The Baltimore Ravens continue their improbable playoff push when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens’ 28-13 victory against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium:
What it means: The Ravens (8-5) put themselves back in the playoff race by rallying from an early 10-0 deficit. The Ravens also moved within a half-game of the first-place Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) and into a second-place tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5). It required rebounding from a fourth-quarter collapse the week before and the suspension of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The victory improved the Ravens’ road record to 4-3, which doubles their win total away from home last season. The Ravens are now 4-0 in Miami under coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Redemption for Steve Smith: Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith has been dropping some big passes lately, no more critical than one in the end zone in the second quarter. On the next series, Smith caught a 1-yard touchdown from Flacco on third-and-goal with two seconds remaining in the first half.
Harbaugh rolls dice and wins: In the third quarter, Harbaugh made the overly aggressive decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 34-yard line. Flacco gained 2 yards on the quarterback sneak, and the Ravens were celebrating their first lead of the game, at 14-10, seven plays later on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kamar Aiken.
Dumervil sets Ravens’ sack record: Elvis Dumervil broke the Ravens’ single-season sack with 3.5 on Sunday. That gave him 16 on the season, which eclipses Peter Boulware’s 13-year-old mark. The Ravens recorded a season-high six sacks, and the defense allowed only a field goal in the final three quarters.
Game ball: Quarterback Joe Flacco. He keyed a 97-yard touchdown drive to end the first half and converted a fourth down with a quarterback sneak on the touchdown drive that put the Ravens ahead for good. His biggest moment came after throwing an interception in the end zone. Flacco began the momentum-changing 97-yard drive with a 15-yard run and was 7-of-9 for 63 yards as the Ravens got to within 10-7 at halftime. He then hit Kamar Aiken for a 13-yard touchdown pass to put the Ravens ahead. He finished 25-of-33 (season-high 76 percent) for 269 yards and two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
What’s next: The Ravens return home to play the last-place Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. The Jaguars are winless (0-6) on the road this season.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith wasn’t targeted for a pass because his right knee injury flared up before the game. Smith was listed as probable after hurting the knee a week ago, but his knee swelled up on him in pre-game warmups after the Ravens had made him active. “It didnâ€™t feel good from the get go. It was more so my pain tolerance,” Smith said. “It obviously was hurting when I was running. But when my coaches and my teammates watched, they were like, â€˜You donâ€™t look like youâ€™re running slow.â€™ When Iâ€™d be full speed, it was fine. But walking around and getting to the point was a problem. Basically, I kind of knew going in that I wasnâ€™t going to be able to play the whole game. But being able to go in and spell the guys for a little bit and help them get through the heat.”
A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 27-13 loss Sunday to the Houston Texans at EverBank Field.
What it means: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley always talks to his team about capturing every opportunity, which on Sunday meant trying to build on the come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants last week. For a while, it looked like the Jaguars were. They led 13-10 at the half and had moved the ball effectively against the Texans while keeping Arian Foster in check. But a disastrous third quarter, in which they were outgained 114-4 and gave up a 17-play drive, ensured they wouldn’t be able win their second game in a row. Quarterback Blake Bortles also threw a costly interception inside his own 35-yard line that the Texans turned into a touchdown two plays into the fourth quarter. This is not anything new for the Jaguars, who have struggled with consistency all season, but it was a performance all the more disappointing because of how well the team had played in the first half.
Stock watch: Veteran receiver Cecil Shorts is playing for a new contract this season but he hasn’t done much to convince the Jaguars that they should try and work out a deal before the season ends. He has had two impact games (10 catches for 103 yards against Tennessee and five catches for 119 yards against Dallas), but both came in losses and he hasn’t been able to make a difference otherwise. Against the Texans he caught two passes for 3 yards and had two drops, including one that would have resulted in a first down on their second possession of the second half. After struggling with a hamstring issue early in the season, he has been healthy and has played in eight consecutive games so that hasn’t been as much of a concern. But his lack of impact is. He’s a four-year veteran but is being outperformed by rookies Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.
High Wattage: The Jaguars had success limiting Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt in the first half, but they couldn’t completely shut him down. Watt finished with three sacks (although one came after he tapped Blake Bortles after he slipped on a scramble), had another tackle for loss and drew a holding penalty that stalled a fourth-quarter drive that started with pass plays of 35 and 16 yards. Watt did most of his damage lining up on the left side of the defensive formation, which meant he was matched up with right tackle Sam Young. Watt beat Young for one of the sacks and also got by him to tackle Denard Robinson for a 4-yard loss. The Jaguars trailed by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and were forced to send more players out in patterns, which resulted in undrafted free agent tight end Nic Jacobs having to block Watt one-on-one. That’s the play that drew the holding call.
