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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 26-6 win over Pittsburgh

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 26-6 win over Pittsburgh

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

After every Ravens game this season, we’ll take a look at five numbers that help explain the outcome …

1 — The number of pass attempts thrown by Joe Flacco that traveled 20 or more yards
Skinny: Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s West Coast system is based on shorter throws in which the quarterback releases the ball quickly, and that’s exactly what Flacco did against the Steelers on Thursday. Knowing what kind of arm Flacco has, the Ravens will certainly mix in some deep shots, but Flacco completed 72.4 percent of his passes as the offense possessed the ball for 35:08. That kind of a game plan — along with the arrival of veteran Steve Smith — has temporarily stunted the production of speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith, but the Steelers failed to record a sack or even a quarterback hit against the Baltimore offense, which is exactly what you want every week.

3 — The number of takeaways by the Baltimore defense
Skinny: Though the Steelers were held to six points, they only produced 22 fewer total yards than the Ravens as three turnovers thwarted a couple attempts to get things going offensively. No takeaway was bigger than the one that came on the opening drive of the game when Pittsburgh had marched inside the red zone before linebacker Daryl Smith stripped the ball away from wide receiver Justin Brown to end a drive that had lasted 12 plays and gained 54 yards. Fellow inside backer C.J. Mosley forced and recovered a fumble of his own that led to a short field goal, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tipped a pass to himself for the third takeaway of the night, putting an exclamation point on an opportunistic performance by the defense.

4 — The number of drives lasting 10 or more plays completed by the Ravens
Skinny: You should be noticing a trend of dictating the tempo of the game as the Ravens were essentially in complete control from their first offensive drive of the night. The unusual statistic accompanying this was the Ravens only going 5-for-12 on third down, but that just shows how effective they were on first and second down. Baltimore scored on all four of these drives — totaling 20 points — while the Steelers managed only three total points on their two drives that were 10 or more plays. The biggest negative you can draw from Thursday’s game was the red-zone offense in which the Ravens only scored touchdowns on two of six trips, three times settling for short field goals after driving inside the 5.

4.39 — The number of yards per play the Ravens averaged on first down
Skinny: I mentioned this number to follow up the stat from last week’s game in which the Ravens averaged just 1.67 yards per first-down play before the final drive of the first half. We constantly talk about the importance of third-down conversions, but success or failure on first down has an overwhelming impact on the outlook of a drive in terms of what play options are reasonably at your disposal. The Ravens success on first down against the Pittsburgh defense allowed them to maintain a better semblance of balance with the opponent not knowing whether to expect the run or pass when you’re consistently avoiding second-and-long situations.

36 — The number of rushes by the Ravens
Skinny: Throwing 62 passes is almost never an acceptable outcome, but last week’s passing total stuck out even more after an offseason in which the Ravens spoke ad nauseam about returning to their roots and committing to the running game. The final rushing total of 157 yards in Week 2 was a bit deceiving when you remember the Ravens only averaged 2.7 yards per carry through the first three quarters, but they ran effectively enough early to keep it as a viable part of the game plan and to avoid becoming one-dimensional. When they reached the fourth quarter with a 17-6 lead, the Ravens were committed to simply beating up the Pittsburgh front and that’s exactly what they did to the tune of 96 yards on 13 carries to sew up the first win of the season.

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Focused Ravens do exactly what was needed after trying week

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Focused Ravens do exactly what was needed after trying week

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If you allowed yourself to think about football over the last few days, you couldn’t help but wonder how the Ravens would respond to the most tumultuous in-season week in franchise history.

From the release of the second Ray Rice video that led to the running back’s release Monday afternoon to the countless questions faced by the players remaining in the locker room, it seemed like a lot to ask of a team — speaking in a football sense, of course — to prepare to play the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on a short week. Scrutiny and criticism justifiably rained on the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell, and Ravens leadership while players knew they needed to avoid an 0-2 start that would have already put Baltimore in a significant hole in the AFC North.

Those same players also absorbed the loss of a valued teammate and friend whom they care about, even if they were as disturbed as anyone watching the video of what Rice did to his then-fiancée in that elevator in Atlantic City. For as much as we admire what these professional athletes accomplish on the field, they’re human beings with emotions just like anyone else, making their convincing 26-6 win over Pittsburgh that much more impressive on Thursday night.

“Whenever you lose a brother, it’s tough,” said linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who collected the only two sacks of the game as the Ravens held Pittsburgh to just two field goals. “Obviously, understanding the situation, we have a bunch of men on our team and you know it’s a business. Things have to happen, and you just have to prepare for it.”

The performance was focused and efficient as the Ravens put together four scoring drives of 10 plays or more to bounce back from a disappointing start to the season against Cincinnati in Week 1. In fact, if you hadn’t known which team had been dealing with such off-field adversity this week, you might have guessed it was the Steelers as they committed three turnovers, nine penalties for 75 yards, and mustered only six points to fall to 1-1.

Thursday was a reasonable blueprint of what you expect to see from Gary Kubiak’s new offense as Joe Flacco completed 21 of 29 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns — the quarterback also wasn’t sacked once — and the Ravens rushed for 157 yards on 36 carries. The numbers weren’t gaudy, but the final score reflected a convincing win over an opponent they outplayed for the better part of 60 minutes.

