Tag Archive | "miami"

Torrey Smith’s status uncertain for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville

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Torrey Smith’s status uncertain for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Perhaps the most concerning development to arise from the Ravens’ critical 28-13 win over the Miami Dolphins was the status of wide receiver Torrey Smith.

After his right knee swelled up during pre-game warmups on Sunday, the fourth-year wideout was limited to just 15 snaps and failed to record a reception while younger wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown picked up the slack in his absence. With the 8-5 Ravens now preparing to play 2-11 Jacksonville on Sunday, it’s possible that the medical staff will be cautious with Smith with an eye toward him being closer to 100 percent for the final two games of the regular season and a potential trip to the postseason.

“Torrey does not have any torn things in his knee. He’s got a sprain,” head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday. “We’ll just have to monitor that day to day and see if he makes it to the game. He made it to the last game — he didn’t damage it any further — but he just wasn’t able to be 100 percent. I think we all appreciate him gutting it out and giving us what he had. He showed a lot of toughness there in that situation.”

Of course, medical experts will tell you a sprain is a tear, but it’s believed that the 25-year-old isn’t dealing with a significant injury since the Ravens cleared him to play against the Dolphins before the knee flared up during warmups. Taking a more conservative approach against the Jaguars would make sense considering the Ravens will be facing one of the worst teams in the NFL at M&T Bank Stadium.

Smith has never missed a game in his career, but it was the second time this season he’s failed to record a reception with the first coming in a loss at Cincinnati on Oct. 26. It was clear from the early going Sunday that he was going to be used as little more than a decoy against one of the league’s better pass defenses entering Week 14.

Against the Dolphins, second-year receiver Kamar Aiken played 46 of 65 offensive snaps and caught six passes for 65 yards and a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The Ravens also turned more frequently to 6-foot-5 target Marlon Brown, who played 33 snaps and caught three passes for 30 yards. Veteran Steve Smith led all Ravens targets with seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

In the final year of his rookie contract, Torrey Smith leads the Ravens with eight touchdown catches and has collected 38 receptions for 609 yards after a slow start to the 2014 campaign.

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Celebrate the Ravens big win with Owen Daniels on Tuesday night!

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Celebrate the Ravens big win with Owen Daniels on Tuesday night!

Posted on 08 December 2014 by WNST Staff

The Ravens won their biggest game of the season on Sunday in Miami, and now find themselves in the thick of the playoff race both for the AFC North and the AFC Wild Card. With three games to go, this is the most critical time of the year, and the Ravens need all of your fan support to keep them up and rolling through the next three games! That’s why we need to see all of YOU out at Greenmount Station in Hampstead on Tuesday night as we hang out with Ravens TE Owen Daniels! Kickoff is at 7PM!

Owen has filled in admirably for an injured Dennis Pitta this year after spending several years in Houston with Gary Kubiak. How does it feel to be in a playoff race in Baltimore? How does the atmosphere compare to Houston? We’ll catch up with Owen on a variety of topics, but most importantly, let’s make sure we pack Greenmount Station with purple on Tuesday night and show Owen our support!

As always, you can expect delicious food and even better service (if that’s possible) at Greenmount Station, home of Carroll County’s BEST crabcakes! Big thanks to our presenting sponsor Carl Delmont & Freedmont Mortgage…don’t make a 30 year mistake by choosing the wrong lender! Also thanks to Enoch Office & Rugenix for their continued support.

There Goes my Hero will be in the house, adding more people to the bone marrow transplant donor list. We’ve swabbed thousands thus far…let’s keep it rolling!

We can’t thank you enough for your continued support for #JennStrong and #WNST support and we hope to see you all out on Tuesday night at Greenmount Station!

 

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Harbaugh’s bold move sets attitude for Ravens’ season-saving win

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Harbaugh’s bold move sets attitude for Ravens’ season-saving win

Posted on 07 December 2014 by Luke Jones

John Harbaugh may not be a prophet, but he offered a glimpse into a head coach’s mindset for making difficult in-game choices six days prior to the Ravens’ season-saving 28-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

That decision-making process played out again early in the third quarter Sunday as the Ravens trailed 10-7 and faced fourth-and-1 at their own 35-yard line. Instead of sending his punting unit onto the field as most coaches would do in such a spot, Harbaugh decided the Ravens would go for it and threw caution to the wind.

