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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throws before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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Ravens-Texans: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 16 November 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and Houston are both eyeing significant goals beyond leading their respective divisions entering Week 11.

That makes Sunday’s clash that much more important as the winner would hold no worse than the No. 2 spot in the AFC as well as a critical head-to-head tiebreaker approaching Thanksgiving. The urgency could be greater for the Texans, who trail Baltimore by one game and are currently scheduled to play teams .500 or better in five of their last seven contests. Houston also holds just a one-game lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South while the Ravens currently enjoy a cushion of 2 1/2 games in the AFC North.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the 10th time ever in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 7-2 advantage as well as a win in the only postseason encounter between these teams. Counting that playoff win, the Ravens are 6-2 against Houston in the John Harbaugh era.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Lamar Jackson will throw for 300 yards for the first time since Week 1. The Houston run defense is the best the Ravens have faced and is led by breakout defensive tackle D.J. Reader. That’s not to say Baltimore’s top-ranked ground game won’t be productive, but there may not be much room between the tackles, which will put more on Jackson’s legs and arm. Of course, that isn’t a bad thing as the 22-year-old is coming off his second perfect passer rating game and faces the NFL’s 29th-ranked pass defense. Jackson exceeding 35 pass attempts for the first time since Week 3 wouldn’t be surprising.

2. Deshaun Watson will become the first 300-yard passer and the third 60-yard rusher against Baltimore since Week 4. That prediction alone reflects how much the Ravens defense has improved since September, but Watson is having his own MVP-caliber season and is backed by a ground attack averaging more than 140 yards per game. The Texans won’t kill Baltimore with the run, but the expected absence of Michael Pierce could compromise Wink Martindale’s preference to use the dime, potentially leaving more linebackers on the field who won’t be able to catch Watson in space.

3. Jimmy Smith will register his first interception of 2019. You’d anticipate Marlon Humphrey traveling with All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins and we’ve all seen what Marcus Peters has done since becoming a Raven, but Smith has quietly played well since returning from the knee injury sustained in Week 1. Hopkins is obviously Watson’s go-to guy, but Kenny Stills is a viable deep threat and Houston could potentially welcome back Will Fuller from a hamstring strain. The Texans are superb using the no-huddle attack, something with which New England had success against the Ravens a couple weeks ago.

4. Tight ends will combine to catch four touchdowns in this high-scoring game. We all know how important Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst are to the Ravens’ passing game as the three have combined to make up 45 percent of the team’s receiving yards, but Houston tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins have caught eight of Watson’s 18 touchdown passes this season, meaning you can’t sleep on them. The Ravens clearly have the superior position group here, but a key to this game will be how each defense handles the opposition’s tight ends as both blockers and receivers.

5. Justin Tucker’s late field goal will secure a 34-31 victory for the Ravens. You can’t ask for much more on paper than two MVP candidates at quarterback squaring off in what could turn into a shootout reminiscent of their classic Louisville-Clemson showdown three years ago. The Texans coming off their bye week is a red flag working against a Baltimore team that is probably in line for a bit of a market correction after making its current five-game winning streak look so easy. However, Houston has a quick turnaround for a Thursday game against AFC South rival Indianapolis, which likely exhausted some of the coaching staff’s extra time to prepare for such an unconventional Baltimore offense. In a high-profile game like this, I’ll pick the team with the best player, who is Jackson at this very moment. Of course, Watson and Hopkins could have something to say about that on Sunday afternoon.

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Jackson, Watson renew college rivalry as superstars at next level

Posted on 14 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have already played quite the slate of quarterbacks from a storyline perspective this season.

Jackson has faced off against fellow Heisman Trophy winners (Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield), the reigning league MVP (Patrick Mahomes), one of the most accomplished dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history (Russell Wilson), and arguably the greatest quarterback of all time (Tom Brady). But Houston’s Deshaun Watson might be the closest contemporary to the one-of-a-kind Jackson in terms of skill set, making Sunday’s showdown between the AFC North-leading Ravens and the AFC South-leading Texans — currently the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the conference respectively — that much more exciting.

