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Ravens-Buccaneers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 16 December 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For the first time in his NFL career, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will not start a game in which he’s been active, officially signaling the start — or continuation — of the Lamar Jackson era.

The rookie will make his fifth straight start against Tampa Bay as Flacco assumes backup duties in his return from a hip injury that sidelined him for four games. Baltimore will aim for its fourth win in the last five games to further improve its playoff positioning in the AFC. The 7-6 Ravens enter the week holding the second wild-card spot and are only a game behind Pittsburgh in the loss column in the AFC North.

After doing some pre-game running and agility work to test out their respective groin injuries, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young are both active after missing extensive snaps against Kansas City last week. Humphrey only returned to practice on a limited basis on Friday, making his status uneasy against the pass-happy Buccaneers.

Safety Tony Jefferson will make his return to the lineup after a two-game absence with an ankle injury.

As expected, left guard Alex Lewis is inactive and will miss his second straight game with a lingering shoulder injury. Veteran James Hurst is expected to start once again at left guard as rookie Orlando Brown Jr. continues to start at right tackle.

The most surprising inactive was running back Ty Montgomery, who is a healthy scratch. With third-year running back Kenneth Dixon collecting 80 yards on nine touches last week, Montgomery saw only three touches against the Chiefs. Reserve running back Buck Allen received the nod over Montgomery because of his various roles on special teams.

The Buccaneers already ruled out speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson (thumb) and starting safety Justin Evans (toe) on Friday, but two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is active after being listed as questionable with knee and hip ailments.

The Weather.com forecast calls for periods of rain and temperatures reaching the mid-40s with winds 10 to 20 miles per hour and a 100-percent chance of precipitation. Those conditions figure to favor the run-heavy Ravens against Tampa Bay’s league-leading passing attack, but the rain isn’t expected to be as severe as it was on Saturday. Tarps were covering the M&T Bank Stadium field until 10:30 a.m.

Sunday’s referee is Ron Torbert.

The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with black pants while Tampa Bay dons white tops with white pants for Week 15.

Sunday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens winning the last three meetings to hold a 3-2 series advantage. The Buccaneers’ last win came in Baltimore in 2002.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Robert Griffin III
WR Jordan Lasley LB Tim Williams
G Alex Lewis
RB Ty Montgomery
DL Zach Sieler
FB/DL Patrick Ricard

TAMPA BAY
QB Ryan Griffin
WR DeSean Jackson
S Justin Evans
CB David Rivers
LB Adarius Taylor
DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
TE Tanner Hudson

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Humphrey, Jefferson questionable for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay

Posted on 14 December 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Facing a Tampa Bay offense entering Week 15 with the most passing yards in the NFL, the Ravens hope to have their entire starting secondary back on the field on Sunday.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (groin) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday and was listed as questionable on the final injury report. The 2017 first-round pick missed most of the second half of last Sunday’s loss at Kansas City and missed workouts on Wednesday and Thursday. Humphrey hurt his groin late in the Week 13 win over Atlanta.

“He’s just trying to get this strong and make sure it’s right,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He was out there today. We’ll have to watch the tape and talk to [head athletic trainer Ron Medlin] — and Marlon, of course — and see how he looked and how he felt.”

Humphrey’s absence would be significant as Baltimore lost games to New Orleans and Carolina earlier this season when the talented defensive back was sidelined with a thigh injury. Rookie Anthony Averett saw extensive snaps in his place against the Chiefs.

Safety Tony Jefferson hopes to make his return after a two-game absence with an ankle injury. He practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday and also received the questionable designation. Second-year safety Chuck Clark has filled in for Jefferson since Week 12.

“If I was making the decision, he would be playing on Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “So, we’ll see what the trainers say, but I thought he did well.”

Left guard Alex Lewis was listed as doubtful and is expected to miss his second straight game with a lingering shoulder issue. The third-year offensive lineman was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, but he didn’t participate on Thursday or Friday. Veteran James Hurst would presumably make his second straight start at left guard.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (right hip) was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he is set to serve as the backup to rookie starter Lamar Jackson after practicing fully all week. Sunday will mark the first time in Flacco’s career he will not start a game in which he’s been active, but it remains unclear whether the 11th-year quarterback will have any role beyond serving as a traditional backup.