And that’s where his response last Monday when questioned about using a timeout before kicking a late field goal in the disappointing loss to San Diego rang loud and clear.

“‘In retrospect,’ you’d always like to do something different if it doesn’t work out,” Harbaugh said. “But in the heat of battle, you do the best you can, you make the decision that you make — the one that you think is best at the time.

“We did the best we could; it wasn’t good enough. I didn’t do well enough making those decisions enough to win the game in the end. And that’s the reality — just take responsibility for it and move on.”

There’s no doubt that Harbaugh would have been facing a mountain of criticism had quarterback Joe Flacco been stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Ravens not moved down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown and eventually win the game. Numbers-savvy fans and statistical analysts will tell you going for it in such a situation isn’t the risk it seems, but they’re not the ones on the sideline and potentially facing the wrath of the owner, general manager, media, and fans if the decision blows up in their face.

It’s a risk many wouldn’t have taken — especially when Baltimore was stuffed on two short-yardage situations in the first half — but no one knows the Ravens’ pulse in Week 14 better than Harbaugh following a difficult defeat to the Chargers last Sunday and this week’s news of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended for the rest of the regular season. After weathering a miserable start in the first half and his Ravens only trailing by three, Harbaugh’s bold move made it clear he didn’t want to surrender the momentum gained with a touchdown late in the second quarter and the Dolphins punting on the opening possession of the third quarter.

In a game the Ravens described all week as a must-win affair, Harbaugh’s decision illustrated the desperation of the day. And perhaps it was the lift his team needed to put a trying first half in the rear-view mirror.

The fourth-down conversion to continue the drive that culminated with Flacco’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Kamar Aiken set the attitude for a dominating finish and a crucial victory in Miami.

Of course, the Ravens had begun to awaken before Harbaugh’s fourth-down gamble as Flacco bounced back from throwing one of his worst interceptions of the season to lead the Ravens down the field for a 97-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown to Steve Smith with two seconds left in the first half. That connection came after Smith had dropped a perfectly-thrown pass in the end zone a play before Flacco’s ugly turnover.

The Baltimore signal-caller was superb after his end-zone miscue midway through the second quarter, completing 18 of 23 passes for 200 yards and two touchdown passes the rest of the way as he finished with 269 yards.

But Flacco wasn’t alone as a running game playing with a hobbled Justin Forsett came alive in the fourth quarter, rushing 14 times for 107 yards in the final 15 minutes. Forsett finished with 71 yards, Bernard Pierce chipped in three carries for 50 yards in the fourth quarter, and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro added 35 more yards on the day.

A Baltimore defense that surrendered 10 points in its first two series settled down and began swarming Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the pocket to the tune of six sacks and nine quarterback hits, much of that pressure coming in the second half when Miami managed just three points. Elvis Dumervil collected 3 1/2 sacks to set the Ravens’ single-season record with 16 through 13 games, eclipsing Peter Boulware’s mark set in 2001.

Despite some leaky run defense early, the Ravens hardly seemed to miss Ngata as the Dolphins ran for only 63 yards on 16 carries.

A secondary that lost reserve cornerbacks Anthony Levine and Danny Gorrer to injuries will remain a concern for the rest of the season, but the unit wasn’t nearly the same liability with the Ravens consistently collapsing the pocket and harassing Tannehill.

The Ravens answered the bell without the services of a healthy Torrey Smith, who was held without a catch in limited action. With the fourth-year wideout’s knee swelling up during pre-game warmups, Aiken contributed six receptions for 65 yards, Marlon Brown caught three passes for 30 yards, and even the recently-promoted tight end Phillip Supernaw added a 29-yard reception to set up a Forsett touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

It was a team effort as the Ravens awoke from a painfully slow start to dispose of the Dolphins and move just a half-game behind first-place Cincinnati in the AFC North.

There’s no way of knowing whether the Ravens would have won had Harbaugh elected to punt early in the third quarter or if they’d failed to convert on fourth-and-1, but Baltimore didn’t look back from the point Flacco surged forward to move the chains.

Whether you viewed it as the prudent choice or a foolish risk, Harbaugh’s bold move worked out and set the tone for the remainder of the game.

The Ravens responded by dominating the rest of the way to earn a critical win in the AFC playoff landscape.

