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Ravens readying for challenge against tough San Diego secondary

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Ravens readying for challenge against tough San Diego secondary

Posted on 27 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates still garner the headlines, but the defense has been the most consistent unit for the San Diego Chargers en route to a 7-4 start in 2014.

The Chargers rank sixth in the NFL in pass defense this season, making them one of the bigger challenges quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ passing game have faced all season. Led by two-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, the Chargers are allowing only 221 passing yards per game and 6.8 yards per attempt from opposing quarterbacks.

“It could arguably be the best safety tandem we’ve played this year,” said offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak about Weddle and strong safety Marcus Gilchrist. “Those two guys are really good players and like quarterbacks back there. They do a great job.”

It’s quite a change from last season when San Diego qualified for the playoffs despite having the league’s 23rd-ranked defense and finishing 29th against the pass. The offseason acquisition of Brandon Flowers has paid major dividends as the 5-foot-9 veteran has the fourth-highest grade of any cornerback in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Chargers rank 15th against the run in 2014, but Kubiak added that their depth has been a major reason why they’ve allowed only 19.6 points per game, good for fifth in the league. They’ve only collected 18 sacks all season, but veteran Dwight Freeney remains a player to watch despite being relegated to a situational pass-rush role at age 34.

“I think the biggest thing with this team is they’re playing a lot of people,” Kubiak said. “You have Dwight Freeney on your team and he’s playing 25 or 30 snaps a game, it tells you how deep they are. They’re rotating a lot of people [and] a lot of new faces when it’s third down and time to rush the passer. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Another “basketball” tight end to deal with

After doing an admirable job against All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham last Monday, the Ravens will face another challenge at the tight end position with the 34-year-old Gates still creating problems for defenses.

“You’re hoping that he’s going to age out at some point,” said head coach John Harbaugh as he laughed. “We all do at some point, but he hasn’t yet. He continues to adjust his game. He really does a great job of bodying up and making plays as a receiver. He’s still a downfield threat. He’s a go-to guy for Philip Rivers.”

He’s no longer a candidate to be a 1,000-yard receiver, but Gates has nine touchdown catches — the fourth-highest total of his career — and 491 receiving yards this season.

His 6-foot-4, 255-pound frame presents a challenge as he uses his physicality to outmuscle defensive backs and still has the speed to beat linebackers in coverage.

“He’s kind of a basketball player, kind of like how Graham is,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “When I’m on him or whenever we cover him, we’ve just got to make sure that we keep our hands on him. The big thing as far as covering guys like him is to just keep our eyes on him. He’ll pop out of the ground and make good plays.”

Koch, Mosley honored to be among Pro Bowl fan vote leaders

The latest Pro Bowl voting update had Sam Koch leading all punters and rookie C.J. Mosley second among inside linebackers.

After seeing teammate Justin Tucker make the Pro Bowl last year, the nine-year veteran Koch has been close before in his career and acknowledged how meaningful a trip to Honolulu would be. He ranks third in the NFL in net punting and seventh on punts inside the 20 this year.

“It would mean a lot,” said Koch, who was also the holder for 2010 Pro Bowl selection Billy Cundiff. “For all the support I’ve had from my family and my kids and all the people here, just going out and almost making it a couple of times, winning the fan vote to one year to becoming an alternate [in 2010], it’s on my bucket list in football.”

Meanwhile, Mosley is sixth in the league in tackles and has graded as the sixth-best inside linebacker in the NFL by PFF.

“It’s an honor and a blessing for people to notice all the hard work I put in and the great coaching I’ve received here,” Mosley said. “At the end of the day, the last thing I want is a Pro Bowl. We all want that Super Bowl and to play in the last game. But when your play is going good, you like to be recognized.”

The fans account for a third of the total voting with players and coaches making up the rest.

Rosburg plays peacemaker

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg found himself in the middle of the sideline altercation between wide receiver Steve Smith and Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro Monday night, which might have created a flashback to the coach’s younger days.

The 59-year-old assistant recalled being a bouncer back in 1976 when asked about his role in breaking up the scrum in New Orleans.

“I was saying the right things,” said Rosburg as he smiled. “I was trying to keep the peace as best I could. It came to me. I didn’t go seek it. It landed on my lap. At first, I defended myself and then I tried to help others.”

