CLEVELAND – Five questions to ask before Ravens (3-7) at Browns (2-8), tonight on Monday Night Football:
1. How will Matt Schaub perform as a starting quarterback?
Much of the Ravens’ fortunes will depend on Schaub, with Joe Flacco (torn ACL and PCL) out for the season. This will be Schaub’s first start since 2013, when he lost his job with the Texans. Schaub threw a pick-six in four straight games that season, but at one time, he was a very effective NFL quarterback. Is he still, at age 34? His critics say no. During the next six weeks, Schaub wants to prove he has plenty left.
2. Can rookie Buck Allen handle being a starting running back?
Justin Forsett’s season-ending injury (broken arm) has thrust Allen into the role of No. 1 running back. The Ravens drafted Allen because they liked his vision as a runner, and his hands as a pass-catcher. Allen will get a chance to show both, although it would not be surprising to see running back Terrance West also make his Ravens-debut against his former team.
3. Does Josh McCown simply have the Ravens’ number?
McCown will start at quarterback for the Browns, after Johnny Manziel partied away his starting opportunity. McCown torched the Ravens for 457 yards and two touchdowns in October, and he also beat the Ravens in 2013 as a starting quarterback with the Bears. Something about the Ravens seems to bring out McCown’s best, and the Ravens can’t afford to let that happen again.
4. Who’s the worst team in the AFC North?
The Ravens have already lost at home to Cleveland. If the Ravens lose this game, they will return to the AFC North basement. Though a loss would help the Ravens' draft position, they haven’t given up on 2015, and want to avoid being swept by the Browns.
5. Can the Ravens finally win two straight?
They haven’t done it all season, but they are coming off a victory over the Rams. Heading into December with two straight wins would be a confidence boost.
This won’t be one of Monday Night Football’s most memorable games. But I see Schaub playing well enough to give the Ravens another close win. Ravens 16, Browns 13.