BALTIMORE — Needing victories in their final two games to win the AFC North and gain a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Ravens can move a step closer to realizing those goals as they welcome the struggling Cleveland Browns to town on Christmas Eve.
Baltimore can complete an 8-0 home record with a win over the Browns, which would be the first time the Ravens have accomplished the feat in the 16-year history of the franchise. The Ravens have won 17 of their last 18 games at M&T Bank Stadium, including a franchise-record nine straight. Baltimore is 26-5 at home in the John Harbaugh era.
Those numbers make it pretty clear why the Ravens desperately want as many home playoff games as possible, don’t they?
Of course, the Ravens saw the Browns in Cleveland three weeks ago when they ran a franchise-record 55 times and collected 290 rushing yards in a 24-10 victory. The Ravens have won seven straight over the Browns and own a 9-3 record against the city from which they originally came.
The Browns will wear white jerseys with white pants while the Ravens are dressed in their purple home jerseys and black pants.
All eyes will be on veteran kicker Shayne Graham, who will be filling in for the injured Billy Cundiff after being signed earlier in the week. Many wonder how much range Graham will have as his last couple seasons in Cincinnati didn’t feature much success beyond the 46 or 47 yards.
The Ravens will also be without top receiver Anquan Boldin, who underwent knee surgery to repair a partially-torn meniscus on Thursday. He is out for the rest of the regular season, and Harbaugh projects him to return in two weeks. However, the coach acknowledged it would be challenging for Boldin to be ready for a first-round playoff game, creating even more urgency for a first-round bye in the Ravens’ minds.
Without Boldin sidelined, quarterback Joe Flacco will likely rely heavily on tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, but it will be critical for the Ravens to make veteran Lee Evans more of a factor. With a trip to Cincinnati next week against a good Bengals run defense, the passing game will need to produce and someone will need to divert some attention from rookie Torrey Smith.
The Ravens have also decided to activate rookie Tandon Doss over LaQuan Williams. Despite having not been active since Oct. 30, Doss’ skill-set is more in line with what Boldin normally brings to the passing game.
Defensive end Cory Redding had been expected to play today, but he was noticeably limping going through pre-game work with defensive line coach Clarence Brooks. The Ravens have decided to deactivate Redding and will start second-year lineman Arthur Jones at the other defensive end spot in coordinator Chuck Pagano’s base 3-4.
For Cleveland, veteran backup Seneca Wallace will start at quarterback for the injured Colt McCoy, who was ruled out on Friday as he continues to feel the effects of a concussion sustained against Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Here are today’s inactives…
WR Anquan Boldin
K Billy Cundiff
DE Cory Redding
WR LaQuan Williams
RB Anthony Allen
LB Sergio Kindle
CB Danny Gorrer
QB Colt McCoy
WR Jordan Norwood
DB James Dockery
OL Steve Vallos
DL Kiante Tripp
OL Oniel Cousins
WR Rod Windsor