AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have turned the ball over five times the past two weeks, but you probably shouldn't bring that up to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

Kubiak
"You know it's interesting," Kubiak said. "It seems like sometimes, I told [head coach] John [Harbaugh] the other day, you talk about it so much and they don't go away. Sometimes you've got to maybe just not say anything."

In the past two games, the Ravens have watched quarterback Joe Flacco throw four interceptions and Jacoby Jones fumble a punt return. There are only two teams that have turned the ball over more: the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars (six turnovers each).

Overall, the Ravens have turned the ball over 12 times this season, which falls in the middle of the pack. Where the Ravens have excelled is the defense has not allowed teams to convert those mistakes into points. The Ravens have given up 23 points off turnovers, which is the eighth-fewest in the NFL.

When the Ravens win the turnover battle, they are 93-10 (.902) under Harbaugh.

"We've got too good of a football team. If we're protecting the ball, I think we're going to play really well," Kubiak said. "So, it's something that [quarterbacks coach] Rick [Dennison], Joe and I have to do a better job of because we've turned it over four times via the air the last two weeks. That's something we have to get fixed."

Flacco hasn't been intercepted by the Steelers since December 2012. It's a streak that has spanned 14 quarters and 112 pass attempts.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' injury list doesn't look as bad as it did one day earlier as four starters returned to practice on Thursday.

 Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), guard Marshal Yanda (knee), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (rest day) all were back on the field in preparation for Sunday night's game at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tight end Owen Daniels (knee) did not practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday, but the Ravens typically give Daniels a day off during the week.

The only players who missed practice the past two days were: cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot), linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh).

RAVENS INJURY REPORT

Did not practice: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (neck).

Limited participation: RB Justin Forsett (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (knee).

Full participation: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Haloti Ngata (shin), CB Lardarius Webb (not injury related).
Grading the Baltimore Ravens in their 27-24 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals:

Quarterback: Joe Flacco was off the entire game. He made bad decisions and lacked touch on his throws. As a result, Flacco completed a season-worst 50 percent of his throws (17 of 34). His struggles stood out on third downs in the second half, when he was 2 of 5 for 12 yards. Flacco missed an open Kamar Aiken deep downfield, and he was intercepted in the third quarter when he forced a throw (the other interception wasn't his fault). Still, Flacco made a great play to elude pressure and strong-arm a throw over 50 yards in the air that would've been the game winner if not for Steve Smith's pass interference penalty. Grade: D.

Taliaferro
Running backs: Justin Forsett had his worst game of the season. He wasn't as decisive hitting holes and didn't break a 20-yard run for the first time since Week 1, the last time he played the Bengals. His four yards per carry was his worst average this year. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro scored two touchdowns from 10 and eight yards. He is solidifying his role as a red zone weapon. Taliaferro also had a 29-yard catch. Bernard Pierce, who? Grade: C-plus.

Wide receivers/tight ends: The only receiver who got repeatedly open was slot receiver Michael Campanaro before he left in the middle of the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Steve Smith was held under 40 yards for just the second time this season. Torrey Smith didn't have a catch for the first time since the 2012 season finale. Aiken dropped a pass at the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal. With Owen Daniels out, rookie Crockett Gillmore had two catches for 23 yards. He made a bigger impact as a run blocker. Grade: D.

Monroe
Offensive line: At one point in the first half, it was difficult keeping track of who was injured and who was on the field. Left guard Kelechi Osemele and right guard Marshal Yanda both got dinged up, and left tackle Eugene Monroe took a series off in his first game back from a knee injury. It was a strong return for Monroe, who was the team's best pass protector, and Osmele, who was strong in run blocking. The line did allow six quarterback hurries, including two given up by center Jeremy Zuttah. Monroe's unsportsmanlike penalty after a fourth-quarter touchdown was uncharacteristic. Grade: C-plus.

Defensive line: Haloti Ngata was the best player on the field for the Ravens. He finished with a season-high eight tackles and changed the momentum of the game in the fourth quarter when he forced a fumble on a sack of Andy Dalton. Ngata also made a stop on third-and-goal with about a minute remaining. Backup Timmy Jernigan deserves more playing time after his strong effort against the run. It was the worst game of the season for nose tackle Brandon Williams. DeAngelo Tyson has struggled filling in for the injured Chris Canty. Grade: B-minus.