How the Ravens would adjust their run-heavy attack under Jackson to the less mobile Flacco on the fly would be interesting.

“We have plans, and Joe feels really good about the things that we would immediately go to when he’s in the game,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “I went through it the past couple weeks, really. We have more than enough for Joe to be able to go in and have some success without sort of reverting back.”

Cornerback Tavon Young (groin) and defensive back Anthony Levine (ankle) were also listed as questionable for Sunday, but both practiced fully on Friday after missing practice time earlier in the week.

The Buccaneers officially ruled out veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson (thumb) and safety Justin Evans (toe) and listed defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (knee/hip) as questionable for Sunday.

In other Ravens news, national scout Milt Hendrickson is expected to leave the organization to become Green Bay’s new assistant general manager, according to Packers insider Bob McGinn. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst reportedly wanted to hire Hendrickson last spring, but an interview request was denied by Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome.

The Weather.com Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for rain and temperatures in the mid-40s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and a 90-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: G Alex Lewis (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Joe Flacco (right hip), CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), S Tony Jefferson (ankle), DB Anthony Levine (ankle), LB Tim Williams (ankle), CB Tavon Young (groin)

TAMPA BAY
OUT: S Justin Evans (toe), WR DeSean Jackson (thumb)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Beau Allen (wrist), CB Carlton Davis (knee), OT Demar Dotson (knee), S Isaiah Johnson (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee/hip), LB Adarius Taylor (non-injury)

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FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Baltimore Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey (29) celebrates his interception with teammate Tony Jefferson in the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Baltimore. As a member of the Alabama football, Marlon Humphrey knew what to expect against non-league foes such as Mercer and Kent State. Now a rookie starting cornerback with the Ravens, he finds himself in a similar situation entering Sunday’s game against the winless Cleveland Browns. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

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Ravens without Humphrey, T. Young for Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 12 December 2018 by Luke Jones

While fully healthy at the quarterback position for the first time since early November, the Ravens are dealing with several injury concerns in the secondary ahead of their Week 15 meeting with Tampa Bay.

Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey (groin) and Tavon Young (groin) and safeties Tony Jefferson (ankle) and Anthony Levine (ankle) all missed practice on Wednesday as Baltimore prepares for an offense ranking first in the NFL in passing yards per game. Humphrey and Young both exited last Sunday’s loss at Kansas City with lingering groin injuries while Jefferson is trying to avoid missing his third straight contest.

“He’s close,” said head coach John Harbaugh of Jefferson’s status. “He tells me he’s going to play, and [the training staff] says we need to see him run full speed, so we’ll be looking for that this week. He told me he was going to play last week. He told me he was going to play the week before that, so that’s Tony. But I have my fingers crossed.”

Offensive lineman Alex Lewis (shoulder) returned to practice after missing last week’s game, but it remains to be seen whether he or veteran James Hurst will receive the starting nod at left guard. Hurst returned to action after a six-game absence to start in place of Lewis against the Chiefs. Harbaugh confirmed rookie Orlando Brown would remain the starting right tackle, the position Hurst held over the first six games of the season before being sidelined with a back injury.

Quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (ankle) and Joe Flacco (hip) were full participants in practice after Harbaugh announced Jackson will remain Baltimore’s starter moving forward. Jackson confirmed his ankle was “100 percent” after exiting late in the overtime loss to the Chiefs.

