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Ravens-Browns preview

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Ravens-Browns preview

Ravens vs. Browns
at Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1 p.m. ET

The line: Ravens -4

Series: Ravens lead 20-7  

Last meeting: Ravens won 23-16 on Sept. 27 in Baltimore.

Last week: Ravens had a bye; Browns beat the San Diego Chargers at home 7-6.

Burning question: Will the hurry-up offense slow down and allow RB Ray Rice to finally get more touches?

Keys to victory on offense: The Ravens only average 15 ppg on the road, 17 fewer than they score at home. They plan on simplifying the play-calling to help with the crowd noise, which they attribute to their inconsistent play, and vary the pace. That means better ball control to extend drives and better protection of QB Joe Flacco, who was sacked four times in the first meeting. This offense is much more effective when playing with a cushion rather than from behind. The Ravens have scored only one TD in their last 10 quarters on the road. And they've failed to score a TD in the opening quarter since Week 2. For Flacco gets this offense back on track, those dry spells have to end.

Keys to victory on defense: It has allowed an average of 207 yards rushing in the last three games. But Browns RB Trent Richardson was held to 47 yards on 14 carries when these teams met during Week 4. Richardson, however, appears healthy and over a rib injury that had limited him in recent games. LB Terrell Suggs should be closer to top form since his Achilles injury, but the Ravens aren't totally healthy. DT Haloti Ngata won't be at full strength and DE Pernell McPhee is out. That'll mean Arthur Jones steps into McPhee's spot and Terrence Cody makes his way onto the defensive line for more snaps. They need to get pressure on rookie QB Brandon Weeden and not allow him to throw for 300-plus yards again and help a secondary that's missing CB Lardarius Webb (knee) for the season.

Injury list: RAVENS -- Out: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh); Questionable: DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), WR LaQuan Williams (ankle); Probable: WR Jacoby Jones (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (abs), CB Chykie Brown (ankle), TE Ed Dickson (hand), WR Tandon Doss (illness), LB Dannell Ellerbe (hand), S James Ihedigbo (hand), DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu (knee), OT Bryant McKinnie (thigh), OT Michael Oher (ankle), OT Kelechi Osemele (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder/chest), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle), DeAngelo Tyson (foot), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

BROWNS -- Out: DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), DL Brian Sanford (knee); Doubtful: DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf); Questionable: LB D'Qwell Jackson (foot/toe), WR Josh Cooper (thigh); Probable: DL John Hughes (arm), DL Juqua Parker (injury not listed), RB Trent Richardson (chest/rib), DB Ray Ventrone (hand/calf), DB T.J. Ward (hand/shoulder), DB Johnson Bademosi (hip), DB Tashaun Gipson (knee), OL Shawn Lauvao (groin), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), LS Christian Yount (shoulder), QB Brandon Weeden (groin/thigh), OL Jarrod Shaw (illness), DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/toe), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (chest/toe), LB James-Michael Johnson (knee/groin).

Prediction: Ravens 24-17.

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John Harbaugh has zero time for Ravens banter, media scrutiny

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USA TODAY Sports

John Harbaugh has zero time for Ravens banter, media scrutiny

On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens will play the most crucial game of their 2018 season when they host division rival Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 of the 2018 NFL Season.

Sitting at 4-5 and third in the AFC North, playoff contention and job security have filled the headlines of local media outlets. Mix in an injured quarterback to the equation, and suddenly this below .500 Ravens team has the attention of the nation.

The unwanted attention is something the Ravens have experienced before, having missed the playoffs each of the previous three seasons. However, the unwanted attention Baltimore is getting 11 weeks into the season is more potent than ever.

Head coach John Harbaugh isn't here for any of it.

"We’ll write the story of the Ravens’ 2018 season by how we play in the next seven weeks," Harbaugh said Monday via the team's website.

"That’s what our guys are juiced up for. All the other stuff is just fluff; it’s just noise; it’s just banter. It’s barroom talk. Turn on the TV, it’s two guys talking in the bar, supposedly – except it’s all choreographed, you know? ‘You take this side, I’ll take that side.’ It’s all B.S. We don’t care! We have to go play."

The Ravens enter this matchup with a fresh mentality and a fresh set of legs after spending Week 10 on their bye.