Game ball: Lee continues to show improvement and on Sunday the rookie from USC caught five passes for 67 yards, including a 31-yarder in which he outfought cornerback A.J. Bouye for the ball. He has caught 14 passes in the last three games and is becoming a reliable target, something he wasn’t earlier in the season.
What’s next: The Jaguars play at Baltimore at 1 p.m. next Sunday.
Toby Gerhartâ€™s comment about low morale after Sundayâ€™s loss for the first time this season doesnâ€™t mean the Jacksonville Jaguars have issues inside their locker room.
Frustration, yes. A lot of it, which is to be expected on a 2-11 football team.
But several players said the locker room isnâ€™t tuning out coach Gus Bradley, and there isnâ€™t any bickering between the offense and defense.
“Thereâ€™s obviously frustration,” right tackle Sam Young said. “Weâ€™re all competitors. We want to win. But I donâ€™t think this team is one thatâ€™s going to … take it in the wrong way. Weâ€™re frustrated, but weâ€™re going to move on.”
Itâ€™s understandable why Gerhart said morale was down after the Houston Texans shut out the Jaguars in the second half and won 27-13 at EverBank Field. After holding Ryan Fitzpatrick to just 27 yards passing and leading 13-10 at the half, the Jaguars went out and gained just 73 yards (4 in the third quarter), managed only five first downs, crossed midfield only once, and gave up 17 points.
It was the ninth double-digit loss this season and the 19th of the Bradley/GM David Caldwell era.
“Itâ€™s not a good feeling when you lose, especially the way we lost,” defensive end Ryan Davis said. “Of course youâ€™re going to feel down for a second and whatnot, but eventually you have to learn from it and grow from it, and come in on a day like today and watch what you did and take an honest look at yourself, and ultimately get past it and look forward to another week of preparation.”
Young said that it would be easy to see if players had tuned out Bradleyâ€™s message of concentrating on getting better and not worrying about victories, but he hasnâ€™t seen any evidence of that.
“Coach does a great job of reinforcing the message, and the guys in the locker room do a great job of reinforcing it to each other as well,” Young said. “Weâ€™ve got a great group of guys, a really resilient group. I think whatâ€™s great is weâ€™re able to kind of separate whether itâ€™s when we lose … weâ€™re able to kind of objectively look at it and learn from it and move forward.”
The Jaguars have three games remaining — at Baltimore on Sunday, home against Tennessee on Dec. 18, and at Houston on Dec. 28 — and Davis said he believes the teamâ€™s attitude wonâ€™t change as the seasonâ€™s end draws closer.
“Weâ€™ve got guys in this locker room that believe in what weâ€™re doing,” he said. “Hopefully we can get this ship corrected and make a little more plays, and hopefully at the end of the games we can come out on top.”
The Baltimore Ravens have to be thinking about what’s the difference between having a terrible run of injuries at a position and just being cursed.
Their bad luck at cornerback continued as Danny Gorrer suffered a season-ending knee injury and Anthony Levine sustained a concussion in Sunday’s 28-13 win in Miami. It’s the one position where the Ravens could afford to have injuries, and it just happens to be the position where no one can stay healthy.
Of the seven cornerbacks who have been with the Ravens this season, five have missed time because of injuries: Jimmy Smith (ribs in the preseason and season-ending foot injury in October), Lardarius Webb (lower back), Asa Jackson (ankle in training camp and toe in regular season), Gorrer (knee) and Levine (concussion). The two corners who weren’t injured — Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown — were released last month because of their poor play on the field.
As a result, the Ravens have had six different starting cornerbacks in 13 games this season. There have been seven corners who have played at least 136 snaps. In comparison, the Ravens used only four corners all of last season.
When the Ravens play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, they’re expected to start Webb and Jackson at corner and use safety Matt Elam as the nickelback. In his first game since being activated off short-term injured reserve, Jackson gave up three catches for 36 yards, including a touchdown.
“You’d have to say you’re very pleased with how he played,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He was good and solid. He’d get a little over-reactive sometimes. He jumped a few things and got a little over anxious — he’d be the first to tell you that — but that’s a good thing, because he was moving around so well. He’ll slow himself down a little bit this next game, but he played well.”
The Baltimore Ravens added free-agent cornerback Antoine Cason to help their injury-filled secondary, according to Yahoo Sports.