The Buccaneers were without veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson (thumb) and starting safety Justin Evans (toe) for Wednesday’s workout. Both have missed recent games with their respective injuries.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), S Tony Jefferson (ankle), DB Anthony Levine (ankle), S Eric Weddle (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury), CB Tavon Young (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Alex Lewis (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Joe Flacco (right hip), QB Lamar Jackson (ankle), LB Tim Williams (ankle)

TAMPA BAY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Justin Evans (toe), WR DeSean Jackson (thumb), S Isaiah Johnson (concussion)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Carlton Davis (knee), OT Demar Dotson (knee), DT Gerald McCoy (shoulder), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee/hip)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 27-24 loss at Kansas City

Posted on 11 December 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens having their three-game winning streak snapped in a 27-24 loss to Kansas City, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Depending on your perspective, an overtime defeat to the AFC’s best team can be viewed as a moral victory or the “same old Ravens” with a highly-ranked defense wilting late, but it’s tough not to lament a missed opportunity with Pittsburgh losing and other wild-card contenders winning.

2. After the defense did an impressive job against Patrick Mahomes for much of the game, his fourth-and-9 wizardry was more a greater of him being the best player on the field than a colossal collapse from the Ravens like last year against Cincinnati. Sometimes you just have to accept that.

3. Playing in one of the most difficult road environments in the NFL, Lamar Jackson showed poise and ranked fifth in ESPN’s total QBR metric for Week 14. A limited passing game remains a concern, but the rookie made some key throws, none bigger than his go-ahead touchdown to John Brown.

4. Matt Judon was the best Raven on the field as he registered a sack, five quarterback hits, and 10 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. His second-half surge has been critical for both the present and future with Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith scheduled to become free agents.

5. Between Marlon Humphrey being late lining up over Tyreek Hill and Eric Weddle failing to tackle Hill to prevent the first down, I found Kansas City’s third-and-19 conversion late in the first half to be a bigger gaffe than the aforementioned fourth down. It led to a Chiefs touchdown, too.

6. It’s difficult to predict how much change this roster might endure this offseason, but improving at the safety position figures to be fairly high on the priority list. It wasn’t a stellar day for Weddle or Chuck Clark, who at least recorded Baltimore’s first interception in over two months.

7. Kenneth Dixon was as impressive running the ball as he’s looked since his rookie season, rushing for a touchdown and 59 yards on just eight carries. You just keep your fingers crossed that he’ll stay healthy now.

8. Perhaps Jackson’s most impressive play of the game was his scramble drill resulting in a dump-off to Dixon for a 21-yard reception on a first-and-20 situation early in the second half. That play would have been a sack or incompletion for all but maybe a couple quarterbacks in the league.

9. Remember how mediocre the special teams were in the first half of the season? The Ravens now rank fifth in Football Outsiders’ latest season ratings. Cyrus Jones’ return ability has played a big role in that, but the rest of the group has tightened up as well.

10. The Ravens didn’t attempt a pass on first down until the first play of the second half and did it just five times total. Why’s that unusual? One of the biggest cries from the analytics community is to pass more frequently on first down. Again, zigging while everyone else zags.

11. Suggs played a season-high 70 snaps and registered a half-sack, another quarterback hit, and a pass breakup. The 36-year-old has played well of late, but that workload has to be concerning. Meanwhile, Tyus Bowser saw only 14 snaps and Tim Williams was essentially a healthy scratch.

12. Many hoped Jackson playing quarterback might jump-start fellow first-round pick Hayden Hurst, but the rookie tight end failed to register a catch for the second straight week. This shouldn’t be shocking given his early-season foot injury and the recent history of rookie tight ends, but it’s no less disappointing.

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Ravens secondary continues to be banged up entering Week 15

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With another pass-heavy opponent on the schedule for Week 15, the Ravens continue to deal with health concerns in the secondary.

Not only did safety Tony Jefferson miss his second straight game with an ankle injury, but cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young sat out extended stretches of Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss at Kansas City. Humphrey and Young both missed practice time with groin injuries this past week and were limited to just 44 and 24 snaps, respectively, of Baltimore’s 86 total in Week 14.

Humphrey’s status is of particular concern as the Ravens now prepare to face a Tampa Bay offense ranking first in the NFL in passing yards per game (331.4) and third in yards per passing attempt (8.7). Baltimore is 0-3 in games in which the 2017 first-round pick has missed extensive time or sat out completely this season.

“It’s annoying. It takes a while for it to go away completely,” said head coach John Harbaugh of Humphrey’s injury. “Sometimes you can re-tweak it a little bit too. It’s probably something he’s going to be feeling for a while. It’s just the way groins are.”

With Humphrey and Young not taking their normal share of snaps against the Chiefs, Jimmy Smith played a season-high 84 snaps and Brandon Carr saw 68, his highest single-game total since Week 7.

Since sitting out the Week 12 win over Oakland, Young has played a total of 42 snaps over the last two games with Carr seeing more opportunities in the slot. Clearly not 100 percent against the Chiefs’ explosive offense, Humphrey played only a few snaps in the second half on Sunday as rookie fourth-round cornerback Anthony Averett saw 39 snaps, which more than doubled his season total.

Despite missing five games with a hamstring injury early in the season, Averett has impressed with his solid play in limited opportunities, helping give Baltimore its deepest secondary in recent years. He finished with two tackles against the Chiefs.

“Every round he’s gone out there, he’s done a good job,” Harbaugh said. “He only gets better. It just makes our corner situation even better than it was before. I was really pleased with how he played. It helped Marlon too as far as the long-term health for him.”

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Ravens-Chiefs: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 09 December 2018 by Luke Jones

Despite initial reports to the contrary, Joe Flacco is inactive for the fourth straight week as the Ravens attempt to upset Kansas City on Sunday.

After registering his first full practice since early November on Friday, the veteran was considered to serve as the backup quarterback before the Ravens ultimately activated Robert Griffin III again. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson will make his fourth straight start after leading the Ravens to three straight wins to move into the No. 6 spot in the AFC. Flacco was listed as questionable on the final injury report after making substantial progress this week in his return from a right hip injury.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is active and will play despite missing practice time this week with a groin injury. His presence will be critical as Baltimore attempts to slow Kansas City’s top-ranked scoring offense. As expected, safety Tony Jefferson (ankle) will miss his second straight game, meaning Chuck Clark will once again start in his place.

Offensive lineman James Hurst is active for the first time since Week 6, making his return from a back injury that sidelined him for the last six games. With Alex Lewis out with a lingering shoulder issue after missing practices all week, Hurst or rookie Bradley Bozeman will start at left guard with rookie Orlando Brown Jr. continuing to man the right tackle spot.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams (ankle) was deactivated for the fifth straight game.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report, Chiefs safety Eric Berry (heel) will need to wait another week to make his 2018 season debut. Berry and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) were officially deactivated on Sunday morning. Newly-signed wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is also inactive.

The referee for Sunday’s game is Tony Corrente.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Kansas City calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the mid-30s with light and variable winds and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with purple pants while the Chiefs don red jerseys with white pants for Week 14.

Sunday marks the eighth all-time regular-season meeting between these teams with Kansas City holding the 4-3 advantage. However, Baltimore is undefeated in three trips to Arrowhead Stadium, which includes a 2010 wild-card playoff victory.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Joe Flacco
WR Jordan Lasley
OLB Tim Williams
S Tony Jefferson
G Alex Lewis
DL/FB Patrick Ricard
DL Zach Sieler

KANSAS CITY
S Eric Berry
OL Kahlil McKenzie
WR Kelvin Benjamin
WR Sammy Watkins
RB Charcandrick West
OL Jimmy Murray
TE Deon Yelder

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 08 December 2018 by Luke Jones

The irresistible force meets the immovable object — or something like that.

The Ravens continue to fight the good fight in today’s offense-driven NFL and will test out their top-ranked defense in Kansas City. The 10-2 Chiefs own the league’s No. 1 scoring offense and rank fourth or better in total offense, passing offense, third-down offense, fourth-down offense, and red-zone offense.

After passing an important road test against Atlanta in impressive fashion last week, Baltimore will now see how its reliance on a revamped running game and stingy defense — a formula considered outdated by some — fares against the best team in the AFC. Sunday represents an opportunity for the Ravens to show they can be as dangerous as anyone in January.

It’s time to go on the record as these AFC teams meet for the eighth time in the all-time regular-season series. Kansas City holds a 4-3 advantage, but the Ravens have won both regular-season games at Arrowhead Stadium as well as a 2010 wild-card playoff game on the road. The Chiefs won the most recent meeting between these teams in 2015, a 34-14 final in Baltimore.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens defense will intercept its first pass since early October, but pressure in the pocket will be rare. Yes, it’s been more than two months since Tavon Young intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass in the first quarter of the Week 5 loss in Cleveland. However, Patrick Mahomes is facing a disguise-heavy Baltimore defense for the first time in his career and has thrown 10 interceptions, proving he can occasionally be erratic despite his outstanding body of work. The problem will be getting to the young quarterback against an offensive line that’s surrendered only 20 sacks this season.

2. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will catch two touchdowns. Questions about Marlon Humphrey’s health complicate this topic as I believe a full-strength Ravens secondary would be wise to use Jimmy Smith or Humphrey to cover Kelce since he lines up plenty as a slot receiver. Baltimore has given up just 31 pass plays of 20 or more yards and two passes of 40 or more yards all season, so Wink Martindale will do everything he can to prevent the speedy Tyreek Hill from wrecking the game. That will leave the Ravens vulnerable underneath, however, with Kelce doing much of the damage.

3. Mark Andrews will continue to show chemistry with Lamar Jackson by catching a touchdown. The rookie tight end’s five catches for 140 yards over the last three games are nothing special at first glance, but that production has come on five targets, meaning Marty Mornhinweg and Jackson would be wise to utilize this connection more frequently. The Chiefs are vulnerable over the middle and have struggled to cover tight ends even more than Baltimore has this season, which should allow the Ravens to find some success through the air in that portion of the field.

4. Jackson will crack 190 passing yards for the first time in his career with underwhelming results. The Ravens will run the ball effectively against another bad rush defense, but a strong ground game isn’t as valuable as a prolific passing attack, making it inevitable that Jackson will need to make plays with his arm, something he was rarely able to do in Atlanta. The Chiefs defense carries one of the NFL’s worst overall statistical profiles, but eight of its 11 interceptions and 21 of its 39 sacks have come in just five home games, which is bad news if Baltimore falls behind.

5. Red-zone efficiency will be the difference as the Chiefs pull away in a 31-16 final. A convincing road win over the Falcons offers hope that the revamped Ravens might be able to upset Kansas City, but Atlanta has been going nowhere fast for much of the season while the Chiefs are on the fast track to the No. 1 seed. Much has been made about a running game that’s rushed for over 700 yards the last three weeks, but the Ravens have netted just five offensive touchdowns in 17 drives reaching the opponent’s 30-yard line. Running the ball and controlling the clock to try to limit scoring opportunities for Mahomes and the Chiefs offense is a sound strategy, but that only works when you’re finishing those long drives with touchdowns, something the Ravens haven’t done consistently enough to like their chances in this one. I’ll take the No. 1 offense over the No. 1 defense every time in today’s NFL, but the Ravens will still battle for large stretches of this one.

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Flacco questionable for Kansas City game after logging full practice

Posted on 07 December 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was listed as questionable to play in Sunday’s game against Kansas City after logging his first full practice since early November.

Head coach John Harbaugh left open the possibility of Flacco being active and serving in a backup capacity against the Chiefs, but rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson is still expected to make his fourth consecutive start after leading Baltimore to three straight wins. Flacco had yet to be cleared for game action as of early Friday afternoon, but he moved around better in practices this week, which could leave the Ravens with an interesting decision for Week 15 and the remainder of the season.

The 11th-year starter has been sidelined since injuring his right hip in the Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 4, but the Ravens have reeled off three consecutive 200-yard rushing performances with the speedy Jackson at quarterback, leaving many to believe the rookie better fits their newfound identity. Flacco returned to practice on a limited basis prior to the Week 13 win in Atlanta.

“He threw. He handed off. I mean, really, what more do you want me to say?” said Harbaugh about Flacco’s progress. “He played quarterback. He looked good; he looked like he always looks. It didn’t look like there were any ill effects from the hip or anything like that. I think we did the right things. It looks to me like — [from] my amateur eye — it looks like it was the right thing and looks like it was the right thing to give him the rest. We’ll see what the docs say.”

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was also listed as questionable on the final injury report after returning to practice on a limited basis on Friday. Harbaugh said he expects Humphrey to play after a groin injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The 2017 first-round pick’s availability and effectiveness will be critical going up against the Chiefs’ third-ranked passing attack.

Offensive lineman James Hurst (back) is expected to make his return after a six-game absence. Hurst practiced fully on Friday and could be in line to start at left guard with Alex Lewis missing practices all week and being listed as questionable with a lingering shoulder injury. Baltimore’s right tackle through the first six weeks of the season, Hurst started primarily at left guard last season.

“He did well. I think he looks good, has a legit chance to go and play,” Harbaugh said. “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t ready. Barring a setback, he should be ready to go.”

Safety Tony Jefferson (ankle) was listed as doubtful and is expected to miss his second straight game after not practicing all week. Second-year safety Chuck Clark will start in his place.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs listed wide receiver Sammy Watkins as doubtful after he suffered a setback with the foot injury that’s kept him out of two of their last three games. Kansas City signed veteran wideout Kelvin Benjamin on Friday, but the former first-round pick is unlikely to be active on Sunday.

The Chiefs hope to welcome back five-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, who has yet to play this season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the 2017 opener and dealing with setbacks in his recovery. Berry practiced on a limited basis all week and was listed as questionable on the final injury report.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Kansas City calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the high 30s with winds light and variable.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: S Tony Jefferson (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Joe Flacco (right hip), CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), OT James Hurst (back), DB Anthony Levine (ankle), G Alex Lewis (shoulder), LB Tim Williams (ankle), CB Tavon Young (groin)

KANSAS CITY
DOUBTFUL: WR Sammy Watkins (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: S Eric Berry (heel), TE Demetrius Harris (knee/illness)

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Humphrey misses practice as Ravens brace for Kansas City offense

Posted on 05 December 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing to play the highest-scoring offense in the NFL is challenging enough, but the Ravens did so without top cornerback Marlon Humphrey on Wednesday.

The 2017 first-round pick was absent from practice with what was listed as a groin issue on the official injury report. Humphrey played 48 of 53 defensive snaps in Sunday’s 26-16 win over Atlanta, but he appeared to pull up gingerly on the failed 2-point conversion try with under five minutes remaining, which was Atlanta’s final offensive play of the game.

Since returning from a thigh injury that cost him two games in late October, Humphrey has emerged as one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL, ranking 10th at his position in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. He finished with two pass breakups in a defensive effort that limited Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to a paltry 131 passing yards in Week 13.

Marlon just works hard. He’s talented,” head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday. “He’s a very serious guy as you all know, and he takes his technique very seriously. He chases perfection in everything that he does. He works at it, and he wants to be good.”

Humphrey’s potential absence would spell trouble in the effort to slow Kansas City’s third-ranked passing attack. The 22-year-old missed the New Orleans and Carolina games — both losses — in which the Ravens surrendered a total of 60 points, their worst two-game stretch of the season.

Sunday will mark the second time this season in which the Ravens enter a week as the top scoring defense going up against the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense.

“When we played New Orleans, it was the same type of thing, and we kick ourselves in the butt about that game still,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith about the 24-23 defeat in Week 7 that started a three-game losing streak. “I think [we’re] just going for it. It’s December; it’s playoffs. When you go against a team like this, it’s a real test to see if you can beat them in the playoffs. They’re looking like they’re a team that’s going to go, so it’s going to be that type of challenge.”

Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco (right hip) was back at practice after missing his third straight game and was once again a limited participant like he was last Thursday and Friday. Harbaugh reiterated the 33-year-old’s activity level would be ramped up from last week, but it appears likely that rookie Lamar Jackson will make his fourth consecutive start on Sunday against the Chiefs as Flacco had yet to be cleared for game action at the start of the week.

Safety Tony Jefferson (ankle), left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder), slot cornerback Tavon Young (groin), and defensive back Anthony Levine (ankle) also missed Wednesday’s practice for injury-related reasons. The latter three played against the Falcons despite dealing with their respective ailments, but Jefferson appears in danger of missing his second straight game, which would mean another start for second-year safety Chuck Clark.

As he did all last week, veteran offensive lineman James Hurst (back) practiced on a limited basis and remains hopeful of making his return after a six-game absence. His return coupled with Lewis’ ongoing physical challenges would leave offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris with the option of shifting Hurst to left guard, the position he played last season. Rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. has started the last six games at right tackle.

The Chiefs continue to deal with the on-field and off-field fallout of Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt’s release late last week, but every member of their current 53-man roster was practicing, which included five-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry (heel) and starting wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot). Berry is aiming to make his season debut while Watkins has missed two of Kansas City’s last three games — with a bye week included in that stretch — because of a foot injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Crabtree (non-injury), CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), S Tony Jefferson (ankle), G Alex Lewis (shoulder), DB Anthony Levine (ankle), S Eric Weddle (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury), CB Tavon Young (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: QB Joe Flacco (right hip), OT James Hurst (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Tim Williams (ankle)

KANSAS CITY
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Eric Berry (heel), WR Sammy Watkins (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Demetrius Harris (knee), LB Anthony Hitchens (quadriceps/rib)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 26-16 win over Atlanta

Posted on 04 December 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving their playoff hopes by way of a 26-16 win over Atlanta, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. We’d be talking differently if the defense had been even average in the first half when time of possession was balanced and the offense bumbled more than rumbled. If Atlanta scores to go up 17-7 after taking over at midfield with 3:05 left, how does the second half change?

2. The sum is greater than the parts for a defense continuing to rank first in points allowed and total yards. No individual really stands out as being all that deserving of making the Pro Bowl, but this group was terrific against the Falcons.

3. Marlon Humphrey would top my list of defensive players to at least consider as he currently ranks as the 10th-best cornerback in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. His strong play on Sunday continued a surge that began after he returned from his October thigh injury.

4. Rewatching the game honestly made me feel worse about how Lamar Jackson played in his first road start, but the difference between him and other quarterbacks is what he’ll always provide with his legs if healthy. Traditional passers have bad games, but what else are they contributing when they do?

5. Matt Ryan had thrown for 250 yards in every game this season and Julio Jones had registered six straight 100-yard receiving days before being smothered by Baltimore. Ryan had only 54 passing yards in the second half while Jones didn’t have a catch after the game’s first drive. Crazy.

6. Jackon’s fumble returned 74 yards for a touchdown by Vic Beasley was cringe-worthy enough, but Kenneth Dixon didn’t earn any pats on the back for his effort to bring Beasley down. Dixon did finish with 37 rushing yards in only his second game of the last two seasons.

7. Between Michael Pierce destroying a double team on the fourth-and-1 stop in the second quarter and Brandon Williams pressuring Ryan on Tavon Young’s fumble return for a touchdown, the defense received excellent play from its two mountains in the middle.

8. The two-minute drill resulting in a field goal late in the first half wasn’t pretty and was even head-scratching toward the end, but it was good to see Jackson operate that scoring drive as fair questions persist about what this offense will do if required to go into catch-up mode.

9. With Austin Hooper’s late score, the Ravens have now allowed a touchdown catch to a tight end in five of the last six games. I’m sure Kansas City’s Travis Kelce will bring some restless nights for Wink Martindale this week.

10. Chris Moore finished with more offensive snaps than John Brown and Michael Crabtree while Buck Allen only played on special teams in Atlanta. This offense sure has changed quickly, hasn’t it?

11. Sam Koch being a career 5-for-5 passer for 69 yards is one of the cooler stat lines in team history. The 13th-year punter is a good athlete and doesn’t get enough credit for how good he’s been for a long time. He throws a pretty ball, too.

12. How often do you see a 14-play drive lasting more than eight minutes result in a not-exactly-a-gimme 45-yard field goal? As I wrote earlier this week, embrace the weirdness. Maybe that should be this team’s new hashtag the rest of the way.

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