The tone was set on the opening drive of the game after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense initially moved down the field in impressive fashion. It was looking like another shaky start for the Ravens defense before safety Darian Stewart delivered a vicious blow to temporarily knock standout receiver Antonio Brown out of the game — he was a non-factor when he returned — and linebacker Daryl Smith followed that by stripping wideout Justin Brown inside the red zone, allowing defensive end DeAngelo Tyson to recover the fumble.

It was basically all Ravens after that as Flacco and the offense marched down the field for a 12-play drive that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Daniels. Baltimore would score six times in all before the night was over.

“That’s just the icing on the top,” said Daniels about his two touchdown catches. “We put great drives together [with] a lot of people contributing in those drives to get us down to that goal line, and I just happened to be that guy to score that touchdown. Huge team effort overall — huge offensive effort; a lot of guys contributing.”

The performance wasn’t perfect as the Ravens only went 2-for-6 inside the red zone with three fourth-quarter drives stalling inside the 5-yard line. And the impressive final rushing totals were a product of a 96-yard fourth quarter against a clearly-tired Pittsburgh defense after gaining only 61 yards on 23 carries through the first 45 minutes when the outcome remained somewhat in doubt.

But there was plenty to like on both sides of the ball as an efficient offense was complemented by a defense that offered an improved pass rush from a week ago and forced three takeaways to stall what little momentum the Steelers offense was able to create over the course of the night.

Following the game, it was clear to see the Ravens’ satisfaction in not only rising to the occasion after a difficult week but responding with a strong sense of urgency to a disappointing Week 1 loss. Thursday night’s win was one the Ravens needed badly on a variety of levels as they attempt to move past the Rice saga and turn all attention toward returning to the postseason in 2014.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” Flacco said. “No matter what it is, I think that we’re a team that tends to group together and come together through tough times. I never had a doubt that we wouldn’t be able to come out here and go get a win tonight.”

And the Ravens certainly played that way Thursday night.

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 11 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After experiencing perhaps the most tumultuous week in franchise history, the Ravens return to M&T Bank Stadium trying to avoid an 0-2 start by welcoming the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers to town for a nationally-televised Thursday night game.

While the rest of the nation continues to focus on the fallout of the Ray Rice situation, the Ravens must turn their focus toward the field in trying to win their first divisional game. According to NFL Network research, no team has ever started with two divisional home losses to begin a season and gone on to make the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Ravens, cornerback Lardarius Webb will not play as he continues to knock off rust and go through practices to make sure his back is 100 percent. Webb told reporters on Tuesday that he expected to play against Pittsburgh, and he has practiced fully for the last two weeks. The sixth-year defensive back was stricken with back spasms on the second day of full-squad workouts on July 25 and missed the entire preseason, making concerns more about rust than how his back feels at this point with so little time to get in playing shape.

“I’m ready to get it going,” Webb said on Tuesday. “Who better than Pittsburgh? I’m ready. I’m feeling good. I’m just ready to get out there and get everything going and just play some football.”

His absence once again leaves the Ravens with only three true cornerbacks on the 46-man game-day roster — Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, and Asa Jackson. Safety Anthony Levine is capable of playing cornerback in the event of an injury, and rookie safety Terrence Brooks saw extensive playing time at the inside nickel spot during the preseason.

The Ravens announced prior to the game that Brown would start in Webb’s place for the second straight week.

The only other player who appeared on the Ravens’ final injury report this week was right guard Marshal Yanda (foot), who was listed as probable and was active for Thursday’s game.

Other than defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi — who replaced running back Fitz Toussaint on the 53-man roster earlier in the week — the rest of the Ravens’ inactives remain unchanged as inside linebacker Arthur Brown is once again a healthy scratch.

For Pittsburgh, running back Dri Archer (ankle/knee) and wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) were officially ruled out on Wednesday.

Baltimore is meeting Pittsburgh for the 37th time in the regular-season history of the franchise. The Steelers hold the 20-16 edge in the all-time series and are 3-0 in the postseason, but the Ravens are 9-9 against them in Baltimore. Including the postseason, 11 of the last 14 games between these AFC North rivals have been decided by four or fewer points.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Pittsburgh sports white tops and gold pants for Week 2.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Ed Hochuli.

The forecast in Baltimore called for temperatures to drop into the high 70s shortly after kickoff with no sizable chance of precipation and winds below 10 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Here are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Lardarius Webb
WR Michael Campanaro
LB Arthur Brown
OL John Urschel
OL Jah Reid
WR Deonte Thompson
DT Christo Bilukidi

PITTSBURGH
QB Landry Jones
WR Martavis Bryant
RB Dri Archer
WR Lance Moore
C Wesley Johnson
G Chris Hubbard
NT Daniel McCullers

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the evening for updates and analysis as Nestor Aparicio and I bring live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium.

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 11 September 2014 by Luke Jones

All eyes will be on Baltimore as the Ravens welcome the hated Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night.

However, few outside Baltimore and Pittsburgh are thinking about the game itself as the Ravens continue to deal with the fallout stemming from the release of the second Ray Rice video and the subsequent decision to terminate the running back’s contract Monday afternoon. This meeting is normally regarded as one of the best rivalries in the NFL, but you’d have to think long and hard to find another example of a Ravens-Steelers game with so little buzz surrounding the actual play on the field.

