Tag Archive | "dolphins"

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 31-7 win over Miami

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 2-0 in the preseason with a 31-7 win over Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The offensive line was again a mess as third-stringer Jarrod Pughsley starting at right guard was surprising to even beat reporters. Evaluating this group without Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley on the field is very difficult, but there were too many penalties and not enough room in the running game.

2. You have to like the defensive depth as the starters were again impressive and the reserves held the Dolphins to just 17 yards in the second half. I also like seeing how frequently the Ravens are using Anthony Levine in the dime package. He’s a good fit for that role.

3. Ryan Mallett was better than last week, but he threw two interceptions and still isn’t pushing the ball downfield, a problem that Joe Flacco had in this offense last season. His third-down conversions to Benjamin Watson and Mike Wallace were good throws, but there still wasn’t much to like here.

4. Both interceptions came on passes intended for rookie Quincy Adeboyejo, who didn’t present himself well on either. The first came on a deep route he ran poorly and the second was on a pass thrown behind him that was catchable. Quarterback and receiver have to take some blame on both.

5. Jaylen Hill finished with a team-leading three tackles and two pass breakups. At this point, the rookie free agent from Jacksonville State might have to play himself off the roster not to make the team. He looks like he belongs despite being undersized.

6. Say what you want about the absence of Flacco and the current state of the offensive line, but fumbles by Wallace and Terrance West in the first eight minutes of the game had to drive John Harbaugh crazy. This offense isn’t good enough to overcome potential turnovers and penalties.

7. It’s been a quiet camp for Maxx Williams, but his third-down reception to move the chains late in the first half and his 40-yard catch and run in the third quarter were eyebrow-raising plays. The 2015 second-round pick showed toughness and some explosiveness that hadn’t been seen this summer.

8. Donald Payne had one of the more impressive sequences of the night as the rookie linebacker forced a fumble on a kickoff midway through the second quarter and sprinted down the field to flatten the returner on the next one. That will grab the attention of Harbaugh and Jerry Rosburg.

9. The Ravens have been using Patrick Ricard as a fullback in practices for the last week or so, but that might say more about the current fullbacks on the roster. Regardless, it’s fun to see a 6-foot-3, 304-pound defensive lineman playing that spot.

10. Josh Woodrum has played very well against second- and third-team defenders and is putting himself in the conversation for a spot on the practice squad, but he’s not going to be the one to supplant Mallett if the organization decides to upgrade the backup spot.

11. Justin Tucker picking up a fumble and trying to run reminded me of the scene in “Major League” when Willie Mays Hayes makes a basket catch to end an inning and manager Lou Brown welcomes him back to the dugout saying, “Nice catch, Hayes. Don’t ever [expletive] do it again.”

12. We’re spoiled here in Baltimore and it was only a preseason game, but that showing from Miami was one of the worst special-teams performances I’ve seen in a long time.

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Ravens offense in holding pattern ahead of second preseason game

Posted on 14 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The start of the 2017 season is less than four weeks away, but a Ravens offense entering training camp with a slew of questions has only added to that list and remains in a holding pattern.

Quarterback Joe Flacco still hasn’t practiced since reporting to Owings Mills with a back issue three weeks ago. The organization has already said the 10th-year veteran won’t play in any preseason contests, meaning he will go into the Sept. 10 opener at Cincinnati with no live-game action under his belt.

It’s hardly ideal after Flacco ranked 27th in the NFL in yards per attempt last year and saw roughly half of the team’s receiving production depart in the offseason. He’s also logged just two offseason practices with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who signed with Baltimore during its mandatory minicamp in June.

“There is no substitute for experience, especially in this situation,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, acknowledging the challenge of having Flacco miss so much valuable preseason time. “It looks like we are going to have just enough time there to get him ready as long as he keeps progressing. By all accounts, he is progressing pretty well.”

Flacco isn’t the only concern, however, as an offensive line that already saw two starters depart in the offseason has been further ravaged since late July. Starting left guard Alex Lewis and 2017 fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa suffered season-ending injuries after potential starting center John Urschel surprisingly retired at the start of camp, depleting the interior line depth. General manager Ozzie Newsome did sign right tackle Austin Howard earlier this month, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley is now dealing with an undisclosed injury that’s jeopardized his status for Thursday’s preseason game in Miami.

The Ravens have brought Howard and six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda along slowly after both underwent offseason shoulder surgery, but the clock is ticking to build cohesion on the offensive line. For now, it appears that James Hurst — who began the summer as the starting right tackle — will receive the first opportunity to replace Lewis and play next to new starting center Ryan Jensen.

Senior offensive assistant Greg Roman was hired in the offseason to revamp an ineffective running game, but the projected starting line has changed more than once since the start of camp and just hasn’t had sufficient time to gel. In the aftermath of Flacco’s extended absence, the Ravens will need the group to be even more effective.

“If you look around football, the line plays together,” said Mornhinweg about the need to build continuity. “Five or six guys play together pretty much throughout the year, and that way you can stay pretty consistent that way. Yes, it is important.”

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since Aug. 1, marking the third straight year in which the 2015 first-round pick has missed most of training camp. An offense lacking playmakers sure could use Perriman’s upside as the Ravens try to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

The questions remain with few answers apparent as the season is under a month away.

NOTES: The Ravens signed veteran quarterback Thad Lewis and waived quarterback Dustin Vaughan on Monday. Lewis brings more experience to the position after starting six games over his NFL career. … Maclin, safety Eric Weddle, and rookie outside linebacker Tyus Bowser returned to practice after each missed at least a portion of Sunday’s practice. … Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (knee) and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (undisclosed) were absent from Monday’s workout after being banged up a day earlier. … Cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), and linebacker Lamar Louis (undisclosed) remained sidelined. … Former Ravens defensive tackle and Super Bowl XXXV champion Tony Siragusa visited practice.

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Sizing up Ravens’ playoff picture entering Week 16

Posted on 19 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens were lucky not to have their playoff hopes all but squashed on Sunday, but their 27-26 win over Philadelphia leaves them with an 8-6 record and multiple paths to the postseason.

The first is clear while the others involve assistance from other teams.

Winning road games at Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would give the Ravens their first AFC North division title since the 2012 season. Of course, that would require Baltimore to win its first games on the road since September.

Many are hyping the Christmas Day showdown at Heinz Field as an AFC North championship game, but it’s not enough for the Ravens to merely win on Sunday. The Steelers host the winless Cleveland Browns in their regular-season finale, meaning the Ravens would almost certainly need to win a road game against the Bengals for the first time since 2011 in order to secure the division championship.

A path to a wild card also remains — at least for now.

The Ravens completed Week 15 a game behind Miami for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. A win for the 9-5 Dolphins at Buffalo on Christmas Eve would force Baltimore to beat the Steelers to stave off elimination for a playoff spot. A Miami loss would keep the Ravens’ playoff hopes alive in Week 17, no matter what happens against Pittsburgh.

Despite the daunting task of playing their two biggest division rivals on the road in consecutive weeks, the Ravens do have a 7-3 conference record working in their favor as a tiebreaker over fellow playoff contenders Tennessee, Denver, and Houston. Of course, Baltimore owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins via the 38-6 win at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 13.

Currently competing for the AFC South title, the Texans and the Titans meet in Week 17, meaning one is set to lose at least one more game.

If the Ravens are to make the playoffs while losing one more game, they would need the Dolphins to lose out and the other 8-6 wild-card contenders to each lose at least one more game.

Below is a look at the remaining schedule for the Ravens and the other contenders for the final wild card in the AFC:

PITTSBURGH (9-5, first place in AFC North)
Remaining opponents: Baltimore, Cleveland

HOUSTON (8-6, first place in AFC South via head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee)
Remaining opponents: Cincinnati, at Tennessee

MIAMI (9-5, No. 6 seed)
Remaining opponents: at Buffalo, New England

BALTIMORE (8-6, seventh in AFC via conference record)
Remaining opponents: at Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati

TENNESSEE (8-6, eighth in AFC via head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver)
Remaining opponents: at Jacksonville, Houston

DENVER (8-6, ninth in AFC)
Remaining opponents: at Kansas City, Oakland

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Sunday brings mixed bag to Ravens’ playoff picture

Posted on 11 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens aren’t likely to send former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan a Christmas card after Buffalo’s disappoint showing against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Despite intercepting Ben Roethlisberger three times in snowy conditions, the Bills allowed nearly 300 yards from scrimmage to running back Le’Veon Bell in their 27-20 defeat to the Steelers at New Era Field. The final score didn’t indicate how lopsided the game was as Pittsburgh moved a half-game ahead in the AFC North, putting more pressure on Baltimore for its Monday meeting with New England.

A loss to the Patriots wouldn’t wipe away the Ravens’ division hopes by any means, but it would all but eliminate any realistic chance of being able to win the AFC North without a victory at Heinz Field on Christmas Day.

Sunday wasn’t a complete disappointment for the Ravens, however, as Denver lost to Tennessee and is now barely holding on as the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. The Broncos fell to 8-5 and now face a brutal final three weeks, opening the door for a team outside the AFC West to potentially steal the last wild card.

Currently holding a 7-2 conference record, the Ravens are in good shape from a tiebreaker standpoint. They also hold the head-to-head advantage with Miami, who beat Arizona on Sunday to improve to 8-5 but lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill to what’s believed to be a season-ending knee injury. The Dolphins will play their final three games against division opponents — including the next two on the road — with veteran backup Matt Moore likely leading the way.

A loss on Monday night would drop the Ravens into a tie with Tennessee at 7-6, but the Titans own a poor 4-5 conference record and play their next two games on the road.

The Ravens’ best path to the playoffs is still winning the division, but Sunday’s action opened the door further for a potential wild card. And that eases the sting of the Bills not being able to beat the Steelers.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 13 win over Miami

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens blowing out Miami in a 38-6 final on Sunday to remain tied atop the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. How badly did Joe Flacco need a performance like that? It was the first time he’d thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game against a team not named the Cleveland Browns in over a year.

2. Considering his salary cap figure is the second highest on the team and fourth among NFL safeties, Lardarius Webb stepping up in response to Eric Weddle’s recent challenge to elevate his play is an encouraging development. His end-zone interception in the second quarter was sensational.

3. Kyle Juszczyk might be the best fullback in the NFL, but he saw his lowest snap total on Sunday since Week 3. I couldn’t help but think that was a positive development in getting more dynamic receivers on the field to help the passing game.

4. Using the same starting offensive line for the third straight game — the first time the Ravens have done that since the first three weeks of the season — resulted in zero sacks and just two quarterback hits allowed against the Dolphins’ talented front four. Continuity is critical with line play.

5. Remember how the Ravens ranked last in the NFL with just six interceptions last season? Their three-pick performance against Ryan Tannehill gave them 14 for the season, which is tied for second in the league entering Week 14.

6. Count me among those who expected the Ravens to run the ball more in the second half, but I sometimes wonder if some care more about the run-pass ratio than scoring points and accumulating yards. Taking issue after the highest scoring output in over two years is silly.

7. I’m not sure I’ve seen linebackers more clueless in coverage than Miami’s were. Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg were smart to attack the middle of the field to exploit them.

8. Of the nine Ravens players selected on Day 2 of the draft since Super Bowl XLVII, just two — Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan — were active for Sunday’s game. That isn’t easy to overcome as an organization.

9. Terrance West has averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry this season, but Kenneth Dixon is gaining 5.9 yards per attempt over his last four games after averaging 1.5 yards per carry in his first four games back from injury. It’s getting tougher and tougher to hold the rookie back.

10. Miami’s complaints about the field at M&T Bank Stadium are noteworthy after the switch to natural grass this season, but the Ravens didn’t seem to have any problems. It will be interesting to see how the surface holds up for the Army-Navy game and the Philadelphia game in Week 15.

11. The Ravens have surrendered the fifth-fewest pass plays of 25 or more yards this season, but they’re on pace to produce fewer pass plays of 25 or more than they did last year when they lacked any viable vertical threat. This offense has disappointed, but I wouldn’t have guessed that.

12. I understand John Harbaugh’s team was really banged up at the time, but watching the New York Jets play Monday reminded how maddening that Week 7 loss was. The Ravens remain in good position now, but that one still hangs over their heads as a potential season-killer.

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Ravens, Steelers following similar paths to Christmas showdown

Posted on 05 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens face their biggest challenge of the season at New England next Monday night, but it’s difficult not to look ahead to Christmas Day.

As it has so many times over the last 15 years, the AFC North championship will come down to Baltimore and Pittsburgh with their Week 16 meeting at Heinz Field potentially serving as a pseudo-championship game. Despite neither team being dominant in 2016, some of the similarities between the Ravens and the Steelers are striking.

Both teams appeared to be in serious trouble only a month ago before regrouping to hold matching 7-5 records going into the final quarter of the regular season.

“We like the fact that we’re in it,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We like the fact that we’re in a fight for the division championship. That’s our first goal — the starting point of everything we try to accomplish one week at a time.”

The Ravens began the season with three straight wins, then suffered a four-game losing streak, and now have won four of their last five games. Meanwhile, the Steelers won four of their first five, sustained their own four-game slide, and have now prevailed in three straight games.

Each team owns two home losses and three defeats on the road. Hoping to keep pace in the division on Sunday, the Ravens and Steelers each took out an opponent that entered the day riding a six-game winning streak.

While the Ravens offense finally busted out with a 38-point showing against Miami, the Steelers’ maligned defense has allowed a total of 30 points over the last three games. Those improvements have led many to point to Baltimore and Pittsburgh as potential sleepers in the AFC.

But that depends on who prevails in the AFC North since a wild card is unlikely to come from the division at this point.

The schedule favors the Steelers as their remaining opponents are a combined 17-30-1 while the Ravens’ are 26-21-1, but the next two weeks provide interesting possibilities. Pittsburgh plays back-to-back road games at Buffalo and Cincinnati, two teams who have had their struggles but remain capable of pulling off upsets in their home stadiums. The Ravens face the daunting task of a Monday night game against the Patriots in Foxborough, but their Dec. 18 home game against the fading Philadelphia Eagles looks more favorable by the week.

Considering the Ravens already have a win over Pittsburgh — and would thus own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a Week 16 victory — they simply need to be no worse than one game behind the Steelers when they arrive at Heinz Field on Dec. 25. A win over the Eagles in two weeks would ensure that, no matter what happens against the Patriots or in Pittsburgh’s next two contests.

Of course, much could change over the next couple weeks, but both the Ravens and the Steelers appear to be peaking at the right time and are on a Christmas collision course with a division title at stake.

What more could you possibly want?

Weddle’s impact

Safety Eric Weddle came away with his third interception of the season on Sunday, matching his total over his final three seasons with San Diego.

In addition to being Pro Football Focus’ top-graded safety for much of the season, the 31-year-old has brought much-needed leadership and experience to the secondary. From recently challenging fellow safety Lardarius Webb to elevate his play to being one of the first players in the building every day, Weddle has provided a presence the Ravens lacked on the back end of the defense after Ed Reed’s departure a few years ago.

“He is that way at 5:30 in the morning in the weight room. He is that way at 6:30 at night when he is just finishing up his work on tape,” said Harbaugh about the veteran’s enthusiasm. “That is how he lives his life. He is that way when he has his kids in the building. That is how he lives.”

Flacco getting hot?

Asked whether Joe Flacco’s four-touchdown, 381-yard performance on Sunday prompted him to wonder if this was the start of a hot streak for the ninth-year quarterback, Harbaugh didn’t want to make any assumptions.

It only makes sense in the midst of a disappointing year for Flacco and the Baltimore offense.

“It is not like golf, where you go out there and all of a sudden your swing starts grooving [like], ‘I am going to make a bunch of putts in a row,'” Harbaugh said. “There is an opponent over there that is trying to take away your swing. They are blocking your putt. You have to find a way to maneuver through.

“It’s tough because every single play presents a new challenge against a tough opponent that is doing everything they can within their intellect and their physical opportunity to thwart your efforts. We just have to find a way to win the next play.”

Odds & ends

Justin Tucker led AFC kickers in the Pro Bowl voting update released on Monday. He is now 28-for-28 on field goal tries, had made eight attempts from 50 yards or longer, and hasn’t missed a single extra point. He was named to his only Pro Bowl back in 2013. … Cut by Detroit over the weekend, ex-Ravens running back Justin Forsett was claimed off waivers by Denver on Monday, reuniting him with Gary Kubiak. The 31-year-old averaged 5.4 yards per carry in a 2014 Pro Bowl season when Kubiak was his offensive coordinator. … On the heels of the center portion of the field being re-sodded at M&T Bank Stadium, several Miami players complained about poor footing on Sunday, a problem the Ravens didn’t seem to have. “It felt good when I walked on it; I didn’t slip,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughter from media. “But our players didn’t slip, either. Our guys were prepared for it. That is an individual thing as a player. You have to go out there and find your footing in pregame.”

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Ravens offense finally provides real hope for stretch run

Posted on 05 December 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens had talked about the potential of their offense all season.

From John Harbaugh and Marty Mornhinweg to Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace, the word “close” had been uttered so many times in describing the unit’s pursuit of a breakout performance. But potential is meaningless without substance, especially when you’ve reached the month of December.

We’d seen decent stretches here and there this season, but never anything close to a full 60 minutes — not even in two wins over the lowly Cleveland Browns. That’s what made the 38-point, 496-yard explosion against the Miami Dolphins so uplifting on Sunday.

With three of their final four coming on the road — including games at New England and Pittsburgh — the Baltimore offense needed to prove it was capable of playing at such a high level after talking about doing it for months. Snapping Miami’s six-game winning streak in blowout fashion is one thing, but beating the Patriots in Foxborough would be another entirely.

It’s a task that appears more reasonable, however, after the Ravens’ highest scoring output in more than two years and their biggest margin of victory since 2012.

“I think it gives the guys a lot of confidence to see it and have done it,” Flacco said. “Now, we have to go up into a hostile place in New England that we really enjoy playing [at]. It’s going to be another important game in December up there.”

So, what was the difference on Sunday? After all, it’s not as though the Ravens offense just decided it would wait until Week 13 to magically shift into a higher gear. There was much discussion this week — including an animated debate between Mornhinweg and Flacco in the quarterbacks meeting room — about the offense needing to be more aggressive, but execution has to accompany that mindset.

The numbers didn’t lie on Sunday as Flacco turned in his best performance since Gary Kubiak was in charge of the offense two seasons ago, throwing for four touchdowns and 381 yards. His 36 completions were a single-game franchise record as he repeatedly carved up the middle of Miami’s zone defense.

“The guy who was throwing the ball,” wide receiver Steve Smith. “He was playing lights out. We go as he goes. When he does a great job, we all look better.”

The newfound stability of the offensive line has steadily made Flacco look better as well. Using the same starting five for the third straight week — the first time the Ravens could claim that since the first three games of the season — reaped the rewards of a clean pocket as a talented Miami front registered no sacks and just two quarterback hits on the day.

The offensive line paved the way for Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon to combine for 106 rushing yards on 16 carries, but it was the group’s work in pass protection that allowed Flacco to shine on Sunday. Eleven different Ravens caught passes with five registering at least 40 receiving yards.

“It starts up front. When he has time, he is a dangerous quarterback and we know that,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, who caught his first two touchdowns since Dec. 8, 2013. “We have a lot of weapons offensively and we always talked about the potential we have, but we weren’t quite there. Today, we recognized that potential and put it together.”

The Ravens hope this is the turning point for Flacco and an offense that’s underachieved all season. It had been far too long since we’d seen it, but Sunday reminded us how good the ninth-year quarterback is capable of being when he gets on a roll.

The timing couldn’t have been better with the Ravens likely needing to win three of their last four to secure a trip to the playoffs. This is the time of year when Flacco has often played some of his best football, and the Ravens will need him to be playing his best to prevail over Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

A trip to Gillette Stadium next Monday will provide a good indication whether the Week 13 performance was merely a tease of what many thought this offense could be in 2016 or the start of something exciting.

Were the Dolphins just that bad on Sunday or can the Ravens really be that good?

“We’ll see next week if it’s a launching point,” Smith said. “We want to say yes, but sometimes you guys discredit the other team.”

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 04 December 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens defense is as close to full strength as it’s been in quite some time.

That’s good news for a team tied for first place in the AFC North and vying for a return to the playoffs, but the red-hot Miami Dolphins are in town trying to extend their conference-best six-game winning streak on Sunday afternoon. Both teams entered Week 13 with a tenuous hold on postseason berths.

As expected, No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith is active and will start after missing the last two games with a back injury. His return coupled with the presence of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil will give the league’s second-ranked defense its full assortment of starting players for the first time since Week 5.

There were no other surprises among the Ravens’ inactives as tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), guard Alex Lewis, and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro were officially declared out on Friday. Running back Buck Allen is also inactive after being listed as doubtful with a non-football injury.

After being a healthy scratch last week, second-year outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is active for Sunday’s game. However, rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa was deactivated for the second straight week, continuing a quiet season for the second-round pick.

The Ravens will use the same starting offensive line for the third straight game, the first time they’ve done that since the first three games of the 2016 season.

Despite early-morning reports that Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker would not play, the 2015 first-round pick is active. He tested out his back in an extensive pre-game workout around 10:30 a.m. and was deemed good to go by the Miami medical staff. His 6-foot-3 frame could lead to some interesting coverage decisions in the Ravens secondary.

Miami will welcome back left tackle Branden Albert (wrist) and left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) to the starting lineup after both missed last week’s game against San Francisco. Veteran center Mike Pouncey (hip) was officially ruled out on Friday and hasn’t played since Week 10.

The Dolphins will also be without starting outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who is out with knee and hand injuries.

The Ravens and Dolphins will be meeting for the 12th time in the regular season with Miami holding a 6-5 advantage but Baltimore owning a 2-0 postseason edge. In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 5-1 — including one playoff win — against the Dolphins. Miami seeks its first win in Baltimore since prevailing in a 24-13 final at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 19, 1997.

The forecast for Sunday’s game calls for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the high 40s and a calm breeze, according to Weather.com.

Though there is no precipitation in the forecast, the Ravens have re-sodded the middle portion of the field at M&T Bank Stadium from end zone to end zone. It will be interesting to see how the field holds up as the game progresses.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Miami dons its white tops with aqua pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
RB Buck Allen
LB Kamalei Correa
OL Ryan Jensen
G Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore

MIAMI
LB Jelani Jenkins
OT Bryce Harris
TE Thomas Duarte
WR Rashawn Scott
C Mike Pouncey
CB Jordan Lucas
CB Xavien Howard

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 03 December 2016 by Luke Jones

December football has arrived.

Aiming to return to the postseason for just the second time since Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens will now play three of their next four games against teams with winning records and own the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. In other words, John Harbaugh’s team will have to earn it if an AFC North title is in the cards.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins come to town riding a six-game winning streak in their effort to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008. First-year head coach Adam Gase has the Dolphins playing winning football despite a 1-4 start, but a plus-9 point differential reflects how close their games have been on a weekly basis all year.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams play for the 12th time in their regular-season history. The Dolphins own a 6-5 advantage, but their only win in Baltimore came at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 19, 1997. This marks the fourth straight year these teams have met, but the previous three were in Miami.

1. Kenneth Dixon will gain a career-high 100 total yards. We’ve gradually seen Dixon cut into starter Terrance West’s workload, but the rookie finished with more touches (17 to 16) and played eight more snaps against Cincinnati last week. The Dolphins rank 30th in rush defense and are allowing 4.6 yards per carry. The Miami front is built to aggressively rush the passer, so offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should use draws, counters, and screens to exploit that aggressiveness. If the Ravens are to finally get their running game going for the stretch run, Sunday seems like the time to do it.

2. Kenny Stills will catch a long touchdown against the Ravens secondary. Jarvis Landry is the most accomplished Dolphins receiver and 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker has emerged in recent weeks, but Stills ranks third among qualified players in yards per catch (18.5) and has five touchdowns on throws traveling more than 20 yards through the air. The Ravens are tied for fourth in fewest pass plays of 25 or more yards allowed, but Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when working in a clean pocket this season. That will lead to a score.

3. The team that throws the ball more often will lose on Sunday. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has earned much praise with back-to-back 200-yard games in October and another 100-yard rushing performance in Week 9, but he’s averaged 3.8 yards per carry in three contests since and will be playing the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. On the other side, Joe Flacco is averaging 40.9 passing attempts per game, but he’s thrown for more than 300 yards twice and has only two contests in which he’s thrown for two or more touchdowns this year. Both teams need to run the ball effectively to thrive.

4. Jimmy Smith will come away with a red-zone interception in the second half. After missing two games with a back injury, the No. 1 cornerback is expected to play. Miami could be without the 6-foot-3 Parker, but Smith’s presence on the field will be key against a passing game ranking eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt (7.8) despite sitting 28th in passing yards per game. Despite playing his best football since the first half of the 2014 season, Smith has yet to secure an interception this season. That will change on Sunday with Tannehill being forced to throw more than usual in the second half.

5. The Ravens win in typical fashion in a 20-17 final to stay in first place in the AFC North. Week after week, we’ve watched an offense incapable of putting together a full 60 minutes — or even anything close to that. I don’t expect that to suddenly change in the final month of the season. However, the Dolphins’ biggest offensive strength is a perfect match for what the Ravens do best. Baltimore will contain Ajayi and rattle Tannehill at the most critical times, Justin Tucker will connect on two field goals, and the Ravens offense will put together one or two good drives. It’s never fancy, but the Ravens couldn’t have asked for much more than a 7-5 record after their season was in great peril a month ago.

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Ravens defense expected to be “full strength” against Miami

Posted on 02 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to make his return for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

After participating fully in practice for a third straight day, Smith was officially listed as questionable to play in Week 13 after missing the previous two games with a back injury. Head coach John Harbaugh was pleased with the way Smith responded to practice and is looking forward to having his entire second-ranked defense on the field.

“He looks good. We weren’t sure early in the week if he was going to be able to go,” Harbaugh said. “He just responded well, and he looks good. It will mean a lot. It will help our defense. We’ll be really pretty much full strength out there, so that’s a big plus for us.”

The Ravens officially ruled out tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (hamstring), and guard Alex Lewis (ankle) after none of them practiced all week. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) is listed as questionable and should play after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.

Running back Buck Allen was designated as doubtful while dealing with a non-football injury. Harbaugh would not specify what he’s dealing with, but the 2015 fourth-round pick has been in the building over the last two days.

His likely absence will leave the Ravens with only two healthy tailbacks — Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon — but fullback Kyle Juszczyk could also carry the ball if necessary.

“Buck had a personal issue come up,” Harbaugh said. “That’s about the most I want to say about it right now. It’s just something that’s a personal issue right now that he’s dealing with. He may not be able to play in the game. We’re just going to have to see about that and where he’s at with it.”

For the first time since injuring his left shoulder in the Week 5 loss to Washington on Oct. 9, veteran guard Marshal Yanda was not listed on the final game status injury report. He was given the day off on Wednesday, but he was a full participant the rest of the week.

The Dolphins expect to have veteran left tackle Branden Albert (wrist) and rookie left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) back in their starting lineup for Sunday’s game, but DeVante Parker’s status remains up in the air. The starting wide receiver missed practices all week with a back injury.

All three players were listed as questionable on the final injury report.

Center Mike Pouncey (hip) was officially ruled out against the Ravens.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with black pants against the Dolphins.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures up to 47 degrees and winds up to five miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: RB Buck Allen (non-football injury)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)

MIAMI
OUT: C Mike Pouncey (hip)
DOUBTFUL: CB Xavien Howard (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Branden Albert (wrist), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand), DT Earl Mitchell (back), WR DeVante Parker (back), G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)

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