Tag Archive | "cincinnati"

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Ravens take care of business using same flawed formula

Posted on 28 November 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens did what they needed to do to snap their five-game losing streak against Cincinnati.

No matter how depleted the current Bengals might be, you don’t take a victory for granted when you haven’t beaten the division rival in over three years and you need to win. The 19-14 final drew Baltimore even with Pittsburgh for first place with the calendar turning to December this week.

The Ravens couldn’t ask to be in better position, especially when you recall where they were a month ago.

But several offensive starters lamented the inability to build off a fast start that included a Joe Flacco 14-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman and a field goal on their first two drives of the game. Leading 16-3 at halftime, the Ravens went 0-for-6 on third down and managed only one field goal the rest of the way, which gave the Bengals a chance to tie the game before Elvis Dumervil’s strip-sack and Lawrence Guy’s recovery with just over a minute remaining.

Yet again, a good defensive performance and a perfect Justin Tucker played the leading roles in the win while the offense spun its wheels after some early success.

“I’m confident in my ability to play games like this and win down the stretch and do the right thing with the football,” said Flacco, who was a relatively efficient 25 of 36 for 234 yards and an interception to go with the opening-drive score. “But in order for us to take that next step and be the kind of team that we want to be and be a championship football team, we’re not going to survive week in and week out doing things like this. We’ve got to keep the foot on the gas and learn how to put teams away.”

The ninth-year quarterback offered the same sentiment after the Week 3 win in Jacksonville two months ago. Fortunately, the offense has recovered from its miserable — and injury-plagued — October, but Flacco’s words reflect the lack of overall improvement from the opening month of the season until now.

The Ravens have scored just 19 touchdowns this season, ranking 31st of 32 teams in the NFL. The offense certainly deserves credit for the work required to put Justin Tucker in position to go a league-best 27-for-27 on field goal tries, but 18 were from 40 yards or longer, meaning the Ravens haven’t exactly been all that close to the end zone on most of those drives.

Baltimore has managed more than one offensive touchdown in just five of 11 games and has scored fewer than 20 points six times. The Ravens have scored 25 or more in just three games with two coming against winless Cleveland.

It’s scary to think where they might be without Tucker, who is rapidly cementing himself as the league’s best kicker and is an impressive 7-for-7 from 50 yards and beyond after converting three from that range in the first half on Sunday. He’s been to the Ravens what All-Star closer Zach Britton was to the Orioles this past season, the difference in making them a playoff contender despite other flaws.

For now, the offense can only continue working to improve, pointing to the recent stabilization of the offensive line and the steady emergence of rookie running back Kenneth Dixon as reasons for optimism.

“I know that we’re getting better on offense,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I think we’re doing a good job, but we’re striving for more than that. Our guys are going to tell you, we want to put a lot more points up than that. That’s what we’re working towards.”

The most encouraging development from Sunday’s game may have come on the opposite side of the ball with the return of Dumervil, who was rusty in his first action in seven weeks until the final defensive play when he blew past Bengals right tackle Eric Winston to strip quarterback Andy Dalton of the football inside the red zone. The turnover sealed the victory for the Ravens defense, who buckled but didn’t break against a Cincinnati offense lacking its best player in wide receiver A.J. Green.

The Ravens need top cornerback Jimmy Smith to return from a back injury that’s sidelined him for the last two games, but a healthy Dumervil could work wonders for an edge pass rush that’s relied heavily on fellow veteran Terrell Suggs, who collected two strip-sacks of his own on Sunday. It was just the third game of the season for Dumervil, who’s dealt with a frustrating rehab from offseason foot surgery.

“You get a guy and add that to the defense that we already have, it just opens up the possibilities of being even better than what we are right now,” safety Eric Weddle said. “It was huge. He practiced outstanding the last two weeks. We knew it was going to give us a boost, and adding him across from [Suggs] and our other rushers and [to] our game plans, we’re going to be a tough team to stop.”

The Ravens keep hoping for their offense to improve, but maybe the current formula can be enough. After all, it’s earned them a 6-5 mark to this point, which is good enough for a first-place tie with a Steelers team sporting a very good offense but a below-average defense.