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 07 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The final push for a playoff spot begins now as the Ravens face the Miami Dolphins in an AFC matchup with major ramifications in a crowded wild-card picture that features six teams with 7-5 records.

The latest distraction in a difficult 2014 season came earlier this week in the form of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended for the remainder of the regular season after testing positive for Adderall. The Ravens are expected to use rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan in Ngata’s place, but veterans such as Terrence Cody — who is active for the first time this season — and Lawrence Guy could find themselves in the mix at the 3-technique tackle spot.

As expected, running back Justin Forsett (knee) is active and will start against Miami despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. The plan all along was for the Ravens to rest Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee), and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) this week before they returned to practice on Friday, and all three are active for Sunday’s game.

However, reports from Miami indicated Smith was limping noticeably during pre-game warmups, making one wonder how much of a factor he’ll be against the Dolphins on Sunday. The fourth-year wideout was listed as a full participant in Friday’s practice after sitting out the previous two days.

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) and rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) were both deactivated for Sunday’s game after being designated as questionable to play against the Dolphins. Gillmore’s back injury only appeared to get worse as the week went on, prompting the Ravens to promote tight end Phillip Supernaw from the practice squad. Campanaro was a full participant in practices this week, but the Ravens are being extra cautious with the 5-foot-9 receiver who hasn’t played since Oct. 26.

After being activated from injured reserve-designated to return on Saturday, cornerback Asa Jackson will see his first live-game action since suffering a serious turf toe injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 5. The third-year defensive back is expected to see significant time in trying to provide a boost to the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

Second-year linebacker Arthur Brown is active for just the third time this season while rookie safety Terrence Brooks is inactive for the third time in 2014.

Miami will be without starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), who is inactive after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week.

Tight end Charles Clay is active despite being limited with a hamstring injury this week and missing the Dolphins’ last two games.

The Ravens and Dolphins will be meeting for the 10th time in the regular season with Miami holding a 5-4 advantage but Baltimore owning a 2-0 postseason edge. In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 4-0 against the Dolphins including a postseason victory in Miami in 2008 and a 26-23 win at Sun Life Stadium last season.

Sunday’s forecast in Miami calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching 80 degrees and winds up to nine miles per hour, per Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

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

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Michael Campanaro
S Terrence Brooks
CB Rashaan Melvin
C Gino Gradkowski
OL Jah Reid
TE Crockett Gillmore
DE DeAngelo Tyson

MIAMI
CB Jamar Taylor
CB Cortland Finnegan
RB LaMichael James
LB Jonathan Freeny
LB Chris McCain
OT Nate Garner
G Billy Turner

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Ravens activate cornerback Asa Jackson from IR-designated to return

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Ravens activate cornerback Asa Jackson from IR-designated to return

Posted on 06 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Searching for answers for their 31st-ranked pass defense, the Ravens hope to receive some help with the return of cornerback Asa Jackson on Sunday.

The third-year defensive back was activated from injured reserve-designated to return on Saturday before the Ravens traveled to Miami ahead of their critical Week 14 game against the Dolphins. To make room for Jackson on the 53-man roster, Baltimore placed rookie cornerback Tramain Jacobs on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

It will be interesting to see how extensively Jackson fits into the defensive game plan in his first action since suffering a serious turf toe injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 5. With cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, and Danny Gorrer all continuing to struggle, Jackson could find himself thrown back into the starting lineup after making four starts earlier this season.

“I think he was playing good before he got hurt,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think he’s playing really, really well. Now, time will tell. You can’t really tell out here in practice until the bullets start flying if he’s back to where he was. But he seems to be moving well and doing fine. I think he’ll really help us back there, at least basically in the slot.”

Jackson returned to the practice field on Nov. 21 but wasn’t eligible to return to game action until Sunday.

Of course, expectations should be tempered for a young cornerback who hasn’t played in two months and wasn’t playing at a particularly high level before the injury. Jackson received a minus-4.9 grade in pass coverage from Pro Football Focus in what had been the first defensive snaps of his career earlier in the year.

Should Jackson be used inside to cover the slot as Pees indicated, he’ll face a challenging task in covering Dolphins rookie wide receiver Jarvin Landry, who has a team-leading 57 receptions for Miami in 2014.

