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Ravens report card: Offense

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Ravens report card: Offense

It's time to hand out the report cards following the Ravens' 28-24 loss to Cincinnati. And nearing the one-quarter point of the season, the grades just don't seem to be improving. The report card:

QUARTERBACK: C

Joe Flacco put up decent numbers -- 32-of-49 for 362 yards and two touchdowns -- but they don't want him throwing 49 times. And his one interception was a terrible back-foot floater that Pacman Jones easily stepped in front of, setting up a Bengals touchdown. Flacco admitted that he never saw Jones before the throw. "Just bad vision," he said. In fairness to Flacco, he continues to be hamstrung by the lack of playmakers. There's only so much he can do when receivers can't get open. Plus, tight end Crockett Gillmore was sidelined by an apparent injury for much of the second half.

RUNNING BACKS: D-

The ineffectiveness of the Ravens run game remains one of the major disappointments of the season. With Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro and all five starting linemen expected back this year, this was supposed to be a strength. But the Ravens again were abysmal running the ball. Forsett carried 10 times for 13 yards and never gained more than 5. Taliaferro totaled 0 yards on three carries. Short-yardage running has been terrible. Rookie Buck Allen had a 9-yard run, the longest of the day. The Ravens totaled 1 yard on five second-half carries.

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OFFENSIVE LINE: C-

Protection for Flacco was decent and he wasn't sacked at all. But the Ravens couldn't handle Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap up front against the run, which is why the Ravens averaged 2.0 yards a carry. A face mask by Kelechi Osemele wiped out a fourth-down conversion on the Ravens final drive, and center Jeremy Zuttah was called for three penalties. James Hurst, starting in place of injured Eugene Monroe again at left tackle, received a grade of -11.2 from Pro Football Focus, the lowest grade given to any tackle this season.

TIGHT ENDS: C-

Crockett Gillmore had some of the few offensive highlights in the first half, with three catches for 40 yards. But he hardly played in the second half, and coach John Harbaugh offered no insight after the game, saying only, "You'll get an injury report later." That left Maxx Williams (3 catches, 44 yards) as the No. 1 tight end. Williams couldn't haul in the Ravens final pass play, just coming up short on a diving try. Rookie Nick Boyle also had a pair of catches and hurdled a tackler en route to a 13-yard gain.

WIDE RECEIVERS: B-

Once again, Steve Smith receives an 'A,' and the rest of the receivers earn something between a low grade and an 'incomplete.' Smith remains the Ravens lone playmaker, and he was remarkable again on Sunday, tying the franchise record with 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. His 50-yard, tackle-breaking touchdown on fourth-and-5 illustrated just how much effort he gives on every play. But once again, most of the receiver corps vanished for large stretches of the game, a recurring theme. No. 2 receiver Kamar Aiken had zero catches. Marlon Brown had a nice 21-yard catch to the sideline, but this group consistently fails to get separation. Flacco wants to take shots deep, as he did with Aiken at one point, but the receivers don't have the speed to outrun defenders.

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Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

Their record and performance over the last month may not show it, but the Baltimore Ravens are just one game out of the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1), Los Angeles Chargers (7-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), New England Patriots (7-3), Houston Texans (6-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and the Miami Dolphins (5-5) all rank above the Ravens. But a win Sunday against the Bengals would push the Ravens to the No. 6 spot as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans.

Beside remaining in playoff contention, a win Sunday is crucial considering head coach John Harbaugh's job is in question with his team sitting at 4-5, quarterback Joe Flacco is reportedly dealing with a hip injury and the possibility of rookie Lamar Jackson getting his first NFL start. 

After getting blown out 51-14 by the Saints, the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday. Cincinnati's defense ranks last in the league in passing yards allowed (313.3) and total yards allowed (454.6). A rested Ravens team will have to take advantage of the first team in the Super Bowl era to surrender 500 yards in three straight games as they are among five teams within one game of the final wildcard spot. 

Getting shutout by the Bengals this season would give Andy Dalton and co. a two-game lead over the Ravens as well as possessing the tiebreaker. 

According to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator, the Ravens have a 27% chance of making the playoffs heading into Week 11 with their remaining strength of schedule ranking at No. 27. 

After hosting the Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders (1-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6), but have tough road games against the Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (7-2). 

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III is the team's nominee for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. 

Presented annually by USAA and the NFL, the award honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. 

The Robert Griffin III Foundation supports Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), that helps aid those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military; Luke's Wings, which united wounded warriors, veterans and heroes with their loved ones; and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, that helps ensure injured veterans and their families are thriving when they return home. 

Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan where his parents were stationed as U.S. Army sergeants. The quarterback spent time living in Fort Carson, Colorado, Seoul, Korea and Fort Hood, Texas as a military kid. His family then settled in Cooperas Cove, Texas, an hour drive from Baylor University where Griffin III attended college. 

Finalist for the award will be announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors award show Saturday, Feb. 2, on the eve of Super Bowl LIII.

RGIII's head coach, John Harbaugh, received the honor in 2013. 

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