Baltimore plays two of the next three at home against Miami and Philadelphia, who are formidable teams but hardly juggernauts. The surprising Dolphins have won six straight, but the last five have been by a single possession and they rely heavily on their running game, a favorable matchup for the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Whether the Ravens will find enough wins over the final five games to make the playoffs remains to be seen, but Sunday was another reminder that it will probably look the way it has all season — a good defense, a frustrating and below-average offense, and the best kicker in football.

“If it ain’t tough, it ain’t the Raven way,” Suggs said. “I really wish we could have got off the field instead of scaring everybody and having Elvis make a fantastic play. But that’s the Raven way. It ain’t pretty, but we’ll take it.”

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 27 November 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though never regarded as their biggest rival, the Cincinnati Bengals have given the Ravens more trouble than anyone since Super Bowl XLVII.

While sporting an 11-4 regular-season record against Cleveland and Pittsburgh since the start of the 2013 season, Baltimore owns just one victory against the Bengals over that time, a snapshot of the frustration accompanying a 28-30 record since raising the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans almost four years ago.

Of course, Sunday’s meeting sets up well for the Ravens to beat the Bengals, who have won just one game since the end of September and lost offensive standouts A.J. Green (hamstring) and Giovani Bernard (knee) in last week’s loss to Buffalo. Green’s absence is fortunate news for a secondary that will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) for the second straight week.

Shareece Wright is expected to start in place of Smith as he did against Dallas.

The Ravens will welcome back five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), who is active for the first time since Week 5. Frustrated by a slower-than-expected recovery from offseason surgery, a healthy Dumervil could provide a major lift to an edge pass rush that’s lacked consistency in 2016.

This will be the 32-year-old’s third game of the 2016 season.

In a surprising move likely related to Dumervil’s return, the Ravens deactivated outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who wasn’t on the injury report this week. Appearing in all 10 games and making four starts to this point, the 2015 fourth-round pick has struggled to consistently set the edge and has collected just one sack this season.

Rookie second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa was also a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.

With Marshal Yanda (shoulder) active and once again starting at left guard, the Ravens are using the same starting offensive line combination in consecutive weeks for the first time since the first three games of the season. Veteran Vlad Ducasse is making his third straight start at right guard.

As expected, tight end Nick Boyle is active and will make his 2016 season debut after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. His return gives the Ravens a viable blocking tight end to complement Dennis Pitta and Darren Waller while Crockett Gillmore (thigh) continues to be out.

In addition to Green and Bernard — the latter was placed on injured reserve this week — Cincinnati will be without starting safety Shawn Williams (hamstring), which won’t help a defense that’s underperformed this season.

Sunday’s referee is Clete Blakeman.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low 50s and winds up to 13 miles per hour.

For the first time this season, the Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with black pants while the Bengals don white tops with black pants. Baltimore owns an all-time 14-6 mark when wearing the popular alternate jerseys that were introduced in 2004.

Sunday marks the 41st meeting between these AFC North foes with each side owning 20 victories. The Ravens are 13-7 at home against the Bengals, but Cincinnati has won the last five games dating back to the 2013 season.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Kamalei Correa
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore
LB Za’Darius Smith

CINCINNATI
WR A.J. Green
QB Jeff Driskel
S Derron Smith
S Shawn Williams
LS Clark Harris
G Christian Westerman
TE C.J. Uzomah

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 26 November 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s been more than three calendar years since the Ravens defeated Cincinnati.

They own just one win over the Bengals since Super Bowl XLVII, but Baltimore has a chance on Sunday to all but crush what slim hopes remain for Marvin Lewis and his struggling team that has only one win since the end of September. Meanwhile, the Ravens remain in the thick of a mediocre AFC North and need a victory to pull even with Pittsburgh for first place.

With the Bengals offense decimated by injuries and the defense not playing at the level it had in recent seasons, the Ravens couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to finally break through against one of their top rivals.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Cincinnati for the 41st time in franchise history with the teams owning 20 victories apiece. Baltimore has lost five straight and six of the last seven to the Bengals, but the Ravens are 13-7 in home games against Cincinnati.

Below are five predictions for Sunday afternoon:

1. The Ravens will rush for a season-high 135 yards against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. The running game has been mostly a mess all season, but the Bengals rank 28th in rush defense and are allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Starter Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon have developed into a solid platoon since the bye, and starting the same offensive line in consecutive weeks should reap some benefits for the Ravens. With Cincinnati’s own offense depleted by injuries and not performing at a high level anyway, Marty Mornhinweg should try to keep it simple with the run game.