Linebackers: Inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley combined for 26 tackles and limited Bengals running backs to 70 yards on 26 carries (2.7-yard average). Smith recovered Ngata's forced fumble and was eight yards short of scoring a touchdown. Elvis Dumervil didn't get a sack but he drew two holding penalties from Andre Smith. Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee didn't get much pressure on Dalton, combining for one sack and three quarterback hurries. Grade: B.

Secondary: The defensive backs took turns giving up big plays. Rookie safety Terrence Brooks gave up the biggest play when he didn't get good position on a 53-yard pass in the fourth quarter (which converted a third-and-10). Cornerback Dominique Franks gave up a 21-yard catch on the opening drive, which converted a third-and-14. Cornerback Lardarius Webb allowed three receptions for 73 yards, an 18.3-yard average. Safety Matt Elam missed five tackles. The Ravens can't afford to lose Jimmy Smith (foot injury) for an extended period. Grade: D.

Special teams: Justin Tucker made all three field goals, including two from 50 yards or longer. The Ravens contained the Bengals' return game except for an Adam Jones' 34-yard kickoff return to the Cincinnati 40-yard line. Campanaro didn't do much in his first game as the punt returner. He had two returns of eight and nine yards. Jacoby Jones mishandled a kickoff return, but he was able to down it for a touchback. Grade: C-plus.
videoCINCINNATI -- Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals are now 4-2-1 and have a measure of momentum thanks in large part to quarterback Andy Dalton's 1-yard sneak into the end zone entering the game's final minute.

But they very easily could be 3-3-1 had it not been for a penalty that at least one Bengal considered "a great call."

With 32 seconds left on the game clock -- 25 seconds after Dalton fell forward for what would be the game-winning score -- Ravens receiver Steve Smith and Bengals safety George Iloka made contact near Cincinnati's sideline as a long pass from Joe Flacco closed in on Smith's hands.

After getting separation from Iloka, Smith jumped and caught the pass before sprinting away from desperate Bengals tackle attempts, and into the end zone. In lightning-quick fashion, he had just answered the Bengals' touchdown with one of his own. He propelled Baltimore forward with a go-ahead score that snatched the air out of Paul Brown Stadium. A mix of shock, fear, awe and anger started to fill the stands as fans let loose a chorus of boos.

They were interrupted.

There, sitting on the ground not far from Iloka was a late-thrown flag from the official closest to the play. He had seen why Smith was able to go up for the ball uncontested, even though Iloka was right there on him after dropping down from Cover 2 on Smith's vertical route.

"He had two hands on my chest. He knocked me off," Iloka said. "You can't do that. I was getting ready for a jump ball. I'm 6-3, about 220 [pounds]. I was like, 'There ain't no way he's going to out-jump me for the ball.' He knocked me off."

That's apparently what the referee saw as the smaller-in-stature Smith got free for the reception.

"Ultimately, you hope you don't allow plays like that to dictate the determination of a win or loss," Smith said. "So, it happens. I'm not disappointed, not upset, not frustrated, just exhausted and looking forward to the opportunity to play next week."

The Ravens go to Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

If Iloka were grading officials, it's safe to say he would be giving the one who threw the flag in question bonus points.

"You know how they do their grading sheets and grade the refs, they better give him a double-plus on that one," Iloka said. "That was a great call. It takes guts to make that call.

"You've got to jump straight up, is what we were told in the offseason. I can't prohibit the receiver from jumping for it and he can't prohibit me. That's what I felt, and that's what the ref felt, and he called it."

After the penalty, the Ravens were backed up to their own 10 on third-and-20. In four-down territory, they were unable to convert a first down on the next two plays and turned the ball over to the Bengals who had one kneel-down to preserve the 27-24 win.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- On the day the Baltimore Ravens announced that tight end Owen Daniels is out for Sunday's game, they essentially revealed that the starting left side of their offensive line will return.

Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele are both considered probable for the first-place battle at Cincinnati. They haven't been on the field together for the past four weeks.

Monroe and Osemele, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, had full participation in every practice this week.

Defensive end Chris Canty, who is out for Sunday's game, has been cleared "to start training heavily," coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a matter of how fast he can get back in shape." Canty will miss his fourth straight game.

As for the Cincinnati Bengals, wide receiver A.J. Green is doubtful with a toe injury. The rest of the injury report:

Out: TE Owen Daniels (knee, did not practice Friday), DE Chris Canty (wrist, did not practice Friday).

Probable: OT Eugene Monroe (knee, full participation), G Kelechi Osemele (knee, full participation).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The starting left side of the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line -- tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele -- fully participated in practice for a second straight day, another indication that they'll play in Sunday's game at Cincinnati.

