjamin Watson, who caught all seven passes thrown to him for 92 yards. He looked to WR Brian Robiskie six times and connected with him for five catches and 82 yards and a TD. 

Watson, who's racked up a team-best 674 receiving yards this season, has been targeted 85 times, tops on Cleveland. He caught 5-47-0 (six targets) at Baltimore in Week Three. It wouldn't be a surprise if he were McCoy's go-to receiver Sunday. Should the Ravens take him away and defend the short passes well, it will be on Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi, the Browns' outside receivers, to step up. Massaquoi has the most field-stretching ability of the group but was a non-factor last week (one catch) and was targeted once, with no catches, against Baltimore in in Week Three. 

The Browns primarily throw short passes and have attempted 170 passes to the short right this season. One fascinating individual matchup in the rematch will be McCoy vs. instinctive Ravens FS Ed Reed, who missed the first game between the teams with a neck injury. McCoy has been picked just three times in six starts, and he's faced some top-flight defensive backs and held up well, but Reed is an all-time ballhawk who will make the rookie quarterback pay if he's too careless or too predictable.