2. Rookie Tyler Boyd will catch a touchdown and be Cincinnati’s leading receiver. No receiver has hurt the Ravens more than A.J. Green in recent years, making his absence a crushing blow for the Bengals. However, the 6-foot-2 Boyd has played respectably in the slot this year and could challenge nickel back Jerraud Powers, who struggled against Cole Beasley last week. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looked Boyd’s way quite a bit last week as the rookie caught his first touchdown. With Ravens safeties focused on trying to slow tight end Tyler Eifert, Boyd will see plenty of targets.

3. A returning Elvis Dumervil will collect his first sack of 2016 as one of Baltimore’s four for the game. While cornerback Jimmy Smith is doubtful to play as he continues nursing a back issue, Dumervil appears on track to play for the first time since Week 5. The Ravens need more production from their edge rushers, and a healthy Dumervil could be a major development for an already-good defense. Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and center Russell Bodine have had major issues in pass protection, and Dean Pees should bring lots of pressure against an undermanned Bengals passing game.

4. The Ravens defense will come away with two interceptions after stifling the Bengals’ running game. Green and shifty running back Giovani Bernard have accounted for 47 percent of Dalton’s passing yards this year, making it obvious that the Bengals would like to run the ball with Jeremy Hill if they can. However, a stingy Baltimore run defense will be in a bad mood after Dallas ran for 118 yards and is only giving up 3.4 yards per carry. The Ravens will dare Dalton to beat them, which will lead to a couple critical turnovers to set up the Baltimore offense on a short field.

5. Joe Flacco and the offense will mostly play it safe in a 23-13 win over Cincinnati. The Ravens are better than the current Bengals and have little excuse not to end their five-game losing streak against them, but this team — more specifically, this offense — has made life difficult on itself all season. Flacco has thrown more interceptions against Cincinnati than any team in his nine-year career and shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the 41.4 pass attempts per game he’s averaged this season unless the Bengals prove they can totally shut down the run. Playing good defense, running the football, and limiting mistakes are basic ideas, but the Ravens should keep it simple in a game they need to win.

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Ravens wearing black jerseys against Cincinnati on Sunday

Posted on 25 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After debuting their “Color Rush” uniforms earlier this month, the Ravens will break out their popular black jerseys for Sunday’s tilt against Cincinnati.

There was much fanfare about Baltimore’s all-purple uniforms unveiled in the Week 10 win over Cleveland, but the black jerseys have been used as an alternate look for at least one or two games per season since 2004. It remains unclear whether the Ravens will sport all-black uniforms against the Bengals, but the team wore black pants for Wednesday’s padded practice, which is usually an indication of what they wear for that week’s game.

The Ravens own a 14-6 all-time record when wearing their black jerseys and are 11-3 under head coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore went 1-1 wearing the black tops last season, losing to the Browns in Week 5 and upsetting Pittsburgh in Week 16.

NFL teams are allowed to wear alternate or throwback uniforms for two regular-season games per season.

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Cincinnati bearing strong resemblance to last year’s Ravens

Posted on 25 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The 2016 script for the Cincinnati Bengals should sound familiar to the Ravens.

A heartbreaking playoff loss the previous January.

The departure of a popular offensive coordinator and the loss of several key free agents.

A difficult early-season schedule that included four of the first six games on the road.

And a growing list of injuries.

At 3-6-1, the Bengals find their season all but ruined without a miraculous turnaround. The injuries to Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and shifty running back Giovani Bernard felt like the final nails in the coffin last Sunday, but consecutive post-bye losses by a total of five points have dropped Cincinnati out of serious contention in a mediocre AFC North.

It all sounds a lot like the Ravens’ circumstances a year ago that resulted in a 5-11 season, the franchise’s worst in nearly a decade. At the same point last year, Baltimore was 3-7 and already out of playoff contention.

“We haven’t won close games,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We’ve had opportunities in the fourth quarter of football games. We’ve had leads. We’ve had opportunities, and we haven’t closed the games out.”

Of course, the Bengals’ woes guarantee nothing for the Ravens, who haven’t made things easy on themselves all season. Three of their five wins have come against the two worst teams in the AFC — Cleveland and Jacksonville — and just one of their victories has been by more than one score.

And don’t forget about that five-game losing streak against the Bengals, a drought dating back to the 2013 season. The Week 16 rematch with Pittsburgh is the most crucial game remaining on the schedule, but two games against Cincinnati — Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium and then the regular-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium — will be critical in determining the Ravens’ fate.