These former ACC rivals met once before in one of college football’s best games in recent memory in which Watson and No. 5 Clemson edged Jackson and No. 3 Louisville in a 42-36 shootout in 2016. Watson threw for 306 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards in that instant classic while Jackson passed for 295 yards and a touchdown and ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

“He was just dicing us down the field,” recalled Jackson, who lamented his Cardinals offense falling one yard shy of a first down inside the red zone on the final drive. “Our defense did great, don’t get me wrong. Our defense played a great game, but he was just doing Deshaun Watson things — scoring touchdowns, making incredible throws. They came out with the victory.”

Watson would lead Clemson to a national championship by season’s end while a 19-year-old Jackson became the youngest player to ever win the Heisman Trophy that December. And after proving wrong a list of doubters that included multiple quarterback-needy teams passing on them in their respective drafts years, Watson and Jackson meet again as MVP candidates in what Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is calling “one of those NFL history games” in this new age of dual-threat quarterbacks.

That’s not to say Watson and Jackson are the same exact player, of course.

The 24-year-old Watson only fell to 12th overall in the 2017 draft and threw an amazing 19 touchdowns in his first seven games before an ACL tear sustained in practice cruelly ended his rookie campaign. Jackson, 22, faced much harsher scrutiny a year later with some even suggesting he change positions and virtually every team in the league passing on him — including the Ravens — before Baltimore traded back into the first round to select him 32nd overall. While Watson was an overnight sensation whose only hiccup over his first three years has come via injury, Jackson intially had to wait his turn behind longtime starter Joe Flacco as a rookie and has shown eye-opening improvement as a passer in his second year, making his loudest doubters look very foolish.

Thanks in part to a higher volume of opportunities and an all-world wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, Watson maintains the edge as a passer in terms of both conventional numbers and ESPN QBR’s pure passing expected points added metric, but Jackson owns a better passing grade from Pro Football Focus through Week 10. In terms of yards per attempt, Watson’s 8.1 barely edges Jackson’s 8.0, reinforcing the gap being smaller than you’d think when looking only at completion percentage and counting numbers.

We know Jackson has no equal as a record-setting rushing quarterback in today’s game, but Watson surprisingly has a slightly better PFF run grade entering Week 11, which needn’t be taken as a contrarian viewpoint as much as a reflection of his own ability to make plays with his legs — even while lacking the same speed or penchant for running as the Ravens quarterback. Jackson leads the NFL at a whopping 6.6 yards per carry, but Watson ranks fourth at 5.4 yards per rush among those with at least 50 carries.

Watson’s impressive consistency over 32 career games and Jackson’s tremendous leap in his second season have essentially left the two on a level playing field in the present. One can make the “Coke or Pepsi” pick in terms of preferring a more polished passer with very good mobility or the lesser — but rapidly improving — thrower with transcendent rushing ability.

Either way, there’s nothing fair about it for defenses having to account for their kind of dual-threat ability that’s changing the NFL.

“Peyton Manning was extremely hard to defend. Tom Brady is hard to defend. But neither one of them could run a 4.3 [40-yard dash],” ninth-year cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “You don’t have to worry about tackling them on any given play. There’s nothing more backbreaking for a defense than to keep an offense at third-and-10 or third-and-15 and a freaking quarterback just takes it with his legs and gets a first down and extends a drive. It just hurts. These types of quarterbacks can do that now days.

“It’s just basically the whole college offense transitioning to the NFL. It’s kind of great to see actually.”

Three years after squaring off as the two best players in college football, Jackson and Watson will again be starring on the same field. This week, Jackson referred to Watson as “Brodie” — a term of endearment — while the Texans quarterback described himself as a “proud friend” watching the quarterback who edged him out for the Heisman Trophy silence his critics, speaking to their affection for one another. On Thursday, both were nominated by their teammates for the 2019 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, a reflection of their character and leadership ability at such young ages.

Jackson and Watson are changing the game, making you believe what they did in their first meeting at the collegiate level three years ago was only scratching the surface. Whoever comes out on top this time around could be making a loud statement in the MVP race.

