Ravens

The Ravens are ready to kick off their season with a rivalry game

Ravens

When NFL fans think of great rivalries across the league, Ravens-Steelers is typically one of the first pairs to be mentioned. But if you ask the Ravens themselves, they know Pittsburgh isn't the only team in the division that counts as a rivalry.

"Well it’s exciting," head coach John Harbaugh told reporters when asked about hosting the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. "We’re looking forward to it, it’s a rivalry game. We’ve had many knockdown, drag-out football brawls with this team and this organization. So we know what’s at stake, it’s an AFC North game. You know what kind of game those games generally are"

Harbaugh isn't wrong. His record against the Browns is stellar - 20 wins, 4 losses since 2008 - and the Ravens have won 31 of their 42 all-time meetings with Cleveland. But plenty of their matchups stand out for their physicality and close finishes.

From 2013 (when the Browns finally snapped their 11-game losing streak against Harbaugh) to 2016, six out of seven straight matchups finished within one score, with the Ravens winning four of them.

And then, in 2018, both games were within three points of each other. The Ravens fell 12-9 in the first battle, a true slobber-knocker, and then won 26-14 in Week 17 to clinch the AFC North.

2018 was Lamar Jackson's rookie season, of course, and while he didn't start in the 12-9 loss, it didn't take long for him to see what it was like to be a part of this rivalry. 

 

"It felt like a rivalry my rookie season, definitely" he explained to reporters ahead of Sunday's matchup. "And I watched some of them growing up. So I definitely know what it means to be in this type of rivalry."

The Browns entered 2019 with high expectations after what looked like a fruitful offseason. It didn't pan out for them, though they did hand the Ravens their worst loss of the regular season - a game that took place in Baltimore, the same site as Sunday's game. They enter 2020 with more muted expectations, but still with a roster full of hungry, talented players.

Assuming he bounces back to his 2018 form, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson look poised to run the AFC North for the foreseeable future. Two young, talented quarterbacks, physical defenses and a history of close games is the perfect recipe for a divisional rivalry, both in Week 1 of this season and beyond.