“We have to find a way to beat them,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “If we do not start beating the Bengals, then we are not going to win any division championships. That is especially true this year. To me, the whole thing goes through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. We are going to have to win a couple other games, too, but it is the division. This is a division game. It is as simple as that.”

Starting fast is a goal every week, but the Ravens are facing a team that has one victory — against the winless Browns — since late September and will be without its best player. If ever there were a time for Baltimore to come out of the gate trying to step on the neck of an opponent, Week 12 is it.

The Bengals are down and know they likely need to win out to have any chance of extending their string of five consecutive trips to the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Ravens know they need to win these next two home games — including next week against Miami — to keep pace with the Steelers and put themselves in good position for a brutal final quarter of the season that includes road games at New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

On Sunday, the Ravens can’t afford to give hope to a struggling team that still has some talented players on both sides of the ball.

“We want to continue to build and get better,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, whose 19 career interceptions against the Bengals are the most he’s thrown against any team. “I think it is huge to get going just to get our crowd in it and to get everybody excited — to get our guys excited. These guys have played us well. We have not beaten them in a long time. It is definitely going to be a tough game, but early on will be a big part.”

We know this is a flawed Ravens team expected to once again be without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but their problems don’t run as deep as those of the Bengals, whose penalty-riddled collapse against Pittsburgh last January now looks like the moment their window of opportunity slammed shut. Baltimore is trying to show its own window is still open despite going 10-16 since the start of last season.

There’s no excuse not to beat the struggling Bengals if the Ravens want to be taken seriously the rest of the way. A loss would drastically change their outlook for their five remaining games.

Peppered with questions from the Baltimore media this week about how the losses of Green and Bernard impact his struggling team, Lewis said the Bengals still plan on showing up at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. No matter how Cincinnati might look right now, the Ravens can’t afford to take their AFC North rival lightly.

“Five straight is five straight. Numbers don’t lie,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “They have kind of had our number. We are going to see what we can do to change that.”

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Dumervil questionable, J. Smith doubtful to play against Cincinnati

Posted on 25 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens may welcome back a key member of their defense against Cincinnati, but another is expected to be absent for the second straight game.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is listed as questionable to play against the Bengals on Sunday while cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) is doubtful after missing practices all week. Dumervil was a full participant all week after returning to the practice field last week and could see his first live-game action since Oct. 9 against Washington.

Dealing with a frustrating recovery from offseason foot surgery, Dumervil has appeared in just two games all season, failing to register a statistic in 45 total snaps. The 32-year-old collected a total of 32 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons with the Ravens, who have struggled to mount a consistent pass rush this season.

“I think he looked good in practice. Again, it’s going to be up to the medical people to determine [if he plays],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s always been a medical issue. It’s good to see him out there at practice taking a good number of reps. He didn’t take every rep, but took a good number of reps in the rotation. We’ll just have to see when the time comes whether he’ll get cleared to go.”

With Smith not expected to play, the Ravens are fortunate that five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green will not suit up for the Bengals. Green injured his hamstring in last Sunday’s loss to Buffalo and was officially declared out on Friday afternoon.

The Baltimore defense has struggled without Smith on the field, but the Bengals’ lack of a high-impact receiver without Green should lessen that concern. The Ravens started rookie Tavon Young and returning veteran Shareece Wright at the starting cornerback spots against the Cowboys last week as Smith continued to nurse his back issue.

“I think they have a better handle on exactly what it is right now specifically,” Harbaugh said. “They have a good handle on it. It’s more muscular, so that’s good news. If it clears up and he can go, he’ll play. If it doesn’t and he can’t be close to 100 percent, we’ll just have to wait until next week. But we’re confident in the guys we have as well.”

The Ravens officially ruled out guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh). Tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) sat out Friday’s workout and is doubtful, meaning he will likely miss his fourth consecutive game.

Baltimore listed guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) and Brandon Williams (back/hand) as questionable, but all three are expected to play on Sunday.

In addition to ruling out Green, the Bengals listed starting strong safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) as doubtful to play in Week 12.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Clete Blakeman.

