Coming off one of the worst losses in franchise history, the Baltimore Ravens sure could use a feel-good win on a day they celebrate last season's Super Bowl triumph.
As luck would have it, the Ravens' opponent in their home opener Sunday is the Cleveland Browns.
Baltimore set two dubious franchise records in its 2013 debut at Denver on Sept. 5, allowing 49 points and seven touchdown passes for the first time. The Ravens insist they've corrected most of their flaws in that 22-point defeat, and that the difference will be evident against the Browns.
Following pregame festivities that will include raising the banner to mark their Super Bowl victory last February, the Ravens face a team they have dominated ever since coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco first got together before the 2008 season. Since that time, Baltimore is 10-0 against the Browns while outscoring the AFC North rival 251-122.
Throw in that the Ravens are 33-7 at home over the past five years, and it appears Baltimore (0-1) couldn't ask for a better scenario.
Naturally, the Ravens aren't acting as if this one's a gimme. They point out that Cleveland has a new coach, Rob Chudzinski, and two new coordinators, Norv Turner on offense and Ray Horton on defense.
"It's different from year to year. It's definitely a different team," linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
"These guys are a good football team," Flacco insisted. "They have a physical defense, and they've always had that since I've been here. We've played a lot of games that I feel like have been decided late."
But the Browns (0-1) lost 23-10 at home to Miami in Chudzinski's debut, outscored 17-3 after halftime.
Five things to know about the Browns-Ravens game:
SACK SAD: Cleveland yielded six sacks against Miami, and now the offense is going up against two of the best sack specialists in the NFL, Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
"It's a big challenge for our guys. They're really going to need to step up," Chudzinski said. "We'll do some things from a schematic standpoint to try to help and have a plan. We have to execute the plan."
MINGO DEBUT: Browns rookie LB Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick, is expected to make his NFL debut after missing the opener with a bruised lung sustained during an Aug. 15 preseason game against Detroit.
"I feel I bring a lot to this team and the coaches can use me in different ways," Mingo said. "I think that's the best part about it. I'm ready to get it done. And just ready to play."
He will likely be used as a backup pass rusher. He had 15 sacks in three seasons at LSU.
KRUGER RETURN: One of Cleveland's most notable free agent signings during the offseason was linebacker Paul Kruger, who returns to Baltimore on a day the Ravens celebrate the Super Bowl he helped them win.
"I was there for four years and have so many friends and people over there that I still talk to," Kruger said. "It's going to be different for sure, but I've made this place a new home and am really loving it here."
Kruger had seven tackles and a sack against Miami.
PLENTY OF RICE: Although Ray Rice was Baltimore's leading receiver in Denver with eight catches, he gained only 36 yards on 12 carries, in part because Flacco tossed 62 passes.
"We do have to run the ball better. That's something that I know we can get corrected," Rice said. "Running the ball is something we've always been able to do around here, and I don't see that stopping right now."
Rice has rushed for 922 yards against Cleveland, including a career-high 204 on Dec. 4, 2011.
KICKING IT: A year ago, Justin Tucker took the placekicking job from Billy Cundiff during training camp. Now, Cundiff is kicking for the Browns.
Cundiff will be forever remembered in Baltimore for missing a last-minute field goal in the 2011 AFC title game that would have tied the game against New England.
"He'll be another guy who is on the other side for this game," Harbaugh said, "but I've got a lot of respect for him."
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