Cason, 28, was the best available cornerback, but that isn’t saying much. He is the 105-rated cornerback by Pro Football Focus and allowed six touchdowns in 12 games this season.
The Ravens are obviously desperate at that position. Injuries to Danny Gorrer (season-ending knee) and Anthony Levine (concussion) depleted an already thin cornerback position. As I wrote this morning, the Ravens have already used seven cornerbacks this season.
Cason was released by the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 2. He started 11 games, intercepted two passes and forced four fumbles this season.
The Ravens didn’t have much of a choice to add Cason, given his experience. They now have four healthy corners on their roster: Lardarius Webb, Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin and Cason.
The 8-5 Ravens are 3-1 SU in their last four but remain outside the AFC Wild Card picture due to tiebreakers. Baltimore is 5-0 SU and ATS in their last five against teams with losing records, The OVER is 4-2 in the Ravens’ last six games but just 2-4 in Baltimore’s six home games this season.
The 2-11 Jaguars are riding a seven-game SU losing streak on the road, 1-5-1 ATS, and have scored an average of just 13.5 points per game on the road this season. The Jags are also 0-5 SU in their last five visits to Baltimore, 1-3-1 ATS, while the total has gone OVER in eight of their last 10 visits to Baltimore.
The Baltimore Ravens currently sport a record of 8-5, and have posted a corresponding betting slate of 8-5 ATS. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-11 and 3-9-1 ATS. Betting totals have seen the Baltimore Ravens post a 7-6 over under record this season, while the Jacksonville Jaguars have gone 7-6 against the number.
– How Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens Stats Matchup
The game also pits Baltimore’s No. 7-ranked offense, averaging 27.38 PPG, against a Jaguars defense that ranks No. 29 this week at 27.38 PPG. The Ravens aerial game is averaging 240.77 yards per game, less than the Jaguars secondary allows through the air, 244.38 YPG per game.
In comparing defenses, the Jacksonville Jaguars own the league’s No. 29-rated front 7 in terms of stopping the run, allowing 135.67 yards per game when on the road. Baltimore, on the other hand, rates No. 6 this week in generating rushing yards at home.
– Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens Betting Odds Trends
Jacksonville is 1-4-1 ATS in its last 6 games
Jacksonville is 2-14 SU in its last 16 games
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Jacksonville’s last 9 games
Jacksonville is 1-5-1 ATS in its last 7 games on the road
Baltimore is 8-4 ATS in its last 12 games
Baltimore is 8-4 SU in its last 12 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Baltimore’s last 6 games
Baltimore is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games at home
Bruised, but certainly not battered, the Baltimore Ravens are confident heading into the final three weeks of the season knowing they control their playoff fate.
The Ravens can build on a comeback victory by keeping the Jacksonville Jaguars winless on the road Sunday.
Baltimore (8-5) has the same record as Pittsburgh and San Diego in the race for the two AFC wild-card spots, but would lose out to those teams due to tiebreakers. However, the Ravens would earn a playoff spot if they go 3-0 against Jacksonville (2-11), Houston and Cleveland.
”We could sit here and say we wish we’d be another game or two better, and we could say we’re happy we’re not a game or two worse,” coach John Harbaugh said. ”We’re pleased with the fact that we’re in the hunt and control our own destiny. It’s just our job to make the most of it.”
The Ravens are in this position despite a strange season that began with the suspension and eventual release of running back Ray Rice. They’ve lost tight end Dennis Pitta and cornerback Jimmy Smith to injuries and won’t have defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for the rest of the regular season after he was suspended last Thursday for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“We’ve got a resilient bunch,” Harbaugh said. ”They’re mentally tough, they don’t get caught up in the noise, they don’t get easily distracted. We say turn neither to the left or the right, eyes straight ahead.”
Baltimore showed that resiliency last Sunday by overcoming a 10-0 deficit to win 28-13 over Miami. Joe Flacco threw two touchdowns, ran for one and engineered TD drives of 80 and 81 yards in the fourth quarter, helping the Ravens rebound from blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in the previous week’s 34-33 home loss to the Chargers.
“(The San Diego defeat) just took a lot out of us,” said receiver Steve Smith, who had seven catches for 70 yards and a TD against the Dolphins. ”But you can’t sit there and throw a party if you won, and you can’t throw a pity party if you lose. You just got to get back on the horse and just hold on.”
The Ravens continue to show the ability to handle just about any challenge that comes their way.