“We’re just doing our thing,” Jackson said. “We’re just playing ball, having fun, doing what all of us have done since we were kids, doing something we love. That’s all.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 10 win at Cincinnati

Posted on 12 November 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their fifth consecutive game in a 49-13 final at Cincinnati, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After posting a 158.3 passer rating 30 miles from his hometown in Week 1, Lamar Jackson had another perfect day 100 miles from where he won a Heisman Trophy at Louisville. Playing like that in front of so many who watched him on his path to NFL stardom is special.

2. Being traded in the middle of a contract year can be a challenging transition, but Marcus Peters has now returned two interceptions for touchdowns over his first three games as a Raven. A cornerback with a boom-or-bust reputation is putting himself in position for a huge payday.

3. Marquise Brown has caught seven of eight targets for 128 yards and a touchdown since returning from an ankle sprain. The rookie performing like this at less than 100 percent continues to be impressive and encouraging for his future if he can stay healthy.

4. The Ravens haven’t posted a winning road record in the regular season since 2010, but they’re 4-1 in away games this season and 6-2 on the road since Jackson became the starter last year. Road success in the regular season is what allows teams to play at home in January.

5. Brandon Williams has played some of the best football of his career in recent weeks, which included a season-best seven tackles in 59 defensive snaps with Michael Pierce exiting Sunday’s game early. Williams’ Week 4 spat with Earl Thomas feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

6. Nick Boyle had four catches for a career-high 78 yards and has now set a new single-season high in receiving yards nine games into 2019. Mark Andrews headlines, but all three Baltimore tight ends have been superb, combining to catch 71.6 percent of targets for 949 yards and seven touchdowns.

7. In a combined 30 snaps between offense and defense, Patrick Ricard had a big block on Mark Ingram’s touchdown run, recorded a tackle for no gain, logged a strip-sack returned by Tyus Bowser for a touchdown, and had another tackle for a minimal gain. That’s quite a splash.

8. The “Heisman Package” resulted in a 12-yard gain as Jackson pitched to Robert Griffin III on the option. As John Harbaugh said, “Guys like to have fun,” but I’m now expecting Vinny Testaverde, Ricky Williams, and Troy Smith to come back if they’re serious about this Heisman thing.

9. With the return of Jimmy Smith, the arrival of Peters, and the shift of Brandon Carr to safety and Chuck Clark to the box in the dime, Anthony Levine has played only 11 defensive snaps since the bye. Levine is a good player, but it speaks to improved secondary depth.

10. Sam Koch didn’t have to punt until the 1:14 mark of the fourth quarter in Cincinnati. His career low for punts in a season is 60, but the longtime Raven is currently on pace to punt only 37 times in 2019. Things sure have changed here in Baltimore.

11. Jackson did the heavy lifting, but CBS play-by-play man Kevin Harlan’s call of the electric 47-yard touchdown run was a lot of fun. Harlan is one of the more underrated broadcasters in the business. “He is Houdini!” will be remembered by Ravens fans for a long time.

12. I couldn’t have been the only one who thought of Tony Siragusa late in the Ravens’ 2000 playoff win over Tennessee when Jackson was shown wearing sunglasses on the sideline. Siragusa gets bonus points for taking those shades from Brian Billick and that being a more important game, however.

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lamarjackson3

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Jackson practices fully as Ravens list seven questionable for Cincinnati

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after missing practice with an illness, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was back on the field for final preparations ahead of the Week 10 trip to Cincinnati.

The reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week was a full participant Friday and will play against the Bengals despite being officially listed as questionable on the final injury report. Asked if he was feeling better as he exited the locker room after practice, Jackson smiled and said, “Yes, sir, I’m good.”

Jackson will be making his 16th career regular-season start on Sunday as the Ravens seek their first season sweep of the Bengals since 2011.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed safety Earl Thomas (right knee) would play despite missing Friday’s practice, his second absence in three days. Listed as questionable for Sunday, Thomas has been limited with a knee issue since returning from the bye week, but he arguably played his best game of the season against New England last Sunday night.

In addition to Jackson and Thomas, the Ravens listed right guard Marshal Yanda (illnesss), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (left knee), and wide receivers Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh) and Chris Moore (thumb) as questionable. Yanda and Stanley were full participants on Friday and are good to go while Brown was limited, continuing the pattern of the Ravens managing the rookie wideout’s practice reps at the end of the week.