The Ravens will wear its black jerseys on Sunday, the first time this year the alternate top has been worn.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching 53 degrees and winds up to 12 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), DT Brandon Williams (back/hand), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

CINCINNATI
OUT: WR A.J. Green (hamstring)
DOUBTFUL: TE C.J. Uzomah (calf), S Shawn Williams (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LS Clark Harris (groin), S Derron Smith (thigh)

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Ravens once again practice without Jimmy Smith on Thanksgiving

Posted on 24 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens were once again without Jimmy Smith on Thanksgiving as they moved closer to a Week 12 meeting with Cincinnati.

The sixth-year cornerback continues to be sidelined with the back injury that forced him to miss his first game of the season last Sunday. Head coach John Harbaugh has expressed optimism at a couple different points regarding his status, but you do wonder how long the back issue could linger as he’s missed all but one practice over the last two weeks.

Fortunately for the Ravens, the Bengals will be without top receiver A.J. Green, who will miss this week’s game with a hamstring injury. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant caught two touchdowns against a Baltimore defense lacking its best cornerback.

“Whether Jimmy is in there or not, we have to step our game up — myself included — to get off the field,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We just didn’t execute and didn’t make the plays needed. They made the plays, and credit Dallas for doing an excellent job in the second half. You live, you learn.”

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (back/hand) and guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) returned to practice as full participants after receiving Wednesday off. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) also practiced fully as he hopes to make his return to live-game action for the first time since Week 5.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were limited participants for the second straight day. The latter hasn’t played in a game since before the bye week.

Harbaugh gave veteran days off to linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah on Thursday.

The Bengals were once again without starting strong safety Shawn Williams, who continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Lewis (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), DT Brandon Williams (back/hand), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR A.J. Green (hamstring), CB Josh Shaw (hip), TE C.J. Uzomah (calf), S Shawn Williams (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Clint Boling (shoulder), LS Clark Harris (groin), RB Ryan Hewitt (foot), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), S Derron Smith (thigh), WR James Wright (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Andy Dalton (right shoulder), WR Brandon LaFell (knee)

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J. Smith, B. Williams absent as Ravens prepare for Cincinnati

Posted on 23 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were without two key defensive starters for Wednesday’s practice as they turn their attention toward the struggling Cincinnati Bengals.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and nose tackle Brandon Williams were absent from the portion of practice open to reporters. Smith missed his first game of the season with a back injury in Week 11, leading Dallas receiver Dez Bryant to catch two touchdowns against an undermanned Baltimore secondary.

“Jimmy is still working on his back issue,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Hopefully he’ll be out there tomorrow. We’ll see.”

Harbaugh said Williams was receiving the day off before he was officially listed with back and hand issues on Wednesday’s injury report. He played a season-high 49 defensive snaps against the Cowboys.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were present and working. Sunday marked the eighth missed game of the season for Dumervil while Gillmore missed his third straight contest since sustaining an injury during a bye-week practice.

Guards Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Alex Lewis (ankle) and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh) were not present on Wednesday. After saying Monday that Yanda made it out of the Dallas game in OK shape, Harbaugh gave the five-time Pro Bowl selection an extra day to rest his left shoulder.

Coming off a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, second-year tight end Nick Boyle was back on the practice field. It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will activate him for Sunday’s game, but he brings blocking ability that the tight end position has lacked in recent weeks.

“I think Nick really feels like he missed out,” Harbaugh said. “He says, ‘What do I do? I work out, and I think about football, then I go work out again, and I think about football.’ He’s got a football head. That’s who he is [and] what he thinks about. That 10 weeks — 11 weeks actually — was very painful for him.

“I’m hoping he makes somebody pay for his pain on that by playing well whenever we’re able to get him out there.”

Meanwhile, the Bengals were without five starters on Wednesday, a list including cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (knee), and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring). Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 11 loss to Buffalo.

Bengals running back Giovani Bernard suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday and was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Lewis (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (back/hand), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR A.J. Green (hamstring), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), WR Brandon LaFell (knee), TE C.J. Uzomah (calf), OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury), S Shawn Williams (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Clint Boling (shoulder), QB Andy Dalton (right shoulder), LS Clark Harris (groin), CB Josh Shaw (hip)

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Ravens in position to take advantage of down AFC North

Posted on 15 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens haven’t really looked the part of a division champion through the first nine games of the season.

They didn’t win a game in the month of October.

The offensive line can’t stay healthy and the offense ranks in the NFL’s bottom 10 in most statistical categories.