A knee injury limited receiver Torrey Smith to 15 snaps last week, and leaves his status for this week uncertain. Third-year pro Kamar Aiken could again see more time after recording nine receptions for 116 yards and a TD in the last two games.
Even without Ngata, Baltimore recorded a season-high six sacks against Miami. Elvis Dumervil had 3 1/2 to increase his season total to a franchise-record 16.
Jacksonville rookie Blake Bortles has been sacked 38 times, including 19 in the last four contests.
Flacco has completed 67.5 percent of his passes and posted a 101.3 rating while throwing eight TDs and two INTs in the last five games.
”We’ve got a team that’s playing pretty well right now and gaining some confidence,” he said.
Behind 71 yards on 13 carries from ex-Jaguar Justin Forsett, Baltimore rushed for 183 against the Dolphins. The Ravens have averaged 168.5 yards and 5.2 per carry while winning three of the last four.
Forsett’s string of three straight 100-yard games ended last week but he’s averaged 6.0 yards per carry and scored five TDs in the last four.
There’s a good chance Forsett can continue that success Sunday. His former team has allowed an average of 159.0 rushing yards in six games since losing star linebacker Paul Posluszny to a season-ending pectoral injury. The Jaguars yielded 110.3 in the seven games with him.
Their 15 plays of 20 or more rushing yards allowed are the most in the NFL.
”We’ve been a lot better in certain aspects of the run game, but we’ve given up some big numbers on certain plays,” linebacker J.T. Thomas said after the Jaguars allowed 173 on the ground, including a 51-yard run to Arian Foster, during last Sunday’s 27-13 home loss to Houston.
”I think everyone is doing everything in their power to make sure we get better in that aspect of the run game.”
The Jaguars have two more chances to avoid going winless on the road for the first time since 2003. They’ve dropped five straight at Baltimore, last playing there in 2008.
Jacksonville led 13-10 at halftime Sunday but managed 73 of its 262 total yards in the second half, including four in the third quarter.
”I can’t pinpoint a reason right now,” left tackle Luke Joeckel said. ”It needs to get fixed.”
The Jaguars have been shut out in the third quarter seven times, and their 32 points in that period are the second fewest in the NFL.
Baltimore has allowed three third-quarter points in the last five contests.
Bortles was intercepted for a league-high 16th time against the Texans.
*Keys to the game: The Jaguars have been competitive for stretches during most games this season but have struggled to put together four solid quarters, which has been especially true over the past three weeks. The inconsistency starts with rookie QB Blake Bortles, who has flashed at times but also struggles with his footwork and mechanics. He has a young supporting cast and lost RB Denard Robinson to a season-ending foot sprain, so it will be incumbent upon Bortles to make plays against the leagueâ€™s 31st-ranked pass defense.
Former Jaguars RB Justin Forsett will lead the Ravens attack against the leagueâ€™s 28th-ranked run defense, which allows 132.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.2 yards per carry. Baltimoreâ€™s biggest threat in this game is the turnover battle. As long as Forsett is setting up manageable third downs and the Ravens keep the chains moving, they can steadily wear down a Jaguars defense that spends far too much time on the field.
*Matchup to watch â€“ Jaguars RT Sam Young vs. Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil: Young was elevated to the starting lineup when Austin Pasztor was placed on IR. The fifth-year journeyman will have his hands full with Dumervil, who is tied for the NFL lead with 16 sacks.
*Player spotlight â€“ Jaguars RB Storm Johnson: The rookie has been inactive the past six games, but along with Jordan Todman is expected to share reps behind Toby Gerhart, who is battling an ankle injury.
*Fast facts: Jaguars WR Allen Hurns has set a franchise rookie record with six TD catches. â€¦ The Ravens start three former Jaguars â€“ Forsett, LB Daryl Smith and LT Eugene Monroe.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson will miss the rest of the season with a sprained foot, the team announced Wednesday.
Robinson was injured against the Houston Texans on Sunday. The converted college quarterback, in his second year out of Michigan, led the Jaguars with 582 rushing yards (4.3 average) and four touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 124 yards as he took the lead role from free-agent addition Toby Gerhart.
Gerhart, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March, will get a chance to prove his value in the final three games. Storm Johnson and Jordan Todman also could get more playing time.
The Jaguars wonâ€™t have defensive end Andre Branch (groin) or linebacker Khairi Fortt (hamstring). The Ravens listed aid receiver Torrey Smith (knee) as probable, although he sounded less than certain that heâ€™d be playing. Tight end Crockett Gillmore (back), tackle Jah Reid (hand) and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) are all questionable.