Monroe and Osemele have started side by side since Week 3, and the Ravens have gone with rookies James Hurst and John Urschel in their absence.

"It's very important to get them back," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "They've had a good week. But we'll continue to get James and John ready to play. I think offensively right now, you guys can see it's almost like everybody gets a chance to contribute. So, I think we stay the course right there and hopefully Eugene and K.O. are ready for a full day's work."

Ravens injury report

Did not participate: DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (knee), LB Daryl Smith (not injury related), WR Steve Smith (not injury related).

Full participation: OT Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Owen Daniels missed his second straight practice on Thursday, and he had his left knee heavily wrapped in the locker room.

But offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak sounded like he had no doubts that the Ravens' second-leading receiver will be lining up Sunday at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Daniels
"Oh, he's fine. Owen's fine," Kubiak said after Thursday's practice. "John [Harbaugh] has got a plan for these veteran guys, and I know he's had a plan for O.D. and how he keeps him fresh and ready to go. But, as far as what we're doing game plan and those types of things, O.D. will be fine."

That's bad news for the Bengals, based on Daniels' track record against them. Since 2011 (including playoffs), Daniels has the fifth-most receiving yards (254) of any player in the NFL against the Bengals. He has averaged 5 1/2 catches in four meetings, as Bengals linebackers have had trouble covering him in the middle of the field.

Daniels has certainly come through for the Ravens in his first season, filling the void left after Dennis Pitta sustained a season-ending hip injury. Among NFL tight ends, he ranks in the top 10 in receptions (27, tied for eighth), touchdowns (three, tied for ninth) and targets (36, tied for ninth). He has as many touchdowns as New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

“He’s a big target, but the big thing is he’s very defined in where he’s going and what he’s doing," quarterback Joe Flacco said of Daniels. "You can see just by how he runs routes and pushes on people and gains the leverage and all that. He does a good job, and that’s why he gets open. Obviously, he’s caught the ball when he has gotten open. He’s been big for us, and he’s going to have to be big for us down the line.”
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A.J. Green didn't practice Wednesday, and there's a good chance that the Cincinnati Bengals star receiver will be listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. But, in the mind Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, there's not a question of whether Green will line up against the AFC North leaders.

Green
Webb
"He's playing," Webb said before the reporter could finish his question about Green. "It's a big game. He likes challenges. He's a great receiver. He's going to have to have a broken leg not to come on this field."

The status of Green will have a major impact on whether the Ravens retain first place or the Bengals complete a season sweep. Recent history says so.

No player has more receiving yards against the Ravens in the past five years than Green (465 yards). In the last three meetings, Green has caught 18 passes and averaged 114.3 yards.

Green has been the biggest big-play nuisance for the Ravens. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Ravens have given up nine passes of longer 50 yards and Green has caught three of them -- all of which went for touchdowns.

Each of those touchdowns have meant something:
  • On Nov. 11, 2013, his 51-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary sent the game into overtime.
  • On Dec. 29, 2013, his 53-yard touchdown against safety Matt Elam put the Bengals up 7-6 in the first quarter.
  • On Sept. 7, 2013, his 77-yard touchdown against cornerback Chykie Brown put the Bengals ahead for good in the fourth quarter and came 48 seconds after the Ravens took the lead.

How much of an impact does Green make on the Bengals' offense? In four games with Green, quarterback Andy Dalton has a 100.3 passer rating. In two games without him, Dalton's passer rating is 75.6.

Webb said he would rank Green among the top three wide receivers in the game.

"He can catch no matter where the ball is at," Webb said. "He runs great routes. He understands the game. He's a competitor, [and] that's No. 1."
BALTIMORE -- Here are three predictions that I guarantee (well, feel very strongly) will happen Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) play host to the Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at M&T Bank Stadium.

Flacco
 1. Joe Flacco will lead the winning drive in the fourth quarter. This is more of a gut feeling because the game has the makings of being a trap one. The Ravens are coming off a blowout win in Tampa Bay, and they have a big game at the first-place Cincinnati Bengals the following week. The Falcons come to town on a three-game losing streak. That's why this game will be closer than what many think. Matt Ryan led the last-minute drive against the Ravens in the last meeting. Flacco repays the favor here with his first fourth-quarter comeback at home this season.

2. Lardarius Webb gets his first interception of the season. Jimmy Smith got his first pick last Sunday, and Webb will get his chance to do the same against the Falcons. Ryan has thrown four interceptions to the right side of the field this season, which is tied for the fifth-most in the league. That's a favorable stat for Webb, who defends that side. Also, unlike Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon last week, Ryan is smart enough not to test Smith. Most of Ryan's passes will be directed at Webb and the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback (presumably Dominique Franks). Webb hasn't had an interception since last season's finale in Cincinnati.

3. Bernard Pierce scores a couple of touchdowns. The Falcons have given up a league-worst 12 rushing touchdowns this season. How bad is that? No other team has allowed more than seven. In fact, the Falcons have given up 11 rushing touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. When the Ravens get that close to the end zone, they typically turn to Pierce. While Pierce hasn't been a big part of the Ravens' offense recently, he still tops the team with six carries from inside the 10-yard line. He has more size than Justin Forsett, which likely plays into the Ravens' strategy here.

How did my predictions fare last week?

Prediction: Flacco will throw multiple touchdown passes. Result: Couldn't have been more right on this one. Flacco threw five touchdowns ... in the first 16 minutes, 3 seconds.

Prediction: Jimmy Smith will get the Ravens secondary's first interception of the season. Result: Right again. Smith picked off Glennon's pass on the Buccaneers' opening series.

Prediction: Torrey Smith will have his best game of the season. Result: Smith scored touchdowns on the first two series and finished with a season-high four catches.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After Joe Flacco set another record, it was inevitable that the Baltimore Ravens quarterback would be asked about whether he's "elite."

Flacco
 Sure, it's a tired debate that doesn't have a right answer. Whether Flacco is among the upper echelon of passers in this league really depends on your definition.

Flacco said he doesn't know whether he has filled the requisites for being an elite quarterback.

"There’s always some kind of question out there that tends to be the trendy one that everybody is asking this year or that year," Flacco said. "I think some of it has to do with how many years you’ve been in the league. Are you a young guy that’s almost there? There are a lot of different scenarios that allow people to ask that question or tell people not to ask that question."

Flacco added, "A lot of people the last few years were talking. … That’s just the word they used: ‘Elite, elite, elite.’ Who knows where it came from, but that’s just what it was. So, I think a lot of that has kind of quieted down a little bit, and we’ve gone out and won, and we’ve won consistently."

If you didn't put Flacco's name to this résumé, would you consider this body of work to be elite?
  • Most wins (75), including playoffs, by an NFL starting quarterback since 2008
  • Most wins (62) by a quarterback in the first six seasons of a career
  • Only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons
  • Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after posting second-highest passer rating in Super Bowl (124.2)
  • Second quarterback in NFL postseason history to throw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions (Joe Montana was the other)
  • Most starts by a quarterback (115) to begin a career in NFL history
  • One of two quarterbacks to pass for at least 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing 12 interceptions or fewer from 2009 to 2012 (Aaron Rodgers was the other)

Last Sunday, Flacco added another impressive mark by becoming the fastest player in NFL history to pass for five touchdowns. He did so in 16 minutes, 3 seconds.

Many in the organization think Flacco doesn't get the respect he deserves. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said this week that it was good for "the football world to see what Joe [is] capable of in that way. He’s that kind of a player."

But is Flacco elite? You can certainly make that argument.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Jimmy Smith has developed into the best cornerback on the Baltimore Ravens and one of the top ones in the NFL. He is also emerging as a leader.

That became evident on Friday afternoon, when Smith stood in the middle of the final huddle of the day and spoke to the team. He touched on the value of time and how you want to look back on your career and be proud of it when it's all finished.

Smith

"Like all guys, he's grown up and continues to do that," Smith said. "He's taken a big role. He's a top player on our defense. I've said it many times: I think he's one of the best players in the league. And he carries himself that way."

Smith has taken a different route than many of the Ravens' first-round picks. He didn't start right away, as previous top picks like Joe Flacco or Michael Oher did. He didn't go to multiple Pro Bowls before the age of 26, as Haloti Ngata or Terrell Suggs did.

Dealing with injuries and inconsistency, Smith didn't become a full-time starter in the NFL until last season, his third year in the NFL.

Once he established himself in the Ravens defense, he quickly built a reputation for slowing down some of the top receivers in the NFL: Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin and Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson.

"I think he's really learned how to take care of himself and study," Harbaugh said. "He talked about that as far as knowing what to do and studying your opponent. [He's] taking care of himself physically; I think he's done a great job of that. He had injury issues early on and I think he's learned how to take care of himself. He's done a great job with that."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are expected to start two rookies on the left side of their offensive line for the second straight game when they play the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, are listed as doubtful on the Ravens' injury report after not practicing Friday. That likely means undrafted rookie tackle James Hurst and rookie fifth-round guard John Urschel will start Sunday.

One starter who won't be playing is defensive end Chris Canty, who has been declared out with an infection in his wrist. DeAngelo Tyson will start his third straight game in place of Canty.

Rookie second-round pick Timmy Jernigan (knee) is probable after missing the past four games.

Injury report

Out: DE Chris Canty (wrist, did not participate Friday), DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle, did not participate Friday).

Doubtful: OT Eugene Monroe (knee, did not participate Friday), G Kelechi Osemele (knee, did not participate Friday).

Probable: LB Daryl Smith (not injury related, full participation Friday), TE Owen Daniels (not injury related, full participation Friday), WR Marlon Brown (pelvis, full participation Friday), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee, full participation Friday), WR Kamar Aiken (concussion, full participation Friday).

When the Atlanta Falcons play at the Baltimore Ravens, it will mark only the second time that the two most accomplished Class of 2008 quarterbacks go head-to-head.

The Ravens' Joe Flacco has a Super Bowl ring and the most victories of any quarterback (75) since he entered the NFL. The Falcons' Matt Ryan has passed for over 4,000 yards and thrown at least 26 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons.

In their only meeting four years ago, Flacco put the Ravens ahead 21-20 with 1:05 remaining in Atlanta, only to watch Ryan throw a winning 33-yard touchdown to Roddy White with 20 seconds left.

Now, it's a matchup of two teams going in opposite directions. The Ravens (4-2) have won four of their last five games, while the Falcons (2-4) have lost three in a row.

ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure and Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley discuss a few key elements of Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game.

Hensley: With the main storyline being Ryan versus Flacco, let's take a closer look at the quarterbacks. How would you assess Ryan's season? In what areas has he stepped up? And what have been his shortcomings?

McClure: I think Ryan got off to a tremendous start in a season-opening overtime win against New Orleans, when he passed for 448 yards and threw three touchdowns without an interception. Then he set team single-game records for completion percentage (87.5) and passer rating (155.9) in a 56-14 blowout of Tampa Bay in Week 3. He showed mobility a lot of folks had never seen from him before, so most figured he was in for a career season. But the negative has been his play on the road. In three road losses, he has six of his seven interceptions and has yet to post a passer rating above 87.2. Not even Ryan himself can pinpoint his road woes, but he has to overcome them, with the next four games away from the Georgia Dome.

Many folks thought at the start of the season, when Ryan diced up the Saints, he had joined the truly elite quarterbacks. But even Ryan would say a Super Bowl is an important part of the equation. How does Flacco respond to the whole elite topic and has he taken his game to another level?

Hensley: Flacco's stance is every quarterback should think he's the best or he shouldn't be playing in this league. He showed the ability to play at an elite level in 2012, when he led the Ravens on that magical Super Bowl run. The biggest knock on Flacco is his consistency. He followed up an MVP performance by throwing the second-most interceptions in the NFL last season. His play is back on the upswing under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Flacco has produced the top two passer ratings of his career over the last three games. On Sunday, he became the fastest to throw five touchdowns, accomplishing the feat in 16 minutes, 3 seconds. Kubiak's emphasis on higher percentage throws and a quicker release has put Flacco on track for a career season.

Flacco and the Ravens haven't thrown the ball deep as often this season, but the Falcons have given up a lot of big plays in the passing game. Is this where the Falcons are the most vulnerable on defense?

McClure: They are vulnerable on defense everywhere, Jamison, as they yield a league-worst 6.22 yards per play. Yes, big pass plays have hurt the Falcons once again this season. In last week's loss to the Bears, they surrendered five explosive pass plays totaling 192 yards, including a 74-yarder. They gave up a 76-yard touchdown pass in a Week 2 loss at Cincinnati. In talking to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan on Tuesday, he said the blame has to be spread around and not just put on one person who happens to be the last one in coverage on that particular play. The biggest issue has been the Falcons' inability to generate pressure as they stand 28th in the league in sacks per pass play. It's putting even more pressure on an inexperienced secondary with three second-year players starting: Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and Kemal Ishmael. Jonathan Massaquoi showed some positive signs rushing the passer last week, so maybe he can help the Falcons at least generate a respectable amount of pressure moving forward.

The Falcons' defense is very familiar with one Ravens player, wide receiver Steve Smith, from his days in the NFC South. Has he surpassed expectations since joining the Ravens and to what would you attribute his resurgence? Do you expect him to have some explosive plays against a suspect Falcons' defense?

Hensley: The Ravens had a good feeling they were going to get this type of season out of Smith because they've seen it before. This is a team that watched tight end Shannon Sharpe, safety Rod Woodson and wide receiver Anquan Boldin have strong seasons after getting dumped by the teams that originally drafted them. But no one has had a bigger chip on his shoulder than Smith. He plays like he has something to prove with each catch. Where Smith has surpassed expectations is his ability to get deep. The Ravens envisioned Smith to come up big on third downs and clutch situations. But the fact he has caught the three longest touchdown passes of the season from Flacco -- 80, 61 and 56 -- shows he has something left in those legs. If the Falcons don't give safety help on Smith, the Ravens won't hesitate to go deep to him.

Besides Smith and Flacco, the other part of the Ravens' team that's heating up is their pass rush. The Ravens recorded five sacks and 15 quarterback hits last Sunday. What are the chances they get to Ryan consistently on Sunday?

McClure: I think they'll get some pressure on Ryan, but I also think the Falcons know they have to run the ball more and give the offense more balance because the up-tempo attack hasn't been as effective as expected. The Falcons have a running back foursome in Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and rookie Devonta Freeman. Smith is the home-run hitter with a team-high five total touchdowns and an average of 51 yards per scoring play. So, in my opinion, utilizing the four-headed running back tandem will only help alleviate some of the pressure from Ryan, although the Falcons still are at their best when the passing game -- particularly Ryan to Julio Jones -- is firing on all cylinders.

I read somewhere that Terrell Suggs believes he should have a lot more sacks. Now he'll be up against the Falcons team that just surrendered four sacks against the Bears. Not to mention starting left tackle Jake Matthews is battling through an ankle injury and not playing up to his full potential due to the injury. Will Suggs and company take full advantage and get after Ryan?

Hensley: That's going to be the biggest key to the game for the Ravens, because their secondary is struggling so much. When opposing quarterbacks are hit or under duress from the Ravens, they are 18 of 47 (38.3 percent) for 230 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. That passer rating of 27.8 is fifth-best in the NFL. When quarterbacks aren't pressured by the Ravens, they are 124 of 180 (68.9 percent) for 1,393 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. That 102.4 passer rating is 13th-worst in the league. That's why it's so critical for the Ravens to get in Ryan's face. They can't let him have time to pick apart this secondary.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' defense will see two familiar faces return to the practice field this week.

Cody
Hill
Free safety Will Hill (suspension) and nose tackle Terrence Cody (physically unable to perform list) will try to convince the Ravens they're ready to play Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons after an extended period of being sidelined.

Hill completed his six-game suspension, and the Ravens get a one-week exemption with Hill before having to make a roster move. The Ravens could use Hill, a former starter with the New York Giants, because Matt Elam and Darian Stewart are among the worst-rated coverage safeties in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

After playing in the preseason for the Ravens, Hill couldn't practice during his suspension, but he did attend meetings and work out at team headquarters. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the decision on whether to play Hill on Sunday will come down to where he's at physically.

"He's been in every meeting, so he should be caught up mentally," Harbaugh said. "Being out on the field is a different perspective. We'll just have to see how he looks in practice. You've got to mix it in with how he fits, what our personnel looks like. If he can help us and is the best fit on the 46[-man active roster], then he would be."

Cody, who had hip surgery this offseason, hasn't practiced since last season. The Ravens have a three-week window on whether to add Cody to the 53-man roster or keep him on PUP, which would end his season.

After re-signing with the Ravens in free agency, Cody would provide some experienced depth behind Brandon Williams. Injuries have hit the Ravens' defensive line all season. Two defensive ends -- Brent Urban (anterior cruciate ligament) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) -- are done for the season, and two others -- defensive end Chris Canty (infection in wrist) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) -- have missed games.

The Ravens are eager to see what he can do on the field after an impressive rehab.

"I've seen him do some things in there that we've never seen him do before from an athletic standpoint as far as him being healthy with his hips," Harbaugh said. "He's in great shape. People look at a 335-pound man and say 'How can he be in great shape?' Well, he is. His body fat is down around 20 percent, which is pretty darn good for a big man. He's ready to go. He's chomping at the bit."

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