Four notable elements influencing Sunday's Cleveland at Baltimore game.

- Funny they should meet like this

The quarterback stories of Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson are intertwined in unusual ways.

Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, with Mayfield finishing in third place. Mayfield won the Heisman in 2017, when Jackson came in third. The rookie sensations have helped put their teams on 5-1 hot streaks.

In Cleveland, Mayfield replaced Tyrod Taylor, who left Baltimore for Buffalo because he was never going to move ahead of Joe Flacco, who was ahead of Jackson until fairly recently.

Cleveland's new general manager (John Dorsey) took a chance on Mayfield at the top of the first round. Baltimore's outgoing GM (Ozzie Newsome) rolled the dice on Jackson at the bottom of Round 1.

Mayfield and Jackson are intriguing new figures in a division whose long-time QBs have been Big Ben in Pittsburgh, Big Red (Andy Dalton) in Cincinnati, Flacco in crab country and no one worth remembering on Lake Erie.

- It's a passing league ... unless you're them

We noted Mayfield and Jackson are on 5-1 hot streaks. Did we mention how they got there?

In that span, Mayfield has passed for 1,581 yards. Jackson has thrown for 735. Mayfield has seldom taken off running (24 carries, 40 yards). Jackson has run for his livelihood (99 carries, 466 yards).

The running threat of Jackson has opened up lanes for Gus Edwards to look like a serious running back. If the Ravens had been that serious about the kid from Rutgers, they would have drafted him (they signed him as a free agent).

Baltimore's intent is to let Jackson run enough to throw the defense off balance. The Browns' understand Jackson's running prowess will show but aim for what happened to him in his final college game.

On Dec. 30, 2017 in Jacksonville at the TaxSlayer Bowl, Jackson ran 24 times for 158 yards for Louisville. Mississippi State intercepted him four times in a 31-27 victory.

- Paging 2001 ... paging 2007

This mostly has been an soul-searching series for the Browns. They lost 11 straight games to Baltimore at one point and were on a five-game losing streak heading into this year.

Yet, success against the dirty birds has coincided with the brief awakenings of the expansion era.

Baltimore was coming off a Super Bowl win in 2000 when the Browns swept the 2001 season series 24-14 and 27-17. The Browns were 5-4 after the latter game and would reach the playoffs the following year based largely on a December win at Baltimore.

In 2007, the highlight of a 10-6 season was two wins against Art Modell's minions.

Now the Browns appear to be doing some serious corner turning. They can finish with the franchise's first winning record in 11 years.

That they can blow up the Ravens' playoff hopes is beside the point. They can move ahead of Baltimore for the foreseeable future.

- Encore!

The Browns lament a few at-the-wire losses that cost them a chance at the postseason. Their early-season win over Baltimore has the Ravens on the ropes, given a second Cleveland win Sunday.

They live in a different world than they did on Oct. 7, when the Browns sank Baltimore 12-9 in overtime.

In that game, Carlos Hyde led the Browns with 63 rushing yards for offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Flacco gave the Ravens 298 passing yards. Head coach Hue Jackson's 2018 record improved to 2-2-1. Derrick Willies made a 39-yard catch and run on third down after the two-minute warning to help set up the winning field goal with six seconds left in overtime.

The faces have changed. Producing a similar result in the rematch likely will mean Gregg Williams' face will be prominent in the Browns' 2019 season.

 

Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or

steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP