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A few predictions for Sunday

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A few predictions for Sunday

The Ravens and Steelers meet for the second time in just three weeks on Sunday. These two teams are so familiar with each other that there's little they can hide-- plus they've each played so many times. 

Still, each game is a little different due to the various issues that come with it. Both teams are really hurt by injuries, but Pittsburgh's suffering more coming into this contest it really needs to win. Here's a few informal predictions of what we might see from that game:

1. Charlie Batch might wish he was watching from his safe spot on the sidelines-- The Ravens will make life not very fun for the third-string quarterback at times in this game. Batch really had problems in last weekend's 20-14 loss in Cleveland where the Steelers had nine turnovers. If guys like Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger get going, he'll have a long afternoon. 

2. The Ravens' offense will do better this time around-- In the win at Pittsburgh two weeks ago, the Ravens couldn't accomplish much on offense, scoring just six points. Still, for whatever reason, they play better at home, and guys like Joe Flacco and Ray Rice should play a role in giving the offense more punch this time around. If that doesn't happen, it opens the door for the Steelers to stay close.  

3. The Ravens won't overlook the Steelers-- Just because there's no Big Ben and the Steelers have been really hurt by injury problems, the Ravens know this game won't be a piece of cake. Pittsburgh still has plenty of good players and injuries are a big reason for their recent troubles. The Steelers have a good team, and they'll be playing with intensity as this loss would end their chances of winning the AFC North this season. It's truly a do-or-die game for them. 

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Ravens GM Eric DeCosta gives scouting reports on two of NFL Draft's 'very best" inside linebackers

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta gives scouting reports on two of NFL Draft's 'very best" inside linebackers

Perhaps the Ravens’ biggest need is an off-ball linebacker. Fortunately for them, there are two standouts that are projected to go in the back half of the first round of this year’s draft. 

The biggest question mark, though, is whether Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma or Patrick Queen of LSU will be on the board when the Ravens pick at 28th. 

During a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta discussed both linebackers in detail.

"It really just depends what flavor you like, Murray or Queen," DeCosta said. "I think they're looked at side by side as probably two of the very best inside linebackers."

Queen and Murray, both of whom have been linked to the Ravens in the first round, are two different college linebackers. 

Queen was just a one-year starter in the SEC at LSU, but stood out from the pack and registered 85 tackles and three sacks in 15 games played. It was his only season as a starter. 

At the NFL Combine, the 6-foot, 229-pound linebacker ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225-pounds 18 times. 

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"Not as big as Murray, (but he’s) very explosive," DeCosta said. "LSU has put a number of really good defensive players in the league over the last four or five years. He's a guy that's sideline to sideline, he can play downhill, he's a very good cover linebacker. He kind of came on the scene this year, was not a household name before this year.”

Murray, on the other hand, was a three-year starter and has tremendous sideline-to-sideline speed. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound linebacker ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and bench pressed 21 times at the combine.

"Tremendous athlete, a cerebral guy, he's got really good length," DeCosta said. "He's been a really good defensive player on a team that really hasn't had a lot of really good defensive players lately. He’s a good prospect, he's a great student of the game, he's got great intangibles.”

Both linebackers represent the new era, of sorts, for linebackers in the NFL, as the traditional big and powerful linebackers of decades past are no more. Now, speed is at a premium to get on the field. 

While the Ravens’ front office added they could centralize their needs at linebacker and find a player with a specific skill of defending the run well, or defending the pass well, to play two downs, both Murray and Queen represent linebackers that can stay on the field for three downs.

“In a perfect world you'd like to have a bigger guy, but you're also looking for a bigger guy who can run,” DeCosta said. “Linebacker is a position where every single play is usually a contact play. The physical aspect, the durability aspect, of that position, guys that are consistently able to play, I think that’s a factor.” 

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Joe Flacco shows brotherly love, shares 'Virtual Pro Day' footage of younger brother Tom

Joe Flacco shows brotherly love, shares 'Virtual Pro Day' footage of younger brother Tom

Former Towson quarterback Tom Flacco is trying to get on the radar of NFL teams as the 2020 draft approaches.

Flacco's older brother, Joe, who is trying to get back to the league himself, after being waived by the Broncos, shared the younger Flacco's "Virtual Pro Day" on Twitter.

Tom threw for 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2019. While he would have preferred to invite teams to come to watch him workout ahead of the draft, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has limited the NFL's ability to scout to strictly virtual interviews. Small school standouts are likely to get limited attention.

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Ravens GM Eric DeCosta stated that the 25-year-old was on their radar Thursday during a conference call with reporters.

"He thrived this year," DeCosta said. "From a size standpoint, probably a little bit below the line, but he’s got a really good arm, he’s been an accurate passer — I think he completed about 60% of his passes this year. He can make most of the throws. He’s a guy that, in the late rounds, would it surprise me if he gets picked? Not at all."

DeCosta showed optimism that the younger Flacco would get his chance to play at the highest level.

"I think he’s smart, it won’t be too big for him. He’s mature, he’s 25-years-old, he’s been around the league because of his brother, he’s got experience. He’s got an advantage other guys maybe don’t have because he’s at least had a glimmer of what it’s like to be in the NFL. He’s going to prepare well and I think he’s got a shot.”

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