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 06 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Critical.

No word better describes what’s at stake as the Ravens travel to Sun Life Stadium to take on the Miami Dolphins.

The winner of Sunday’s game isn’t guaranteed a playoff spot in a crowded AFC wild-card picture, but losing in Miami would be a critical blow to either team. After the Ravens lost to the current No. 5 seed San Diego last Sunday, they can hardly afford to be on the wrong end of another head-to-head tiebreaker should they lose to the Dolphins.

In addition to having the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense, the Ravens took a major blow up front with Thursday’s announcement of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended for the remainder of the regular season due to a performance-enhancing drug violation. It’s just the latest trial for a 7-5 Ravens team that’s faced much adversity on and off the field.

Sunday will mark the 10th time these AFC teams have played in the regular season with the Dolphins holding a 5-4 edge and a 4-2 record in Miami. However, the Ravens are 4-0 against the Dolphins in the John Harbaugh era, which includes a 27-9 wild-card round win at the end of the 2008 season.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 8-5 in their quest to return to the playoffs …

Who will win Sunday's game in Miami?

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1. Miami defensive end Cameron Wake will pick up a sack, but Rick Wagner will hold his own against the talented pass rusher. The second-year right tackle will face one of his biggest challenges of the season in trying to hold his own against the three-time Pro Bowl selection, but Wagner shouldn’t be counted out as he is the highest-graded pass-blocking — and highest-graded overall — right tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Miami possesses a formidable pass rush, but the Ravens have held up very well in pass protection this year with quarterback Joe Flacco only being sacked 15 times. They’ll need another strong performance Sunday, and it will start with Wagner on the right side.

2. Justin Forsett will not run for 100 yards, but the Ravens will still gain 150 on the ground against the Dolphins defense. The 29-year-old and the team have downplayed the significance of his knee injury, but it has to be a concern that his limited participation in Friday’s practice was his only on-field work of the week. The good news is the Dolphins’ run defense has dropped to 21st in the NFL and has given up 478 yards on the ground in the last two games against Denver and the New York Jets. We’ll see more of a committee approach than the Ravens have used in weeks as backups Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro will pick up some slack, but Forsett will still finish as the leading rusher on Sunday.

3. Dolphins slot receiver Jarvis Landry will catch a touchdown and lead his team in receiving yards on Sunday. The Ravens hope the return of cornerback Asa Jackson will help a struggling secondary, but Miami has too many weapons in the passing game to not be concerned. We’ll see Jackson line up inside in the nickel package, but he won’t have much luck slowing Landry, who has been very impressive in his rookie season with 57 catches for 518 yards and five touchdowns. Ryan Tannehill will try to get rid of the ball quickly in the face of an imposing Baltimore pass rush, which means quick outs and slants to Landry will be in order throughout the day and he’ll be the go-to target for Miami.

4. Jacoby Jones returns a kick deep into Miami territory to swing the momentum of the game in the second half. There’s no disputing how disappointing this year has been for the wide receiver and return specialist, but you hope Week 13 was a preview of bigger things to come down the stretch for Jones. His two catches for 35 yards as a receiver were nice, but his 72-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter set the Ravens up at the San Diego 30 before the offense had to settle for a field goal. Miami ranks 28th in the NFL in kick return coverage and 24th in punt return coverage, which should have Jones and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg licking their chops. A big return will set up a touchdown in the second half.

5. On a day when both quarterbacks have strong days, the Ravens find a way to secure their biggest win of the season in a 24-20 final. It’s tough to get a read on this one considering how up and down both teams have been throughout the year. You wonder if the Ravens will get off the mat after a tough loss to the Chargers and the suspension of Ngata while the Dolphins aren’t experienced in these kinds of high-stakes games. Flacco and Tannehill will both throw for over 200 yards, but the Dolphins are coming off a short week following a Monday night road win and that run defense is already wearing down significantly. That will be the difference as the Ravens pick up a crucial win in keeping their playoff hopes alive.

 

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WNST Wizards Hoops Bustrip to D.C. vs. Miami Heat (March 6)

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WNST Wizards Hoops Bustrip to D.C. vs. Miami Heat (March 6)

Posted on 05 December 2014 by WNST Trips

We’re trying to get more aggressive and do even more WNST trips to Wizards games in D.C. than usual this season but can only do these trips based on demand. If you love the Wizards and the NBA and don’t like the drive before and after games, our trips have an eight-year track record of being easy, fun and affordable. We appreciate you supporting all that we’re doing to grow the hoops  community in Baltimore. If you know of other NBA and Wizards fans in Baltimore, please help us spread the word and fill some buses with hoops fans.

All aboard another WNST Wizards Bus to D.C. as Washington takes on the Miami Heat at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 6, 2015. Our Gunther Motorcoach will depart from the White Marsh Mall at 4:30 p.m. with a pickup from Catonsville/UMBC I-95 Park N Ride (at Rt. 166) at 5 p.m. All tickets are upper level in the Verizon Center and include a limited supply of cold beer (for those 21-and-over) en route and snacks, soft drinks and fun videos and giveaways.

We will be able to accommodate larger groups upon request and always keep groups together.

We hope you join us for a night of hoops and fun aboard the WNST Wizards Bus to D.C. Families and children are welcomed and encouraged to join us! It’s a great night out!

Your PayPal receipt is your ticket and we always throw you an email 48 hours before the game to confirm everything. All you need to do is purchase and we’ll see you at the bus. We bring the game tickets with us. Nice and easy!

If you have any questions, throw me a note: nasty@wnst.net

COST: $125 per person

Pickup Location
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Forsett, Torrey Smith absent from Wednesday’s practice

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Forsett, Torrey Smith absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 03 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing for this Sunday’s critical meeting with the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens were without three offensive starters for practice on Wednesday afternoon.

Wide receivers Torrey Smith (knee) and Marlon Brown (concussion), running back Justin Forsett (knee), and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) were absent from the portion of the workout open to reporters. Smith and Brown left the San Diego game with injuries and didn’t return, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Smith appearing to injure his right knee in the fourth quarter of the 34-33 loss to the Chargers.

Brown’s absence was not unexpected as he continues to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol. He left Sunday’s game early in the second quarter after hitting his head hard on the M&T Bank Stadium turf.

Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged both receivers were making progress on Wednesday without going into detail.

Forsett downplayed his absence from practice as little more than a day to rest and to stay fresh for the final month of the season. He has carried 179 times for 1,009 rushing yards this season, both career highs.

“Just resting up [and] regular soreness, especially coming into December,” Forsett said. “Just trying to take care of the body and take care of the little nicks and knacks I’ve gotten over the course of the year.”

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) was a full participant in practice after working on a very limited basis last week. He hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 26 while his recovery from a hamstring injury has been slow.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins officially ruled out linebacker Jonathan Freeny (hamstring) and cornerback Jamar Taylor (shoulder) for Sunday’s game while tight end Charles Clay (hamstring), cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), and wide receivers Brian Hartline (knee) and Mike Wallace (chest) were all limited participants on Wednesday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (concussion), RB Justin Forsett (knee), WR Torrey Smith (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (back), CB Tramain Jacobs (thigh), LB Albert McClellan (thigh), LB Courtney Upshaw (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (wrist)

MIAMI
OUT: LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Nate Garner (illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Charles Clay (hamstring), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), WR Brian Hartline (knee), C Samson Satele (ribs), WR Mike Wallace (chest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Daryn Colledge (back), T Ja’Wuan James (neck), LB Jelani Jenkins (shoulder)

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Contender or pretender: Sizing up the 2014 AFC wild-card race

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Contender or pretender: Sizing up the 2014 AFC wild-card race

Posted on 02 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Even as the Ravens and their fans continue to seethe over a surprising 34-33 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 13, head coach John Harbaugh took a more pragmatic approach when addressing reporters on Monday afternoon.

The loss certainly didn’t help, but defeats suffered by several other AFC teams left six teams with a 7-5 record as we enter the final quarter of the regular season. It won’t be easy for Baltimore as it tries to survive with the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense, but a reasonable schedule down the stretch leaves the Ravens in good shape if — and that’s a big if — they handle their own business.

“We wake up this morning, we look at the standings and we are right in the thick of it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to go down to the wire. And we have a huge game down in Miami this week, and it’ll be a lot on the line. They’ll be ready, and they’re good. We’ll have a great opportunity to make a move.”

There’s no understating how important Sunday’s game against the Dolphins will be as it represents another head-to-head tiebreaker scenario after the Ravens dropped one to San Diego this past week. A win pushes Baltimore to 8-5 and knocks Miami down a peg in the standings while a defeat all but guarantees the need to win out and to hope for assistance from other teams in the playoff race.

The Ravens still hold out hope for a chance to win the AFC North, but Cincinnati currently leads by 1 1/2 games over the other three teams in the division. With the Bengals playing the Steelers twice and the Browns once in the final month, the division race is far from over, but Cincinnati has firm control of its path as we enter Week 14.

Below is a look at the current wild-card field — with numbers indicating each team’s current place in the conference — as we determine who the contenders and the pretenders are:

5. SAN DIEGO (8-4) – CONTENDER
Conference record: 6-3
Remaining schedule: New England, Denver, at San Francisco, at Kansas City
Skinny: How big was Sunday’s win in Baltimore for Mike McCoy’s team? All you have to do is take a look at the Chargers’ remaining schedule and realize you wouldn’t have liked their chances at all had they fallen to 7-5. Instead, they own a one-game lead over the 7-5 teams in the AFC and remain in excellent shape if they can go 2-2 in their final four. A year ago at this time, the Chargers were 5-7 and looked all but dead before running the table — including wins over Denver and Kansas City — and receiving lots of help to sneak into the postseason. They’ll need another good finish, but they have some margin for error this year.

6. MIAMI (7-5) – CONTENDER
Conference record: 6-3
Remaining schedule: Baltimore, at New England, Minnesota, New York Jets
Skinny: It wasn’t pretty, but the Dolphins’ Monday night win over the Jets kept them in prime position to secure a playoff spot with a strong finish in the final month. A Week 15 trip to Foxborough won’t be easy, but their final two home games are very winnable against two teams with a combined seven wins. Anything can happen considering the Ravens and the Dolphins both lost their final two games in 2013, but it certainly looks like Sunday’s game in Miami could go a long way in determining who secures a wild-card spot in the AFC playoff race.

7. KANSAS CITY (7-5) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 5-4
Remaining schedule: at Arizona, Oakland, at Pittsburgh, San Diego
Skinny: The Chiefs were feeling really good about themselves a few weeks ago, but consecutive losses to woeful Oakland and powerful Denver have brought them back to the rest of the pack. Kansas City can’t throw the ball and the run defense has been gashed in recent weeks, which doesn’t make for a good combination entering the season’s final month. With three games remaining on the schedule against teams with winning records — two of them on the road — it’s hard to envision the Chiefs playing well enough down the stretch to secure one of the two wild-card spots.

8. BUFFALO (7-5) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: at Denver, Green Bay, at Oakland, at New England
Skinny: The Bills continue to hang tough in the AFC playoff race after a nice win over the Browns on Sunday. However, remaining games against the Broncos, the Packers, and the Patriots should end any serious discussion about Buffalo qualifying for the postseason. With their other game being a cross-country trip to Oakland, the Bills might be fortunate just to win one more game in the final month of the regular season. It’d be interesting to see what the Bills could do with a real quarterback even if veteran Kyle Orton has done a respectable job since taking over for E.J. Manuel. Injuries at running back haven’t helped, either.

9. BALTIMORE (7-5) – CONTENDER
Conference record: 3-5
Remaining schedule: at Miami, Jacksonville, at Houston, Cleveland
Skinny: Sunday’s loss to San Diego was brutal as it gives the Ravens little wiggle room the rest of the way as they really need to beat the Dolphins on the road. The remaining schedule is reasonable, but how do you trust a secondary that continues to be toasted by any opposing passing games with a pulse? Even a road trip against the Texans is concerning with talented receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins waiting. A lousy 3-5 conference mark doesn’t help matters for the Ravens, but we’ll see what Harbaugh’s team is made of in the next three weeks. The running game and the offense will need to come up huge.

10. PITTSBURGH (7-5) – CONTENDER
Conference record: 6-3
Remaining schedule: at Cincinnati, at Atlanta, Kansas City, Cincinnati
Skinny: The Steelers continue to be one of the most bipolar teams in the NFL as they stubbed their toe Sunday against New Orleans, who was coming off three straight losses. When at their best, the Steelers have one of the most balanced offenses in the league, but the defense doesn’t scare anyone and could easily be exploited down the stretch. The biggest factors working in the Steelers’ favor are a 6-3 conference record and two games with the Bengals, which could catapult them into the AFC North lead. Given how unpredictable they’ve been, the Steelers could win out or lose out and no one should be surprised with either outcome.

11. CLEVELAND (7-5) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Carolina, at Baltimore
Skinny: Quarterback Brian Hoyer has really struggled in recent weeks, but a change at quarterback isn’t exactly what you’re looking for while in the playoff hunt and that’s exactly where the Browns find themselves. Maybe rookie Johnny Manziel is the spark to light the fire for Cleveland down the stretch, but nothing else about the Browns’ final month of the schedule makes you think they’re going to do enough to sneak into the playoffs. They’ll need to beat either the Colts or the Bengals at home to give themselves any decent chance at all in the final two weeks.

12. HOUSTON (6-6) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 5-3
Remaining schedule: at Jacksonville, at Indianapolis, Baltimore, Jacksonville
Skinny: Why even include the Texans on the list considering they have the worst record of the bunch? Two of four remaining games coming against Jacksonville certainly helps, and a home game against the Ravens looks more and more reasonable given Baltimore’s pass defense woes. Of course, Houston isn’t a real contender, but no one thought the Chargers were at this time last year, either. If you’re looking for that deep sleeper to finish strong — three out of four wouldn’t be out of the question — and take advantage of a slew of other teams being mediocre down the stretch, Houston is your team. A good conference record also helps.

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Ravens cornerback Jackson returns to practice field

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Ravens cornerback Jackson returns to practice field

Posted on 21 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson returned to the practice field Friday for the first time since injuring his toe in the Oct. 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Jackson was placed on injured reserve-designated to return on Oct. 8 and is now aiming for a return in Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins, the first game in which he’s eligible to play. Under NFL rules, an injured player must remain on IR-designated to return for six weeks before practicing and a minimum of eight weeks before returning to game action.

“I felt good. Pain-free for the most part,” Jackson told reporters following the workout. “Hopefully, I don’t have any more setbacks and will be ready to go when my time is here.”

Starting four of five games and making 19 tackles before suffering a significant turf toe injury, Jackson would provide some much-needed depth to a secondary that lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith for the season. Baltimore is currently relying on former reserve safety Anthony Levine and journeyman Danny Gorrer to play meaningful snaps opposite veteran Lardarius Webb.

The Ravens plan to bring Jackson along slowly to make sure the toe is sound, but the hope is he’s ready to go for the final month of the season as they try to make it back to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

“We didn’t have him in too many of the main drills today,” head coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “I’ll have to watch the tape and talk to some of the guys that worked with him in more of the individual drills. But it’s good to see him out there. It’s good to know that he’s now basically been activated to prepare. The first opportunity for him to play would be against the Dolphins, so we’ll be hoping for that.”

Meanwhile, Harbaugh confirmed that rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro will miss Monday night’s game in New Orleans while continuing to recover from a hamstring injury suffered against Cincinnati on Oct. 26. The head coach had previously expressed optimism that the seventh-round pick might be ready to return after the bye week.

Campanaro has six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown this season.

“There was no setback. It’s just not ready yet,” said Harbaugh about Campanaro’s hamstring. “When it’s ready, he’ll be out there. We were hoping for this week, and that was the original time frame, but he wasn’t cleared to go this week.”

History isn’t on the Ravens’ side Monday as they try to not only improve to 7-4 to keep pace in a very competitive AFC North but also end the Saints’ incredible run of home success in prime-time games. New Orleans has won 14 prime-time home games in a row and hasn’t suffered a defeat since 2009. However, the Saints are reeling after losing two straight games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and have limped to a 4-6 start this season.

Asked about the Saints’ long run of success in prime-time contests, Harbaugh used the opportunity to take a playful dig at the NFL — that certainly had some truth to it.

“Getting to play a Monday night at home, is there something to that? I wouldn’t really know,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I don’t know much about that. We don’t get those chances too often.”

Of course, the Baltimore coach is referring to the fact that his team has only played one Monday night home game in his seven-year tenure, which came against Cincinnati in the 2012 season opener. The Ravens are 5-3 in Monday night games in the Harbaugh era.

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