The biggest question among the official questionable designations appears to be Moore, whose left thumb was heavily wrapped in practices throughout the week. The reserve wide receiver and special-teams standout barely took part in any special-teams work throughout the week and only caught passes with his right hand, putting his status in real question.

(3:05 p.m. update — Rookie defensive tackle Daylon Mack (knee/hip) was added to the injury report as questionable after being a limited participant on Friday.)

Meanwhile, the Bengals ruled out wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) after the seven-time Pro Bowl selection failed to practice all week. Cincinnati began the week expecting Green to make his season debut, but the 31-year-old experienced swelling in the left ankle he originally injured on the first day of training camp in late July.

Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion) was listed as questionable after practicing fully all week, making it possible the veteran lineman makes his season debut.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday in Cincinnati calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 57 degrees with winds five to 10 miles per hour and only a 10-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh), QB Lamar Jackson (illness), DT Daylon Mack (knee/hip), WR Chris Moore (thumb), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness)

CINCINNATI
OUT: WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Cordy Glenn (concussion)

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finley

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Ravens preparing for unknown with Cincinnati rookie quarterback

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith looked up Ryan Finley on YouTube “just to see what he’s like, see how he throws.”

Coaches and players have watched video of the Cincinnati rookie’s preseason performance as well as his time as a three-year starter for an ACC program that’s produced three other current NFL starting quarterbacks. The Ravens have faced plenty of first-year quarterbacks over the years with much success, but preparing for a fourth-round pick who’s yet to take a regular-season snap can be unsettling, at least from a preparation standpoint.

“One of the coaches in the defensive meeting said, ‘What’s next? Are we going to watch the rival high school tapes before he went to N.C. State?'” said defensive coordinator Wink Martindale as he smiled. “I’d like to say we’re prepared for him, but we’ll see on Sunday.”

The circumstances were different a year ago, but it was the Ravens making the switch from a longtime veteran starting quarterback to a rookie after their bye week. The transition from Andy Dalton to Finley won’t be nearly as dramatic as Baltimore going from pocket passer Joe Flacco to the unparalleled athleticism of Lamar Jackson, of course, but the winless Bengals should have the Ravens’ attention with the change at quarterback.

That’s probably not a bad thing for head coach John Harbaugh as he tries to keep his first-place team focused and motivated against an 0-8 outfit after the emotion that accompanied the 37-20 win over previously unbeaten New England last Sunday night.

“Seeing a quarterback for the first time is tough because you haven’t seen him,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. They had to deal with that last year with Lamar when they came in here. The tables are turned a little bit on us that way, and we’re going to have to be very cognizant of that.”

Ironically, the 24-year-old Finley now becomes the oldest starting quarterback in the AFC North — Jackson is the youngest — as the Bengals want to evaluate the second player selected on Day 3 of this year’s draft. The popular opinion from pre-draft profiles was that the 6-foot-4, 207-pound does everything pretty well while lacking any standout traits. His accuracy, decision-making, and pocket mobility were frequently noted as strengths, but his arm strength and performance against the best competition in college left something to be desired.

After completing 64.5 percent of his passes and throwing 60 touchdowns over three seasons for the Wolfpack, Finley garnered positive reviews this preseason by completing 73.4 percent of his passes, throwing three touchdowns to just one interception, and posting a 99.3 passer rating in three games. It was enough for the 0-8 Bengals to want to sit Dalton, who sported a career-worst 79.2 passer rating this season, in favor of Finley.

“He’s kind of an older rookie in a sense with a lot of experience and all the traits that you look for in a quarterback,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “He throws with great anticipation and accuracy, good leadership skills. The coaches there at N.C. State spoke very highly of him, a kid that transferred in and was able to become a leader on the team following a really good quarterback in Jacoby Brissett.”

Finley won’t have the services of seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who had initially been expected to make his season debut this week. The receiver trio of Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, and Alex Erickson is capable of making plays, but the rookie is playing behind an offensive line regarded as one of the NFL’s worst, which is bad news against a Ravens defense that likes to blitz more than anyone.

Baltimore should anticipate plenty of quick passing to try to offset those realities, but Martindale is embracing the unknown of a rookie quarterback and an opponent coming off a bye week with extra time to prepare.

“That excites us because of the flexibility of our defense [and] how you can play different players in different spots,” Martindale said. “We’ll see. Just like New England went up-tempo the entire game and the adjustments that we made there, I thought obviously we came out on the right end.”

Coming out on the right end is all that matters for the Ravens at a venue where they’ve won only once in the last seven trips. Much has changed over the last 12 months, but you’d like to think the memory of so many struggles against the Bengals is too fresh to take this team too lightly.

It was less than a month ago when the Ravens nearly doubled the Bengals in total yards, but a Cincinnati kick return for a touchdown and a Mark Andrews fumble transformed what could have been a blowout into a 23-17 home win for Baltimore. That should be enough to take at least a few extra moments to try to get ready for an unknown quarterback.

“What would last week’s win mean if we go out there and just lay an egg?” Smith said. “Nobody wants to do that. It doesn’t take any extra motivation to want to go out and win a game. We know what we’re here for. It’s only better if we win. We don’t want to lose. That sucks.”

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marquisebrown

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Marquise Brown making plays, pushing way through trying rookie season

Posted on 06 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If anyone understands the challenges faced by Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown during his rookie season, it’s teammate Jimmy Smith.

In 2014, the veteran cornerback sustained a Lisfranc injury from which he’s felt effects for years. That Brown has been productive at all after missing the entire spring and part of training camp recovering from the left foot injury that required surgery in January is impressive.

“It’s a tough injury, extremely tough,” Smith said. “I know what he’s going through as far as every time he gets up and wakes up and it’s cold outside, that thing hurts. I understand it. And having a high-ankle [sprain] — which I also had — back to back, he’s fighting his way. He’s coming up making plays. He’s keeping his head up.

“All the guys talk to him. I’ve been in his ear letting him know, ‘You’re going to get over it eventually.’ But I’m proud of the way he’s bounced back and performed.”

That high-ankle sprain Brown sustained to his right leg in the Oct. 6 win at Pittsburgh sidelined him for the final two games before the bye week. After returning to play 40 snaps in Sunday’s 37-20 win over New England, Brown wasn’t on the Wednesday injury report for the first time since Week 5, but that doesn’t mean he’s fully recovered as he still walked with a slight limp during the portion of practice open to media.

Head coach John Harbaugh has said Brown is “nowhere near where he’s going to be” as a player, an impressive assessment considering he remains Baltimore’s leading wide receiver with 24 catches for 374 yards — numbers second to only tight end Mark Andrews — and three touchdowns in not even six full games of action. His diving third-down reception to move the chains and 26-yard gain on a jet sweep pass on the opening drive against the Patriots were an early boost to both the Ravens and Brown’s confidence as the first-round pick returns from his latest ailment. He’ll hope to build on that three-catch, 48-yard performance in Sunday’s trip to Cincinnati after missing the Week 6 game against the Bengals last month.

“It’s just more like with the team being out there with the guys, not wanting to let them down,” Brown said. “But they all encourage me. They know I’m not 100 [percent], but they’re like, ‘When you’re out there, you’re going to make plays.’ I just keep that in my head.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was absent from Wednesday’s practice after tweaking his left knee on backup running back Justice Hill’s run 2-yard run with 6:22 to play in Sunday’s 37-20 win over New England. Despite being in obvious discomfort for the remainder of that final touchdown drive, the fourth-year offensive lineman played every remaining offensive snap and was deemed OK by head coach John Harbaugh when asked about Stanley’s status on Monday.

Right guard Marshal Yanda also missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness he caught from his children, according to Harbaugh.

Return specialist and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas made his practice debut and appears to be a good bet to at least see action as a kick returner against the Bengals. Harbaugh said the Ravens will “see how it shakes out” in regards to Thomas’ game-day role after punt returner Cyrus Jones lost a fumble in the second quarter against the Patriots.

“Just catch the ball. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to do,” said Jones, who hadn’t fumbled since Week 14 of last season after a history of ball-security problems with New England. “I’ve got one job: catch the ball. Catch the ball.”

In other roster-related news, cornerback Maurice Canady was claimed by the New York Jets after being waived to make room for Thomas on Tuesday.

Baltimore signed running back Byron Marshall to its practice squad Wednesday.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor initially expressed his expectation that seven-time wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) would make his season debut against the Ravens, but Green didn’t practice Wednesday after experiencing discomfort during a walk-through and is now considered day-to-day, a concerning development for an 0-8 team starting rookie quarterback Ryan Finley for the first time on Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thumb)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Tyler Eifert (non-injury), WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Darqueze Denard (hamstring), OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), DE Carl Lawson (hamstring), G John Miller (groin)

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 03 November 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For the first time since 2012, Sunday Night Football has returned to Baltimore with the Ravens hosting the undefeated New England Patriots in the headline matchup of Week 9.

After much discussion all week about Lamar Jackson facing Bill Belichick’s top-ranked scoring defense, we’ll find out how the 22-year-old handles what one of the best defensive minds in NFL history throws at him in these teams’ first meeting since 2016. Of course, the Ravens are trying to maintain the momentum of a three-game winning streak that’s propelled them to the No. 2 seed position in the AFC entering Sunday night. The Ravens are seeking their first 6-2 start since the 2012 season and their first four-game winning streak since 2013.

Despite missing Friday’s practice with a thigh issue to go along with the sprained right ankle that cost him the last two games, rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown is active and returns to action for the first time since Week 5. His speed will be needed to help keep a tough Patriots defense honest throughout the evening, but his effectiveness will be closely monitored.

As expected, cornerback Jimmy Smith (right knee) and inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (right ankle) are also active and will make their respective returns. Smith hasn’t played since injuring his knee on the second defensive series of the season in Miami on Sept. 8, so it will be interesting to see how much defensive coordinator Wink Martindale leans on him in a deep group of cornerbacks. Onwuasor missed the last two games after hurting his ankle in the overtime win at Pittsburgh.

Backup safety and special-teams contributor Bennett Jackson is active after missing the final two practices of the week with an ankle issue, but the Ravens deactivated reserve cornerback Maurice Canady, who was limited all week with a thigh injury originally sustained against Cincinnati in Week 6.

New England running back James White is active after being added to the injury report as questionable with a toe injury on Friday. He ranks second on the Patriots with 42 catches for 358 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots activated rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry from injured reserve Saturday, but the first-round pick is inactive for Sunday night’s game.

Sunday’s referee is Carl Cheffers.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday night forecast in Baltimore calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-40s at kickoff with winds light and variable and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their alternate black jerseys with white pants while New England dons white tops with navy blue pants for Week 9.

Ravens legend Ed Reed is in attendance and will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony.

Sunday marks the 10th all-time regular-season meeting between these teams with the Patriots holding an 8-1 advantage and a 3-1 record in Baltimore. Counting the postseason, the Ravens are 3-6 against New England in the John Harbaugh era, which includes a 2-2 split in playoff games.

Below are Sunday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Maurice Canady
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack
DL Zach Sieler
DE Ufomba Kamalu

NEW ENGLAND
WR N’Keal Harry
OL Korey Cunningham
WR Gunner Olszewski
DB Joejuan Williams
RB Damien Harris
QB Cody Kessler
TE Matt LaCosse

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marquisebrown

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Ravens wide receiver Brown expected to play against New England

Posted on 01 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown is still expected to make his return to action for Sunday night’s tilt against New England, but how effective he’ll be remains to be seen.

The rookie first-round pick sat out Friday’s practice and was officially listed as questionable to play against the Patriots. Brown has missed the last two games with a right ankle sprain sustained in Week 5 and has been seen walking with a limp this week, but Friday’s injury report listed him as also dealing with a thigh issue, which may help explain his absence after two days of limited practice work.

Baltimore gave Brown the final practice off in each of the first three weeks of the regular season, but no other players received a day off from practice this week coming off the bye.

“We’re just managing that. There’s a certain number of reps that we’re kind of working through right now with him,” said head coach John Harbaugh after Friday’s practice. “I do expect him to be out there on Sunday unless something unforeseen happens. You can never be sure, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was upgraded to full participation on Friday and will play for the first time since injuring his right knee early in the Sept. 8 season opener against Miami. The 31-year-old began practicing on a limited basis while wearing a bulky brace two weeks ago, but he sported a lighter wrap on his right knee this week.

With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Brandon Carr all in the mix, the Ravens won’t feel pressured to play Smith an excessive number of snaps after missing six straight games. Smith was officially designated as questionable on the injury report.

“He moved well. Jimmy and I just talked out there at the end of practice,” Harbaugh said. “He feels good, moved well. He’s going to play if that’s what you’re asking, and I expect him to play at a high level.”

The Ravens also listed inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (right ankle) and cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh) as questionable after both were limited in practice all week. Onwuasor is expected to return after a two-game absence.

Safety Earl Thomas (knee) is officially questionable after being limited for the second straight day, but he made clear his intentions to play on Thursday.

Another situation worth monitoring has nothing to do with an injury, but it involved wide receiver and special-teams standout Chris Moore, who left the field after what appeared to be a heated discussion with Harbaugh during the portion of practice open to media. It’s unclear whether Moore returned to practice, but Harbaugh downplayed the incident without offering any details.

“It’s just an internal thing,” Harbaugh said. “Not a big deal — we hope. It’s fine.”

The Patriots listed eight players as questionable on their final injury report, but the most interesting development was the addition of running back James White, who was limited on Friday with a toe injury. White ranks second on the team with 42 catches for 358 receiving yards and a touchdown and is a versatile weapon in the New England offense.

New England also listed No. 1 wide receiver Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), right guard Shaq Mason (ankle), and safety Patrick Chung (heel/chest) as questionable, but that trio practiced all week on a limited basis.

Former Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks, whose priority was three spots after Baltimore’s. In other words, general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t put in a claim for the talented but troubled receiver.

According to NFLWeather.com, the Sunday night forecast for Baltimore calls for clear skies and temperatures falling into the low 40s by kickoff with winds around five miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), S Bennett Jackson (ankle), G Patrick Mekari (back), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
QUESTIONABLE: RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring), RB James White (toe)

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earlthomas

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Coming off bye, Ravens believe defense moving in right direction

Posted on 31 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Earl Thomas has played Tom Brady and undefeated New England on the NFL’s grandest stage and wasn’t about to miss Sunday night’s showdown because of a minor knee issue.

The Ravens safety returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday’s workout, but he removed any doubt about his availability against the team that edged him and the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX nearly five years ago. Thomas is expecting an electric atmosphere with Baltimore hosting its first Sunday night game since beating the Patriots back in 2012, and it’s an opportunity for the Ravens to make another major statement after the road win over Thomas’ old team two weeks ago.

“That’s why you prepare, so that you can go out there and have fun and dominate,” said Thomas, who added how this is the kind of matchup a player tells his kids about one day. “Hopefully, that’s what happens. The black-on-black [uniforms] are going to be fire. The fans are going to be fired up. It’s going to be at night at 8:30. I’m very excited about it. Everybody in this locker room is excited about it.”

The Ravens defense has endured its share of season-ending injuries since training camp, but Sunday could mark the healthiest it’s been since Week 1 as veteran Jimmy Smith (right knee) is expected to make his return after a six-game absence. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will now have no shortage of flexibility at cornerback with Smith joining the trio of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Brandon Carr.

Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor is also expected to be back in action after missing the final two games before the bye week due to a high ankle sprain. With veteran Josh Bynes stepping into the “Mike” linebacker role at which Onwuasor struggled early in the season, the Ravens will use Onwuasor at the weak-side spot. It’s the position at which Onwuasor excelled last season, collecting 5 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.

“I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Peanut’ get back out there,” Martindale said. “That’s going to help us. That strengthens our defense. There will be roles for everybody that dresses, especially for this game because they do such a good job of showing you something they haven’t shown or things like that.”

Entering Week 9 just 16th in total offense, the New England offense has benefited from playing with the AFC’s best unit on the other side of the ball, but the Ravens are still aware of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ ability to game-plan and Brady’s awareness to expose an opponent’s weakness. Thanks to a combined six touchdowns scored on defense and special teams, New England is averaging an NFL-best 31.3 points per game, just ahead of the Ravens’ 30.6 scored per contest.

Since ranking 27th in total defense and 23rd in points allowed after the Week 4 loss to Cleveland, the Ravens have made personnel changes and have improved to 16th in both yards and points allowed per game. The defense is coming off its best performance of the season in the 30-16 win over the Seahawks that included an interception return for a touchdown from Peters and a fumbled return for a score by Humphrey.

“I really like the direction that we’re going,” Martindale said. “We’re playing with a lot better fundamentals, knock-back at the line of scrimmage. Our eyes are in the right place in coverage. Our leverages and angles of the football have improved immensely, and most importantly, our tackling has.

“Obviously, we had a rough stretch there, and there’s a focus on making sure we do everything right. I’m excited where that’s going.”

Reserve safety Bennett Jackson (ankle) was the only Baltimore player not to practice Thursday, but reserve offensive lineman Patrick Mekari (back) left the field with head athletic trainer Ron Medlin during the portion of practice open to reporters. Rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (right ankle) was a limited participant for the second straight day.

The Patriots removed Brady from the injury report after the 42-year-old quarterback was limited with right shoulder soreness on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Bennett Jackson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), G Patrick Mekari (back) , LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring)

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marquisebrown

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M. Brown, Onwuasor back at practice as Ravens get ready for New England

Posted on 30 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Aiming to make a statement against the defending Super Bowl champions and the AFC’s last undefeated team on Sunday night, the Ravens gladly welcomed back two starters in their first full practice since the bye week.

Sidelined since suffering ankle injuries in the Oct. 6 win at Pittsburgh, rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown and veteran inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor were limited participants in Wednesday’s workout. Head coach John Harbaugh said both remain “on track” to play against New England earlier this week, but Brown chose his words more carefully when asked to assess his chances of suiting up for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens are hoping a healthy Brown can help unlock a vertical passing game that’s largely been dormant since the first two games of the season when he registered a combined 12 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns. The injury to his right ankle was a frustrating development for the 2019 first-round pick, who missed spring workouts and the start of training camp while recovering from offseason Lisfranc surgery on his left foot.

“It’s very tough just to sit and watch after sitting and watching [previously] since I’ve been here,” Brown said. “It’s tough, but I have good teammates and good people around me.

“We’re taking it day by day. I want to be out there, so hopefully I can.”

Onwuasor is working his way back from a high ankle sprain and is expected to settle into a three-man rotation with starting “Mike” linebacker Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, who started the last two games in Onwuasor’s absence. The arrivals of Bynes and Fort have helped stabilize an inside linebacker position that was very problematic early in the season, but Onwuasor’s ability to blitz from the weak-side spot could provide a boost to a pass rush that’s managed only 12 sacks in seven games.

In addition to Brown and Onwuasor, veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to make his long-awaited return from a right knee injury sustained in the Sept. 8 opener at Miami. The 31-year-old practiced on a limited basis two weeks ago before sitting out the Week 7 win in Seattle, but he deemed himself “ready to go” before Wednesday’s practice.

“Knees are a little different,” said Smith, who’s missed the last six games. “I just take it day by day working hard with the trainers and just making sure I feel good and taking care of the rest of my body because sometimes in rehab, that stuff kind of goes away. But we worked hard every day with that and made sure I could cut and do everything I needed to do to get out here for this week.”

Only one player on Baltimore’s 53-man roster was absent from Wednesday’s workout as free safety Earl Thomas sat out with a knee issue. It’s unclear whether he hurt his knee in the Seattle game or is dealing with more general soreness, but the six-time Pro Bowl selection has regularly received Wednesday practices off during the season, making his absence less concerning for the time being despite it coming off the bye week.

New England’s entire roster took part in Wednesday’s practice in some capacity, but 14-time Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady was limited due to a right shoulder issue. The 42-year-old’s status for Sunday isn’t believed to be in any danger, but the Patriots did re-sign backup quarterback Cody Kessler earlier this week.

The Patriots also listed wide receiver Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), safety Patrick Chung (heel/chest), and right guard Shaq Mason (ankle) as limited participants. Mason sat out New England’s win against Cleveland last Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Earl Thomas (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: QB Tom Brady (right shoulder), RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), WR Gunner Olszewski (Ankle/hamstring)

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