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Campanaro, Suggs practice for Ravens on Thanksgiving

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Campanaro, Suggs practice for Ravens on Thanksgiving

Posted on 27 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens reporting early to work on Thanksgiving, linebacker Terrell Suggs returned to the practice field after sitting out with a foot injury.

The 12th-year linebacker was the only player to miss Wednesday’s workout as rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (broken hand) have returned to the practice field this week. Campanaro hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring in the Oct. 26 loss at Cincinnati, but it’s possible the Ravens will continue to ease him back into action this week with thoughts of a return against Miami on Dec. 7.

Campanaro was once again a limited participant on Thursday while Reid was a full participant for the second straight day. The latter is practicing with a protective club on his right hand after he injured it a few days before the Week 10 win over Tennessee.

The Ravens reported to their Owings Mills facility at 7:15 a.m. for an early meeting and were practicing earlier than usual as head coach John Harbaugh planned to give them most of the afternoon off to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families. The Ravens brass were not taking a day off, however, as owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, and general manager Ozzie Newsome were all watching practice.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Jah Reid (hand), LB Terrell Suggs (foot)

SAN DIEGO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: NT Ryan Carrethers (elbow), LB Andrew Gachkar (knee), DT Tenny Palepoi (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Jahleel Addae (concussion), LB Dwight Freeney (non-injury), RB Ryan Mathews (shoulder), WR Eddie Royal (toe)

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Suggs misses Wednesday’s practice with foot injury

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Suggs misses Wednesday’s practice with foot injury

Posted on 26 November 2014 by Luke Jones

With a quick turnaround following their Monday night road win over New Orleans, the Ravens were back on the practice field Wednesday with their sights set on the San Diego Chargers.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs was the only player on the 53-man roster absent from practice, but a foot ailment is not expected to prohibit him from playing on Sunday as Baltimore looks to improve to 8-4 on the season. The veteran spoke to reporters on Wednesday as he typically does, a good indication that the injury isn’t considered serious.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (broken hand) returned to practice after lengthy absences for each. The rookie wideout hadn’t practiced since injuring his hamstring against Cincinnati on Oct. 26. Reid broke his hand a few days prior to the Week 10 win over Tennessee.

Reid was a full participant while Campanaro practiced on a limited basis.

Linebacker Pernell McPhee was a limited participant with what was listed as a shoulder injury.

For San Diego, rush specialist Dwight Freeney received the day off and linebacker Andrew Gachkar (knee) was absent from Wednesday’s practice.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Terrell Suggs (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Jah Reid (hand)

SAN DIEGO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: NT Ryan Carrethers (elbow), LB Dwight Freeney (non-injury), LB Andrew Gachkar (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Jahleel Addae (concussion), RB Ryan Mathews (shoulder), WR Eddie Royal (toe)

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Mosley, Koch among Pro Bowl leaders at their positions

Posted on 26 November 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11/26/14

DENVER BRONCOS QB PEYTON MANNING LEADS

PRO BOWL CHARGE WITH THREE WEEKS OF VOTING

REMAINING ON NFL.COM

– All-Stars to be announced on Pro Bowl Selection Show on

NFL Network on Tuesday, December 23 –

– Stars will be realigned using Fantasy Football-style draft format during

Pro Bowl Draft Show live on NFL Network –

Denver Broncos quarterback PEYTON MANNING, with 576,445 votes, leads all NFL players in balloting for the 2015 Pro Bowl, NFL.com announced today.

Fan voting for the 2015 Pro Bowl, presented by McDonald’s, will continue online and on web-enabled mobile phones by going to http://www.nfl.com/probowl/ballot until Monday, December 15.

Green Bay Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS (498,826 votes) ranks second overall, while Indianapolis Colts quarterback ANDREW LUCK (468,412 votes), New England Patriots quarterback TOM BRADY (461,043 votes), and Dallas Cowboys running back DE MARCO MURRAY (447,561 votes) round out the top five on NFL.com.

Balloting will conclude on Monday, December 15. The Pro Bowl players will be announced on Tuesday, December 23.

Players will later be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft during the week leading up to the game, which will also air on NFL Network.

The 2015 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 25, 2015 and televised live on ESPN at 8:00 PM ET from University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX.

The Pro Bowl will be “unconferenced” for the second consecutive year.

Last season, the familiar AFC vs. NFC match-up that had existed since 1971 was eliminated. Instead, players are selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. For example, the top six quarterbacks following voting will earn distinction as All-Stars, regardless of how many are from AFC or NFC teams.

Then, the NFL’s All-Stars will be realigned through a fantasy football-style draft.

The Pro Bowl players are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 88 All-Star players who will be eligible for the Pro Bowl Draft.

NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 19. The NFL is the only sports league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players to determine its all-star teams. It was the first professional sports league to offer online all-star voting in 1995.

Fans interested in purchasing Pro Bowl game tickets may go to www.nfl.com/probowlonsale for more information.

NFL ALL-STAR TOP-TEN VOTE-GETTERS

POS.

NAME, TEAM

VOTES
QB

Peyton Manning, Denver

576,445
QB

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

498,826
QB

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

468,412
QB

Tom Brady, New England

461,043
RB

DeMarco Murray, Dallas

447,561
RB

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

355,059
WR

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

344,629
RB

Arian Foster, Houston

321,461
WR

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

319,920
RB

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

309,038

NFL LEADING VOTE-GETTERS BY POSITION

POS.

NAME, TEAM

VOTES

POS.

NAME, TEAM

VOTES
QB

Peyton Manning, Denver

576,445

DE

J.J. Watt, Houston

265,215
QB

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

498,826

DE

DeMarcus Ware, Denver

217,401
RB

DeMarco Murray, Dallas

447,561

DT

Marcell Dareus, Buffalo

177,998
RB

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

355,059

DT

Ndamukong Suh, Detroit

144,995
FB

John Kuhn, Green Bay

145,977

OLB

Von Miller, Denver

165,045
FB

Darrel Young, Washington

119,382

OLB

Justin Houston, Kansas City

125,106
WR

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

344,629

ILB

Luke Kuechly, Carolina

182,900
WR

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

319,920

ILB

C.J. Mosley, Baltimore

126,670
TE

Rob Gronkowski, New England

302,878

CB

Darrelle Revis, New England

142,876
TE

Julius Thomas, Denver

241,570

CB

Aqib Talib, Denver

131,715
T

Tyron Smith, Dallas

139,729

SS

Kam Chancellor, Seattle

77,180
T

Ryan Clady, Denver

122,432

SS

Donte Whitner, Cleveland

61,487
G

Zack Martin, Dallas

127,908

FS

Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland

120,728
G

Josh Sitton, Green Bay

118,221

FS

Earl Thomas, Seattle

75,001
C

Travis Frederick, Dallas

143,929

P

Sam Koch, Baltimore

66,753
C

Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh

128,232

P

Thomas Morstead, New Orleans

59,069
K

Stephen Gostkowski, New England

122,348

ST

Matt Slater, New England

63,126
K

Dan Bailey, Dallas

101,209

ST

Jarrett Bush, Green Bay

50,187
RS

Devin Hester, Atlanta

87,186

RS

Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

57,243

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Forsett once again named AFC Offensive Player of the Week

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Forsett once again named AFC Offensive Player of the Week

Posted on 26 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The accolades keep coming in a dream season for Ravens running back Justin Forsett as he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old rushed for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the Ravens to a 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. It’s the second time this season Forsett has won the award after being recognized for his 112-yard, two-touchdown performance against Tennessee in Week 10.

Forsett has already rushed for a career-high 903 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with the Ravens. He leads all NFL running backs with a 5.8 yards per carry average.

In addition to Forsett taking home AFC Player of the Week awards twice this season, quarterback Joe Flacco received the honor for his five-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay in Week 6. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October.

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McPhee continues doing dirty work for Ravens defense

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McPhee continues doing dirty work for Ravens defense

Posted on 25 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens had a number of huge performances in the 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints, but one of their better ones came from a defensive player who didn’t even make a tackle Monday night.

While Elvis Dumervil (two), Terrell Suggs, and C.J. Mosley combined for four sacks, it was situational rush specialist Pernell McPhee who brought the most pressure against Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Playing 28 defensive snaps, McPhee produced four hurries and three quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.

Regularly credited for doing the dirty work up front while Dumervil and Suggs produce higher sack totals, McPhee has been effective as either an edge rusher spelling one of the veterans or as an interior lineman in obvious passing situations. The 280-pounder’s combination of strength and quickness has made him arguably the Ravens’ best inside rusher since Trevor Pryce, so it only made sense that he’d exploit a suspect interior part of the New Orleans offensive line.

McPhee doesn’t produce as many sacks because it’s generally easier for quarterbacks to recognize pressure and get rid of the ball when it’s right in front of them — he primarily lines up inside in sub packages — instead of dealing with rushers coming off the edge, but the 2011 fifth-round pick effectively collapses the pocket and is a key cog in helping to run stunts for others to pick up sacks. Playing fewer snaps than Suggs or Dumervil this season, McPhee leads all Ravens defensive players with 14 quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries, per PFF.

The Ravens knew they had something with McPhee in his rookie season when he collected six sacks as a situational rusher, but an array of nagging injuries limited his performance over the last two seasons. McPhee has stayed healthy in 2014 and has proven himself as a productive rusher in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ rotation.

Keeping McPhee on a pitch count with his playing time appears to have maximized his production while also allowing Suggs and Dumervil to remain fresh, but it will be interesting to see how much interest the Mississippi State product draws this offseason when he becomes a free agent for the first time. In that regard, McPhee collecting only four sacks to this point in the year might be a blessing when trying to quantify his value on the open market.

Despite a suspect secondary that’s dealt with a number of injuries, the Ravens rank fifth in points allowed and 15th in total defense because of the strong play of their front seven with McPhee playing a vital part.

Even if it’s gone unnoticed for large stretches of time like it did Monday night.

 

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Ravens built for strong finish in tight AFC playoff picture

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Ravens built for strong finish in tight AFC playoff picture

Posted on 25 November 2014 by Luke Jones

NEW ORLEANS — The Ravens spent much of the spring and summer insisting they weren’t going to entertain thoughts of last season when they missed the playoffs for the first time under head coach John Harbaugh.

But linebacker Terrell Suggs wanted his teammates to remember exactly what happened a year ago as they returned from their bye this past week with a crucial road game at New Orleans staring them in the eye. It’s safe to say the Ravens responded to the veteran’s message with a crucial 34-27 win over the Saints to improve to 7-4, keeping pace in a combative and tight AFC North.

“Down this stretch, this is important,” said Suggs, who pressured quarterback Drew Brees into throwing an interception returned for a touchdown by safety Will Hill to give Baltimore the lead for good in the third quarter. “Last year, this is where we kind of lost ourselves, we kind of lost our way. Unfortunately, we were left out of the playoffs on the outside looking in. We don’t want to feel like that this year.”

Over the years, the Ravens have taken pride in saying they’re built for December and January, but the label didn’t fit last season as they couldn’t run the ball and struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks down the stretch. Needing only one win in their final two weeks to secure a playoff spot, the Ravens lost their final two games by a combined 51 points.

If Monday night’s win was any indicator, the Ravens are primed to finish strong and make it back to the postseason — even with a very tight playoff picture. And it begins with Justin Forsett and the improved play of the offensive line under new coordinator Gary Kubiak.

Rushing for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns, Forsett continues to be one of the best stories of the 2014 season as his 5.8 yards per carry average leads all NFL running backs by a sizable margin. The offensive line consistently opens running lanes and the 29-year-old keeps finding daylight as he did repeatedly against New Orleans Monday night.

It’s the kind of style that should hold up nicely down the stretch for three more cold-weather games in Baltimore and whatever January could bring.

“Justin — awesome job, obviously, all year,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who was very efficient in completing 18 of 24 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. “The work he’s putting in, the results he’s getting and what he’s doing for this team was huge. Our offensive line’s doing a good job, and they’re creating those seams. He’s got good vision. He’s not letting the guy tackle him in the hole with his arms or anything like that. He’s breaking those little things.”

Defensively, the numbers looked ugly Monday as the Ravens surrendered 525 total yards, but the eyeball test was far more acceptable. Aside from Joseph Morgan’s 67-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, the Saints only ran for 59 yards on 20 carries.

The Ravens put plenty of heat on Brees as Elvis Dumervil collected two of four sacks total and the pass rush recorded eight quarterback hits in all. The secondary continues to be an area of concern and will likely remain that way for the rest of the season, but the emergence of Hill gives coordinator Dean Pees at least one defensive back with some playmaking ability and a consistent pass rush goes a long way in hiding vulnerabilities on the back end.

Much of the success of a 7-4 start can be attributed to the Ravens’ ability to win at the line of scrimmage, whether talking about their offensive line or the front seven’s ability to stop the run and wreak havoc on quarterbacks. It’s cliched to talk about dominating the trenches, but Baltimore has a great chance to punch its ticket to the playoffs by continuing to do just that.

How would the Ravens stack up against the likes of high-powered offenses like New England or Denver in the playoffs? They have to worry about getting to January first playing in a division where all teams are three games above .500 — the first time that’s happened in NFL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“You’re going to have to win a lot of games to win the division,” Harbaugh said. “You’re going to have win a lot of games to make the playoffs in our conference. It’s just a fact. You’re going to need every win you can get.”

The Ravens appear well equipped to play into January with a strong running game and one of the best front sevens in football. It’s a profile that holds up well against most opponents, home or away.

And it allows them to overcome their weaknesses, something they were able to do Monday night in one of their biggest road wins in recent memory.

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Ravens-Saints: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Saints: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 24 November 2014 by Luke Jones

NEW ORLEANS — Returning to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time in the regular season since Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens will try to keep pace in the AFC North by handing the New Orleans Saints their third straight home defeat.

With Cleveland and Cincinnati picking up road wins on Sunday, the urgency has only increased for the Ravens, who started the day in sole possession of last place despite a 6-4 record that leaves them in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

Coming off their bye week, the Ravens’ 53-man roster is in good shape from a health standpoint as wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (broken hand) were the only players scratched due to injury.

After being active for the Ravens’ last two games, second-year linebacker Arthur Brown is inactive for the ninth time this season. Brown only saw time as a special-teams player against Pittsburgh and Tennessee.

Defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson is also inactive for a second straight game after making four starts earlier this year in place of the injured Chris Canty. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will once again use Lawrence Guy in the defensive line rotation with Tyson and veteran Terrence Cody both listed as healthy inactives.

Meanwhile, the Saints will be without backup running back Khiry Robinson, but they will welcome back veteran Pierre Thomas, who will play in his first game since Week 7. Thomas had been sidelined with shoulder and rib injuries sustained against Detroit on Oct. 19.

The Saints are also reeling in the secondary with safety Rafael Bush suffering a season-ending leg injury last week. Cornerback Keenan Lewis is active and will start, but he has been slowed by a knee injury recently.

Veteran wide receiver Robert Meachem (ankle) is inactive after being limited in practices all week. The Saints lost rookie wideout Brandin Cooks for the season last week, so quarterback Drew Brees will have fewer weapons at his disposal against the league’s 21st-ranked pass defense.

The Ravens will be playing New Orleans for the sixth time in their regular-season history as they own a 4-1 record. Baltimore won the only regular-season meeting between the teams in New Orleans back in 2006. Quarterback Drew Brees will be trying to beat Baltimore for the first time in his career, which would give him a victory over all 32 NFL teams in his impeccable career.

The referee for Monday’s game will be Bill Leavy.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with black pants while New Orleans dons its black tops with black pants.

Below are Monday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
NT Terrence Cody
WR Michael Campanaro
LB Arthur Brown
DE DeAngelo Tyson
C Gino Gradkowski
CB Rashaan Melvin
OL Jah Reid

NEW ORLEANS
WR Robert Meachem
RB Khiry Robinson
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
CB Terrence Frederick
LB Kyle Knox
OT Nick Becton
DE Brandon Deaderick

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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Monday night

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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 23 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Fresh off their bye week and trying to complete a 2014 sweep of the NFC South, the Ravens return to the site of Super Bowl XLVII to take on the reeling New Orleans Saints Monday night.

Baltimore hopes that a Week 11 bye coupled with the Saints’ two-game losing streak will create enough momentum to snap New Orleans’ 14-game winning streak in prime-time home games. The 4-6 Saints are trying to find some semblance of consistency in a division in which no team has made a strong claim as a viable playoff contender.

The Ravens are 5-1 in games coming off their bye week in the John Harbaugh era and will attempt to win their third road game of the season. While they were able to find success against an underwhelming Tennessee offense in Week 10, the Baltimore secondary will have its hands full against the league’s third-ranked passing attack.

Monday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-1 advantage. This is the first contest between these teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since the 2006 season — which resulted in a 35-22 win for Baltimore — but the Ravens are obviously familiar with the surroundings after winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans two years ago.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 7-4 to keep pace in the AFC North …

1. Will Hill will draw the bulk of the assignment against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who will catch a touchdown and eclipse 80 receiving yards. Much was made about Cincinnati’s physicality last week in limiting the All-Pro tight end to just three catches for 29 yards, but the Ravens haven’t exactly been imposing in the back end of the defense aside from Terrence Brooks’ big hit on Tennessee’s Delanie Walker two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to mix it up as much as possible against Graham, but Hill is the best fit with his 6-foot-1, 207-pound frame and ability in coverage. The Ravens have held tight ends in check for most of the season, but they haven’t encountered a talent like Graham and he will bounce back from a tough week against the Bengals with a strong game in Week 12.

2. Steve Smith and Marlon Brown will catch touchdowns passes against a banged-up New Orleans secondary. A week off and a meeting with an old foe he tormented year after year as a member of the Carolina Panthers are just what the doctor ordered for the 35-year-old Smith whose production has declined in recent weeks. The Saints are down to their third-string free safety and top cornerback Keenan Lewis has been dealing with a knee issue, which will lead to the veteran wideout finding the end zone for the first time since Week 6. Looking to boost their 19th-ranked red-zone offense, the Ravens will rediscover Brown as a viable option inside the 20 as the 6-foot-5 receiver will rein in a pass in the back of the end zone for his first touchdown of the 2014 season.

3. The Ravens will contain top rusher Mark Ingram, but a returning Pierre Thomas will create problems as a receiver out of the backfield. After a very slow start to his NFL career, Ingram has emerged in 2014 with a 4.5 yards per carry average to take over the feature back role for New Orleans, but the Baltimore defense has allowed only 3.4 yards per carry and won’t have an issue keeping him in check. The return of Thomas — who hasn’t played since Week 7 — will be critical for a passing game that will miss the injured Brandin Cooks, who was becoming the Saints’ second-best receiver behind Graham as a short-to-intermediate target. With the secondary providing plenty of cushion and linebackers paying close attention to wherever Graham is, the Saints will slip Thomas free out of the backfield repeatedly to move the chains.

4. C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will both collect sacks as the Ravens use inside blitzing to try to get to Drew Brees. Pees knows his defense must create pressure in the pocket against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but Saints tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief have been the strengths of their offensive line, meaning it won’t be a given that Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will create enough heat. The best way to pressure Brees is up the middle where center Jonathan Goodwin and guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have struggled in pass protection. Smith and Mosley have both been effective as A-gap blitzers, making it a good bet that the Ravens will try to ambush Brees up the middle. The strategy will pay off with each inside linebacker collecting a sack on Monday night.

5. Joe Flacco and Brees will each throw for over 250 yards, but the veteran will be a little better in a 31-23 win for New Orleans. A few weeks ago, it would have been tough to give the Ravens much of a chance in this one following the injury to Jimmy Smith on top of the Saints’ reputation for playing so well at home. But New Orleans is difficult to figure out with two straight losses at home that came after blowing out mighty Green Bay less than a month ago. On the other hand, a solid performance against the Titans isn’t enough to ease concerns that the Ravens secondary will be able to prevent the Saints from passing up and down the field all night. Flacco and the offense will put together one of their better road performances of the year, but it won’t be quite enough to put the Ravens over the top on Monday night.

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Webb named Ravens’ Ed Block Courage Award winner

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Webb named Ravens’ Ed Block Courage Award winner

Posted on 22 November 2014 by Luke Jones

In the midst of a difficult season that started with a debilitating back injury in training camp, Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb has been recognized for not giving up.

The 29-year-old was named this year’s recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award winner, which was voted on by his Ravens teammates. Webb missed all of training camp and three of the first four games of the season after going down with lower back spams on the second day of summer practices.

In seven games, Webb has made 29 tackles and six pass breakups while trying to work his way back to pre-injury form. Unfortunately, the 2009 third-round pick is no stranger to injuries in his career as he has suffered torn anterior cruciate ligament tears in both knees, one in his rookie season and the other in 2012.

In six NFL seasons, the Nicholls State product has collected 284 tackles, 69 pass breakups, 10 interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

Last year’s winner was former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, who overcame a serious neck injury in 2012 to resume his playing career.

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