Three straight losses is enough to invade anyone's headspace after starting their season 3-1. But with seven games to play, Harbaugh is reminding his team they're in control of their own destiny. 

"I told the guys, ‘Have you watched the NFL? It’s week-to-week. This is how it goes. Crazy things happen.’ We’re right there. We’re in the hunt just like everybody else. We’re fighting."

Mathematically, the Ravens aren't out of the hunt yet. Despite their record, they are just one game out of the final wildcard spot in the AFC.

The 27% chance they have at the moment of making the playoffs is certainly nothing to write home about, but a win on Sunday makes January football look less far-fetched. 

"It will be determined over the course of the next seven games who is going to make the playoffs," Harbaugh said. "It won’t be determined by what’s gone before. It will be determined by what goes forward. If we want to be one of those teams, then we have to go earn it – make it happen. There are those who write history and those who make history. Well, you know what? If you have a chance to make history, then you write the history, too"

The head coach will be writing his own history over the next seven weeks as well. The reports that his job status is on the line after 11 seasons can be added to the laundry list of things Harbaugh's not worried about.

"Again, it’s just noise; it doesn’t matter; it means nothing. It’s not something that I’m going to think about or concern myself with. Neither are the players, neither is Steve [Bisciotti], neither is Kevin [Byrne], or Ozzie [Newsome] or anybody else. You know what we want to do as an organization? We want to win – that’s what we want to do. We want to win. We’re fighting as hard as we can – coaches, players – as an organization to win. That’s it. All the other stuff – who cares?”

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Joe Flacco's status for Sunday's game vs. Bengals 'up in the air'

Joe Flacco's status for Sunday's game vs. Bengals 'up in the air'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Carrying a three-game losing streak and a losing record, the Baltimore Ravens now face the burden of uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Joe Flacco is nursing a hip injury that could keep him out of Sunday's game against Cincinnati, an AFC North matchup that carries huge ramifications for the sagging Ravens.

With Baltimore coming off a bye, Flacco received an additional week of rest and treatment after sustaining the injury on Nov. 4 in the opening minutes of a 23-16 loss to Pittsburgh.

Flacco went the distance, completed 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards. His status this week, however, is unclear.

"He's getting treatment, just like all the guys are getting treatment, and we'll see," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "I'd say that we'll know more as the week goes on and I'm hopeful all our guys play, including Joe."

If Flacco can't play, rookie Lamar Jackson will likely get his first NFL start, although veteran Robert Griffin III is also an option. Griffin gets the nod in NFL experience, but he's been inactive in every game this season while Jackson has been used periodically because of his ability to run.

"It's up in the air. We're not worried about it," Harbaugh insisted. "We're blessed with a good quarterback room. It's a good thing, that's a positive thing. We've got three guys who can play. It's just like any other position in my mind. You go with the next guy and you roll."

The Ravens (4-5) reached their bye week with losses to New Orleans, Carolina and Pittsburgh. The skid ruined a decent start and left the team in recovery mode as it seeks to snap a run of three straight seasons without reaching the playoffs.

This is the 11th season that Harbaugh and Flacco have been together in Baltimore, and the coach would love to see his quarterback rally the Ravens into the postseason.

"Any direction we decide to go or we're forced to go, it will be based on the health of Joe. If Joe can play, he'll play," Harbaugh said. "He's rehabbing to play. Joe does not have to practice to play. He's practiced the whole season, he's practiced for 11 years. But he might practice. We just have to see how it goes."

The 33-year-old Flacco has played through many an injury throughout his career. He did so against the Steelers. His teammates feel that if he can walk, he will play.

"Joe is one of the toughest guys I've played with, maybe the toughest guy," guard Marshal Yanda said. "You never see him limping around, you never see him on the field showing any sign of weakness. He's just been a rock for us. I have nothing but respect for the guy."

Tackles Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back) did not play against the Steelers, but both are expected to return Sunday when the Ravens begin a stretch -- with or without Flacco -- that will define their season.

"We're in the hunt," Harbaugh said. "We'll write the story of the Ravens' 2018 season by how we play in the next seven weeks. That's what our guys are juiced up for. Get the Cincinnati Bengals in as fast as we can, and let's go play the game.

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