But that doesn’t make it any less important for the Ravens as they try to avoid what would be a very disheartening 0-2 start in the AFC North. According to NFL Network research, no team in NFL history has ever made the postseason after dropping two straight divisional home games to begin a season, making Thursday’s game as close to a “must-win” affair as you can have in Week 2.

Head coach John Harbaugh has earned a reputation for rallying his teams to play at their best when dealing with adversity, but the Ravens have never dealt with a situation quite like this, making you wonder how mentally and emotionally fresh they’ll be on what was already a short week.

Thursday marks the 37th time these AFC North rivals have met in the regular season with Pittsburgh holding a 20-16 advantage. The Ravens are 9-9 against the Steelers in Baltimore and have won two of the last three played at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to even their record at 1-1 and bounce back from their disappointing season-opening loss to Cincinnati …

1. Running back Bernard Pierce will lead the Ravens in carries and pick up 70 yards with a touchdown. It was easy for Harbaugh to send a message to Pierce after his fumble late in the second quarter last week when he was still working under the assumption that Rice would be returning for Week 3, but the Ravens now need Pierce to be a large part of what they do with their running game all season. Veteran Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro will get their opportunities — the former was very good in pass protection last week in addition to running for 70 yards — as Harbaugh says he will go with the hot hand moving forward, but Pierce still gives the Ravens the best chance to have a successful running game in the short-term future and is a good fit on paper for Gary Kubiak’s one-cut zone stretch scheme.

2. Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will take turns exploiting the tackles on the Pittsburgh line to record a combined three sacks. Suggs may have provided more of an impact than the completely-invisible Dumervil did against the Bengals, but neither were able to disrupt the timing of Andy Dalton, something that can’t be repeated against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. As always, the pass rush needs to be careful not to simply chase Roethlisberger from the pocket where he’s at his best improvising down the field, but more help needs to be provided to a secondary that should have cornerback Lardarius Webb available. Steelers tackles Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert are weak links on the offensive line, giving Suggs and Dumervil no excuse not to feast on Thursday night.

3. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will pick up where Cincinnati’s Giovani Bernard left off, registering 120 total yards and a touchdown while giving the Ravens problems as a receiver out of the backfield. Though much bigger than the shifty Bernard, Bell caught 45 passes for 399 yards out of the backfield in 13 games as a rookie and added six receptions for 88 yards against the Browns in Week 1. The Ravens struggled against screens and underneath throws while protecting against the deep ball last week, so Pittsburgh will test them again with those types of plays until Baltimore shows it can stop them. And with Pittsburgh being another team that likes using the no-huddle offense, you do wonder if a bigger back like Bell will start to wear down an old front seven as the game progresses.

4. The Ravens will use more up-tempo offense and quarterback Joe Flacco will go to tight ends Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels early in this one. Just as the Steelers undoubtedly saw how the Ravens defense struggled to defend screens and other underneath throws, Kubiak had to take notice of the Browns’ success using the no-huddle attack against Pittsburgh in the second half and should use that to his advantage in hopes of getting Flacco going early. You’d never know it from the final numbers when he targeted Pitta and Daniels a combined 20 times, but Flacco threw to the tight-end duo only once before the final drive of the first half. Ravens wide receivers cannot have a case of the drops like they did last week, but look for Flacco to throw more short stuff to Pitta, Daniels, and Kyle Juszczyk to get into an earlier rhythm before taking some longer shots down the field.

5. It will be close with Pittsburgh as it always is, but the home-field edge gives the Ravens just enough to pull out a 24-21 win that they really need. Only four of the 14 Ravens-Steelers games in the Harbaugh era have been decided by more than three points and the last five meetings have all been determined by three or fewer. The Ravens have dealt with plenty of distractions away from the field this week, but they know they cannot afford to fall to 0-2 with both games against AFC North foes. The best teams are able to rise to the occasion and come together under trying circumstances like these while lesser teams fold and begin looking for excuses. You get the sense that Thursday night will tell us a lot about who the Ravens are as a football team in 2014 — good or bad.

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Webb questionable, Yanda probable for Thursday night game

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Webb questionable, Yanda probable for Thursday night game

Posted on 10 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens listed cornerback Lardarius Webb as questionable for the second straight game as they made final preparations for Thursday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After practicing fully for a second straight week, Webb was given the same designation as he did leading into the season-opening game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The sixth-year defensive back did not play in Week 1 despite looking good in a pre-game workout roughly two hours before kickoff.

Webb told reporters earlier this week that he expected to make his 2014 debut on Thursday night. He missed the entire preseason after initially suffering back spasms on July 25 and did not return to the practice field until Aug. 30.

“I’m ready to get it going,” Webb said Tuesday. “Who better than Pittsburgh? I’m ready. I’m feeling good. I’m just ready to get out there and get everything going and just play some football.”

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was listed as probable after missing Monday’s practice while dealing with a blister on his foot. He practiced fully on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Steelers ruled out running back Dri Archer (ankle/knee) and wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) and listed 14 others as probable for Week 2.

Here is the final injury report of the week:
(Editor note: NIR is an abbreviation for non-injury related)

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: CB Lardarius Webb (back)
PROBABLE: G Marshal Yanda (foot)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: RB Dri Archer (ankle/knee), WR Lance Moore (groin)
PROBABLE: RB Le’Veon Bell (NIR), WR Antonio Brown (NIR), WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder), DE Brett Keisel (NIR), CB Brice McCain (groin), DT Steve McLendon (stinger), TE Heath Miller (NIR), S Troy Polamalu (NIR), QB Ben Roethlisberger (NIR), CB Ike Taylor (NIR), S Shamarko Thomas (achilles/ankle), C Cody Wallace (finger), WR Markus Wheaton (NIR), LB Vince Williams (NIR)

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Will Ravens rise to occasion after tumultuous week?

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Will Ravens rise to occasion after tumultuous week?

Posted on 10 September 2014 by Luke Jones

A national audience will be hoping the Ravens fail when they take on the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.

Virtually everyone outside Baltimore will be rooting against an organization viewed in a negative light for its handling of the Ray Rice saga over the last seven months before the ultimate release of the disgraced running back earlier this week. The integrity of the organization has come into question as owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged in a letter Tuesday that the Ravens needed to do more to investigate what happened between Rice and then-fiancée Janay Palmer instead of simply deferring to the New Jersey legal system.

Needless to say, it’s been a rocky 19 months for the Ravens since winning Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013. In addition to Rice, four players on the current 53-man roster were arrested this offseason while there have been other examples of questionable choices — don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the “Sweet Pea” saga — over the last 12 months or so.

The former heart and soul of the Ravens — Ray Lewis and Ed Reed — have both questioned leadership at different times over the last calendar year. The roster turnover has been clear with only 25 members of the current 53-man roster having been with the organization for Super Bowl XLVII. Veteran leaders have departed in addition to Lewis and Reed, including Anquan Boldin and Matt Birk.

And even if too much emphasis is put on the impact of leadership and off-field issues in terms of on-field results, Baltimore has gone a mediocre 8-9 in the regular season since raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans. However you want to explain it, the Ravens haven’t been particularly good since winning their second NFL championship.

Is it fair to ask if the Ravens, who long held an excellent reputation, have lost their way? There’s little disputing that the aura of the organization has taken a severe hit over how it handled the Rice situation over these last seven months.

“I don’t think of it that way,” said head coach John Harbaugh when asked if he’s concerned about the Ravens’ image taking a hit. “You do your best with the situations that are put before you and try to handle things the right way and do the right thing.”

Shifting their attention back to the field after a few difficult days, the Ravens are as close as you get to facing a “must-win” game in Week 2 as they’ve already lost to the Cincinnati Bengals and would fall to 0-2 with a defeat to the hated Steelers Thursday night. According to NFL Network research, no team has ever made the playoffs after dropping two divisional games at home to start a season.

Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have dealt with difficult losses before and have consistently answered the bell in the face of adversity. But Rice’s release stems from something that goes beyond football or the business of the salary cap. It isn’t the loss of a standout player because of retirement or a season-ending injury but due to his cruel actions that the entire world saw on video Monday morning.

And players have faced more questions about Rice than ones about what it will take to slow Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers this week. The focus began to shift on Tuesday when some semblance of normalcy — in the context of preparing for a football game, of course — returned to the facility in Owings Mills, but the challenge of playing on a short week is hefty enough despite the Ravens owning the home-field advantage and seeing a familiar opponent.

“We’re going to be playing really soon, so we have to get our minds right,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “But more importantly, we have to do everything we can to physically feel good by the time that whistle blows on Thursday night, and that’s what we’re doing.”

While everyone else will be talking about the individual who is no longer with the organization on Thursday night, the Ravens must focus on getting off to a much quicker start offensively while also trying to slow a Steelers offense that produced 30 points and 490 yards against what was expected to be a good Cleveland defense last week. The general consensus among the so-called experts before the season was that Baltimore and Pittsburgh were fairly evenly matched — both finished 8-8 last year — so the the Ravens will need to hold serve on their home field and put the bad taste of last week’s loss behind them.

Over the course of his seven-year run in Baltimore, Harbaugh has typically been able to rally his team in these types of games to perform at their best and secure a much-needed win. But he hasn’t dealt with a situation quite like this before.

And there is evidence of cracks in the foundation — both on and off the field — since the Ravens reached the pinnacle of the NFL less than two years ago. We saw it late last year when the Ravens were 8-6 and needed only one win to secure their sixth consecutive trip to the postseason before losing their final two games by a combined 51 points.

A win calms nerves and puts the Ravens back at .500 as they receive the extra rest that follows a Thursday night game before preparing for a third straight division game. A defeat puts the Ravens in an early-season hole in the AFC North while the rest of the world mocks their misfortune.

The best teams come together under these circumstances, even when their organization is guilty of its own mistakes as the Ravens were with Rice. The lesser ones wilt under such adversity.

The Ravens know they already face a crucial game Thursday with the season less than a week old. They’re out to prove they haven’t lost their way on the field.

“It’s everything. You don’t want to come out of an 0-2 hole, especially giving up two at home,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “Wins in the NFL are hard to come by, so that’s why you’ve got to win your home games. We unfortunately dropped one; [the Bengals] cashed in and they won one — a division game. We’ve definitely got to cover up some ground, but it all starts with this one on Thursday.”

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Webb primed to make 2014 season debut against Steelers

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Webb primed to make 2014 season debut against Steelers

Posted on 10 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After nearly two weeks of practice to get himself in playing shape, Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb appears primed to make his 2014 season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.

The sixth-year defensive back has been practicing fully since last week, but it was just a matter of shaking off rust and logging some field time after missing nearly all of training camp. Webb was stricken with back spasms on the second day of full-squad workouts on July 25 and did not return to practice until Aug. 30.

“I’m ready to get it going,” Webb said on Tuesday. “Who better than Pittsburgh? I’m ready. I’m feeling good. I’m just ready to get out there and get everything going and just play some football.”

Webb went through a pre-game workout prior to last Sunday’s season opener against Cincinnati, but the Ravens elected to hold him out with better thoughts toward Week 2 being on a short week. If fully healthy and ready, Webb will clearly start opposite Jimmy Smith in the base defense, but it remains to be seen how the Ravens might use him in the nickel package.

Over the course of his career, Webb has been more dynamic covering the slot and playing inside in the nickel package, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to decide whether he wants to use Chykie Brown on the outside as the No. 3 corner or Asa Jackson, who is also better suited to play inside. Last year, Pees used Webb and former Raven Corey Graham both inside and outside, but the Ravens are far less settled in their secondary this season.

After Webb underwent sports hernia surgery early in the offseason and then missed all of training camp, the Steelers will surely test Webb’s ability in coverage as well as his stamina with so little practice time under his belt since spring organized team activities. And the veteran cornerback is fine with having a target on his back, expecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw in his direction early and often.

“I would, wouldn’t you?” Webb said. “That’s a good thing, because they don’t know how hurt I was. I hope they do [test me].”

The Baltimore defense certainly hopes Webb’s return will bring more stability to a secondary that allowed 301 passing yards in the Week 1 loss to the Bengals.

Suggs sends message to Tomlin

Never one to shy away from the theatrical side of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry, linebacker Terrell Suggs walked to the podium with a clear message for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday.

Sporting a t-shirt (below) with the words “We Will Never Forget” and the image of Tomlin stepping on the field of play and forcing Jacoby Jones to change direction on a long kickoff return, Suggs made it obvious he hadn’t forgotten about the Steelers coach’s sideline tactics. Intentional or not, the move resulted in a $100,000 fine for Tomlin while pumping new life into a rivalry that’s seen major characters such as Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, Ed Reed, and James Harrison move on in recent years.

Photo courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com

“We just wanted to let their head coach know, we will never forget what transpired here in this game last year,” Suggs said.

Tomlin talked with the Baltimore media via conference call and even had his own fun with what happened on Thanksgiving last year when asked if he expected to be on the kickoff team Thursday night.

“I won’t be,” said Tomlin as he laughed. “Tell Jacoby he’s safe.”

Tuesday’s injury report

All 53 players on the active roster practiced fully on Tuesday as Webb and right guard Marshal Yanda were the only Ravens players even listed on the injury report.

Yanda missed Monday’s walk-through while resting a blister on his foot, but he was a full participant along with Webb a day later.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh had seven players missing from practice on Tuesday, but four were listed for non-injury reasons. With a very short week, that’s a common practice for teams trying to rest as many veterans as possible.

BALTIMORE
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Marshal Yanda (foot)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Dri Archer (ankle/knee), DE Brett Keisel (NIR), TE Heath Miller (NIR), WR Lance Moore (groin), S Troy Polamalu (NIR), CB Ike Taylor (NIR), C Cody Wallace (finger)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Le’Veon Bell (NIR), WR Antonio Brown (NIR), WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder), CB Brice McCain (groin), DT Steve McLendon (stinger), QB Ben Roethlisberger (NIR), S Shamarko Thomas (Achilles/ankle), WR Markus Wheaton (NIR)

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

Posted on 08 August 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

 

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens:

Last season ended up being a disappointment for John Harbaugh and his squad as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under his lead. There were changes made in the off-season that will assure Baltimore will not be missing the post-season for a second straight season.

The offense got a new look adding new pieces from all angles, starting with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. The long time Houston Texan head coach comes to Baltimore bringing a new style of offense maintaining a zone-blocking scheme.

Baltimore has new faces to dawn the purple and black for the upcoming season, but one particular athlete is difficult to overlook. Owen Daniels is a nice addition to the offense, but Steve Smith is the talk of the town ever since Carolina decided to part ways with the career long Panther.

Smith brings an attitude to the offense and gives the team a physical presence on the outside that they have not had since trading away Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Once the upcoming season comes to a close, everyone will look back and wonder why more teams were not more aggressive in trying to sign Steve Smith as he will have one of the biggest impacts on his new team around the league.

The Ravens offense struggled running the ball last season due to the offensive line not being up to par and the ball carriers themselves not playing up to their capabilities. That will be sure to change for the better due to some of the moves made to upgrade the line and because the backs are healthy once again.

If there is a concern to have for the Ravens, it is their secondary. Jimmy Smith had a breakout year last season and Webb across the field make for a good pairing. Cornerback depth is where there is plenty of uncertainty; it is up to either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson to step up and fill the void in the slot.

Matt Elam, last years first round draft pick, moves to the safety position he is best suited to play. Alongside Elam is Darian Stewart, who was an undrafted free agent during the 2010 NFL draft. Not only is cornerback depth an issue, but inexperience on the backend is as well. If the Ravens want to return to the promise land, can this secondary be good enough to defend against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady when it counts?

Breakout Candidate: Kyle Juszczyk

With the new offense Kubiak brings, there will be all kinds of options for Joe Flacco. The fans of Baltimore got a very small sample of that in the first pre-season game against the 49ers. The Smiths, Pitta, Jones, Brown and Daniels will all be targets for Flacco.

The under the radar target that is being overlooked is Kyle Juszczyk. The second year pro is an interesting player in this offense that fits the mold of what James Casey was for Houston years ago. He is capable of coming out of the backfield and picking his spots in the seams of the defense. Look out for the former Harvard standout to be a solid H-back option for Joe Flacco.

Impact Rookie: Timmy Jernigan

The easy answer is the former Alabama linebacker and first round pick CJ Mosley, but the Ravens struck gold in the second round of the draft. Timmy Jernigan is a top 15 talent who fell due to issues before the combine.

Jernigan was a force for the national champion Seminole defense in college football and stood out to the national audience on the big stage. Even though he was winded toward the tail end of the big game, his impact throughout that game was felt. All year long Jernigan created havoc on offensive lines all across college football.

Losing Art Jones to Indianapolis stung for a little bit until the draft concluded. Getting a talent like Jernigan and not having to pay him a $30 million contract is a win-win for the Ravens. Once Jernigan is healthy and can consistently find himself in the rotation up front, he will have a significant impact on the run and pass defense.

Cincinnati Bengals:

All the talk that surrounds the Bengals is the new contract extension that Andy Dalton received. A six-year extension worth over $100+ million seems to be an awful lot for the former TCU quarterback.

It is a lot for Andy Dalton, but that is the market for quarterbacks these days if franchises want to keep them around once their rookie contracts come to a close. The Bengals caught a lot of flack around the national media for this extension, but add some perspective to this deal.

Good quarterbacks are extremely difficult to find these days and are the ultimate factor that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback that is a fact. Where there is difficulty grasping this extension is Daltons lack of production come playoff time.

If the three-year starter cannot start winning when it counts, the Bengals could find themselves scratching their heads and Marvin Lewis’ job could be in jeopardy.

Its humorous that once upon a time the Ravens front office got criticized for giving Joe Flacco the big $100+ million deal. When he got that deal, he came off of a historic post-season performance as well as winning the Super Bowl. Dalton is yet to win a playoff game and got the big contract; people have some apologies to make to Ozzie Newsome and company.

The Bengals have seen a lot of change in the off-season as both coordinators bolted for head coaching opportunities. Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator and Mike Zimmer left to take command of the Minnesota Vikings.

Zimmer will be the piece most missed by Cincinnati as he has led that good Bengals defense for years. He was regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league for quite sometime.

The defense gets back two primary starters back from injury in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. The only concern for this team is surprisingly on the defensive side of the ball. This unit must stay healthy and avoid the big time injuries they saw last season.

Offensively, there should be no concern as this side of the ball is loaded with talent. There is great depth at tight end and running back with AJ Green still the stud on the outside.

Breakout Candidate: Giovani Bernard

The former Tar-heel running back was a playmaker his rookie season and was used sparingly. Bernard was not the workhorse of the offense as the “Law Firm” took the bulk of the carries.

Bernards playmaking ability will be more visible this season as he will definitely see an increased workload. Bernard is both quick and fast out of the backfield and is an excellent all-purpose back. He is just as good receiving out of the backfield as he is running with the ball.

Hue Jackson will have to get this player involved more to take the pressure off of Dalton and the defense. If there is a play to sum up Bernards ability, look back to his highlight reel run against the Miami Dolphins.

Impact Rookie: Darqueze Dennard

It is simple to look to the first round selection as the impact rookie for any team, but Dennard finds himself in a good situation. With Leon Hall coming off of an Achilles injury and Dre Kirkpatrick only playing 19 of a possible 32 games in his short career, there will be opportunity.

Dennard was regarded as one of the best corners in this past draft and was a leader on the stellar Spartan defense. He is not flashy, but he has shutdown qualities in him that can translate to the big league. Will Clarke, the third round pick out of West Virginia, is another guy to watch out for in the defensive rotation up front.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

It was a big surprise that neither Baltimore or Pittsburgh did not make an appearance in the post-season and both are eager at a chance for redemption. The Steelers were on the cusp of a wild card birth, but fell just short.

Things are looking up for the Steelers as they see their star offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey return to hold down the line. The running game was not consistent last season and the loss of Pouncey was a huge reason why.

The run game will be improved with the addition of LaGarrette Blount and a healthy Le’Veon Bell. The second year pro out of Michigan State looks to be the workhorse for the Steelers and has a lot of potential to be a top tier running back in the league.

The primary question that comes to mind offensively is the passing game. There is no question what Ben Roethlisberger can bring, but he has to have the help around him. Heath Miller has been a good tight end for the duration of his career in Pittsburgh, but his days are numbered. Miller is not the caliber of player he once was when he came out of the university of Virginia.

Antonio Brown filled the void that Mike Wallace left and it is time for another wide receiver to assume the number two role. That void will be up to either second year wide out Markus Wheaton or rookie Martavis Bryant to help out Big Ben.

The Steelers defense will be back to their usual ways as they did a solid job in the off-season adding pieces. With drafting Ryan Shazier, the linebacking corps is filled with superb talent. Timmons, Worilds and second year pro Jarvis Jones make up the rest of the lineup. This will be the best unit on the defensive side of the ball.

Breakout Candidate: Markus Wheaton

Big Ben needs help from another wide out and it will be up to Wheaton to give him the support. Wheaton was a poor mans Mike Wallace coming out of college. The former Oregon State receiver has the speed to open things up all around the field. He has no problem getting down the field, but he must be able to make things happen in the middle. If not Wheaton, the Steelers will need to depend on the rookie Bryant from Clemson.

Impact Rookie: Dri Archer

One of my favorite players in the entire draft was Dri Archer. The speedster star from Kent State is in the exact playmaking mold that Tavon Austin was from West Virginia. The only reason why Archer was not as highly regarded as Austin was due to the college he went to along with the competition faced.

There have been plenty of Kent State playmakers that have made a name for themselves in the pros, most notably Josh Cribbs. Archer comes in to Pittsburgh with a great role on the offense with Blount as the bruiser, Bell the well rounded back and Archer with the speed.

Archer will be a matchup problem for defensive coordinators because of his speed and ability to make plays out of nearly nothing. He can come out of the backfield or play from the slot. If you put a linebacker on Archer, he will burn right by that. If you put a corner or safety on him, Archer will be opening up the field for the rest of the receiving options. Great draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, this kid is electrifying.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns bring in former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be head coach and he has the potential to fill that role well. The Browns saw some change in the off-season on the defensive side of the ball, his specialty.

They lost safety TJ Ward and replaced him with Donte Whitner. D’Qwell Jackson departed in free agency so Karlos Dansby was brough in to fill that hole. Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall selection, is now paired with the newly wealthy Joe Haden. The secondary is put together nicely and the front seven is not too shabby. The Browns have all kinds of talent on defense; there is no uncertainty about that

The offense looked poise to breakout for the upcoming season until star wide out Josh Gordon ran into more off the field trouble. His suspension appeal is ongoing and it is unknown how long he will be out for. Jordan Cameron is one of the better young tight ends in the league and Andre Hawkins was stolen away from the fellow north rival Bengals.

Cleveland is all excited for their Browns from the draft because of the big first round selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer is the starter for now, but that will not last long. As soon as Hoyer makes a mistake, the noise will be too loud for Pettine to keep sitting Manziel.

Breakout Candidate: Barkevious Mingo

Last drafts sixth overall selection had a solid rookie campaign in the 15 games played. He registered 5.0 sacks and is the kind of playmaker Pettine will be able to work with. Pettine helped Mario Williams take his game to the next level in Buffalo after a lackluster first season after signing a big deal during free agency, so Mingo will be a personal project for the new head coach.

Impact Rookie: Joel Bitonio

Gilbert will have his impact on defense and West will do his part sharing the load with Ben Tate. Bitonio might be an odd choice here, but adding a quality lineman such as Joel to the mix with an Alex Mack and Joe Thomas will pay dividends for the offense. Adding Bitonio will help this offense in pass protection and will open up the holes for the two headed running back monster the Browns have.

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Bovada makes Ravens third choice to win AFC North

Posted on 31 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV). The Super Bowl odds are from the day after the Super Bowl, the day after the draft, and today before the first set of games before the pre-season.

 

Odds to win the 2015 Super Bowl XLIX (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same…the colors are from one date to the next) 

Odds on 2/3/14             Odds on 5/12/14           Current Odds               Notes

Denver Broncos                                    8/1                    7/1                                13/2                              Broncos are now the favorite after trailing the Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks                                  9/2                    6/1                                7/1                                Odds have slowly gotten longer

San Francisco 49ers                              15/2                  15/2                              15/2                              One of three teams whose odds didn’t move

New England Patriots                            14/1                  15/2                              8/1                                Much shorter after initial SB odds, a little longer since

Green Bay Packers                                16/1                  12/1                              10/1                              Odds have gotten shorter each time

Chicago Bears                                      25/1                  20/1                              14/1                              Odds have gotten shorter each time

Indianapolis Colts                                  28/1                  20/1                              14/1                              Odds have gotten shorter each time

New Orleans Saints                               18/1                  20/1                              14/1                              Odds went longer then shorter

Philadelphia Eagles                               25/1                  22/1                              25/1                              Odds went shorter then longer

Pittsburgh Steelers                                33/1                  33/1                              28/1                              Odds were stagnant, then shorter

Detroit Lions                                         33/1                  50/1                              33/1                              Odds flip flopped

Arizona Cardinals                                  33/1                  40/1                              40/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

Atlanta Falcons                                     25/1                  40/1                              40/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

Baltimore Ravens                                  40/1                  40/1                              40/1                              One of three teams whose odds didn’t move

Carolina Panthers                                  25/1                  28/1                              40/1                              Odds went longer each time

Cincinnati Bengals                                 25/1                  40/1                              40/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

New York Giants                                   33/1                  40/1                              40/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

San Diego Chargers                              33/1                  40/1                              40/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

Dallas Cowboys                                    33/1                  40/1                              50/1                              Odds went longer each time

Kansas City Chiefs                                28/1                  33/1                              50/1                              Odds went longer each time

St. Louis Rams                                     40/1                  50/1                              50/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

Washington Redskins                            40/1                  50/1                              50/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

Houston Texans                                    40/1                  40/1                              66/1                              Odds were stagnant, now longer

Miami Dolphins                                     50/1                  50/1                              66/1                              Odds were stagnant, now longer

New York Jets                                       50/1                  66/1                              66/1                              Odds went longer, now stagnant

Tampa Bay Buccaneers                         50/1                  50/1                              66/1                              Odds were stagnant, now longer

Buffalo Bills                                          75/1                  75/1                              75/1                              One of three teams whose odds didn’t move

Cleveland Browns                                  66/1                  50/1                              75/1                              Odds went shorter, then longer

Minnesota Vikings                                 75/1                  50/1                              100/1                            Odds went shorter, then longer      

Oakland Raiders                                    75/1                  100/1                            100/1                            Odds went longer, now stagnant

Tennessee Titans                                   50/1                  75/1                              100/1                            Odds went longer each time

Jacksonville Jaguars                             100/1                100/1                            250/1                            Odds were stagnant, now much longer

Odds to win the 2015 AFC Conference  

Denver Broncos                        9/4

New England Patriots                3/1

Indianapolis Colts                      6/1

Pittsburgh Steelers                    12/1

Cincinnati Bengals                     16/1

Baltimore Ravens                      18/1

San Diego Chargers                  18/1

Kansas City Chiefs                    22/1

Houston Texans                        28/1

Miami Dolphins                         28/1

New York Jets                           28/1

Cleveland Browns                      33/1

Buffalo Bills                              40/1

Tennessee Titans                       40/1

Oakland Raiders                        50/1

Jacksonville Jaguars                 100/1

 

Odds to win the 2015 NFC Conference  

Seattle Seahawks                      17/4

San Francisco 49ers                  9/2

Green Bay Packers                    6/1

Chicago Bears                          15/2

New Orleans Saints                   15/2

Philadelphia Eagles                   14/1

Detroit Lions                             18/1

Arizona Cardinals                      22/1

Atlanta Falcons                         22/1

Carolina Panthers                      22/1

New York Giants                       25/1

St. Louis Rams                         25/1

Washington Redskins                25/1

Dallas Cowboys                        28/1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers             33/1

Minnesota Vikings                     40/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 NFC East (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

Philadelphia Eagles                   3/2                                5/4

New York Giants                       11/4                              3/1                               

Washington Redskins                4/1                                15/4

Dallas Cowboys                        13/4                              4/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 NFC North (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

Green Bay Packers                    4/5                                10/11

Chicago Bears                          11/4                              5/2

Detroit Lions                             17/4                              4/1

Minnesota Vikings                     12/1                              10/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 NFC South (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

New Orleans Saints                   7/5                                5/7

Carolina Panthers                      11/4                              9/2

Atlanta Falcons                         11/4                              17/4

Tampa Bay Buccaneers             5/1                                11/2

 

Odds to Win the 2014 NFC West (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

Seattle Seahawks                      11/10                            5/4

San Francisco 49ers                  7/5                                7/5

Arizona Cardinals                      7/1                                7/1

St. Louis Rams                         9/1                                7/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 AFC East (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

New England Patriots                1/2                                1/3

Miami Dolphins                         4/1                                13/2

New York Jets                           15/2                              13/2

Buffalo Bills                              15/2                              9/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 AFC North (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

Pittsburgh Steelers                    2/1                                2/1

Cincinnati Bengals                     2/1                                11/5

Baltimore Ravens                      5/2                                11/4

Cleveland Browns                      5/1                                5/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 AFC South (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

Indianapolis Colts                      5/6                                1/2

Houston Texans                        9/4                                3/1

Tennessee Titans                       4/1                                7/1

Jacksonville Jaguars                 20/1                              14/1

 

Odds to Win the 2014 AFC West (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)          

Odds on 5/28/14           Current Odds

Denver Broncos                        4/11                              1/3

San Diego Chargers                  11/2                              5/1

Kansas City Chiefs                    5/1                                6/1

Oakland Raiders                        18/1                              18/1

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Tuesday night’s Orioles-Pirates game postponed due to rain

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Tuesday night’s Orioles-Pirates game postponed due to rain

Posted on 29 April 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the night Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was poised to make his return from the disabled list, Mother Nature had other ideas as Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was postponed due to rain.

The game is currently scheduled to be made up Thursday at 7:05 p.m., but Wednesday’s forecast looked even worse as rain continued to hit the Baltimore area. With the teams sharing a common off-day on Thursday, the possibility exists that a day-night doubleheader will be required to play the two-game interleague series.

Weather permitting, starting pitcher Chris Tillman is now scheduled to take the hill on Wednesday night with Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton opposing him.

For fans holding tickets for Tuesday night’s game, no exchange is required as they can be used for Thursday’s game. The Orioles provided the following additional information regarding Tuesday’s postponement:

Eutaw Street gates will open at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, with remaining ballpark gates opening at 5:30 p.m. Ballpark parking lots open at 3:30 p.m. and prepaid parking permits dated for April 29 are valid for Thursday’s game.

Fans unable to attend the May 1 makeup game can exchange their April 29 tickets for any remaining home game this season on a “dollar-for-dollar” basis. All exchanges are subject to availability and must be completed by June 30. Complimentary tickets are non-exchangeable. StubHub tickets are also non-exchangeable, but may be resold on StubHub up until 7:05 p.m. on May 1. All tickets are valid for the makeup game.

Ticket exchanges can be performed at the Box Office or submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by June 30, 2014 to:

Baltimore Orioles
Attention: April 29 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

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