Three of their five victories have come against two teams who’ve gone a combined 2-17.

Their highly-paid quarterback has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns and is in the midst of one of the worst seasons of his career.

And yet the 5-4 Ravens are in sole possession of first place and have the only winning record in the AFC North entering the latter half of November. Flawed as they might be, the rest of a struggling division envies Baltimore’s position with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

Since divisional realignment took place in 2002, the champion of the AFC North hasn’t won fewer than 10 games. Including the history of the old AFC Central, you’d have to go back to 1990 when Cincinnati went 9-7 to find a division champion with fewer than 10 wins.

Barring dramatic improvement from Baltimore, Pittsburgh (4-5), or Cincinnati (3-5-1) over the final seven games, no team appears likely to reach that 10-win plateau. It’s no sure thing that anyone even reaches nine wins, either, especially when you’re reminded that the Ravens still have to face four non-division teams currently sporting winning records.

With the Bengals’ loss to the New York Giants on Monday night, the AFC North fell to 7-19-1 in non-division games in 2016. Even removing winless Cleveland from the equation, the AFC North holds the worst winning percentage in non-division games among the NFL’s eight divisions.

In short, it’s been a bad year for a proud division that’s sent at least two teams to the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons. But the Ravens are in solid position to take advantage of the mediocrity.

John Harbaugh’s team faces a difficult task playing at Dallas on Sunday, but three of Baltimore’s next four games after that will be played at M&T Bank Stadium. Winning all three of those home games against Cincinnati, Miami, and Philadelphia would put the Ravens in position to finish 9-7 if they can win just one more road game down the stretch. The Christmas Day game at Pittsburgh would be the most meaningful from a potential tie-breaking standpoint.

The offense is likely to remain the Ravens’ Achilles heel with the injuries along the offensive line, but a defense ranking first in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and third-down defense and ranking in the top five in several other statistical categories is eager to prove it belongs among the more special groups in franchise history. The Ravens will have their chance to show it with several tough opponents on the horizon.

The path will be difficult, but it’s looking better than the rest of a down AFC North at the moment.

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Eight days change outlook of season for Ravens

Posted on 13 November 2016 by Luke Jones

Just over a week ago, the Ravens were coming off the bye with their season dangerously close to circling the drain before Thanksgiving.

Two victories and two Pittsburgh losses later, Baltimore wakes up Monday in sole possession of first place in the AFC North. That winless October now feels like a long time ago as the 5-4 Ravens are the only team in the division above .500.

Even if you still aren’t ready to believe in the Ravens with their well-known issues, the Steelers (4-5) are now in the midst of their own four-game losing streak after falling to Dallas in the closing seconds at Heinz Field on Sunday. It wasn’t a divisional showdown like the Ravens’ 21-14 win over Pittsburgh the previous week, but the game felt no less pivotal for the struggling Steelers, who will now play four of their next five on the road.

The Steelers were considered the early class of the division after winning four of their first five, but that is no longer the case in mid-November as Ezekiel Elliott’s last-second touchdown changed the landscape of the AFC North on Sunday evening.

The attention now shifts to Cincinnati’s Monday road game against the New York Giants as a win would move the Bengals (3-4-1) into sole possession of second place. In two weeks, the Ravens will try to snap their five-game losing streak against the Bengals that dates back to the 2013 season.

Of course, seven weeks remain in the regular season with the Ravens playing road games against two first-place teams — Dallas and New England — and against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the final two weeks. Their final two home games come against Miami and Philadelphia, who both own winning records and are better than anyone expected them to be at the start of the season.

No matter how mediocre the rest of the division looks, it still won’t be easy for Baltimore.

The Ravens’ problems on offense can’t be dismissed despite a 22-point second-half outburst against Cleveland on Thursday, but a very strong defense and the Steelers’ struggles suddenly make the path to a division title appear less daunting. Pittsburgh will have an easier task next week with a road game against the winless Browns while the Ravens must play at one-loss Dallas, but Baltimore will be firmly in the division mix at Thanksgiving no matter what the Steelers and Bengals do.

You can’t ask for more than that after losing four straight in October.

The chances of a wild card appear bleak for any AFC North team with the AFC West currently sporting three seven-win teams, but a 9-7 record is looking more and more like the mark to win the division.

And even with the difficult remaining schedule, that goal looks more attainable after a fruitful eight days for the Ravens.

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