Browns-Ravens Preview

The Baltimore Ravens are in control of their destiny in the AFC
North and the race for a first-round bye. Maintaining that edge,
though, will likely be difficult if they turn in another lackluster
performance.

A matchup with the ailing Cleveland Browns on Saturday would
appear to give the Ravens a good chance to stay on track for the
division crown and the No. 2 seed, with Baltimore having dominated
the series of late.

The Ravens (10-4) have put themselves in control with a sweep of
division rival Pittsburgh and a victory over Houston on Oct. 16,
giving them a leg up on those 10-4 teams.

Baltimore, though, missed out last week on a chance to move
ahead of the Steelers and Texans, both of whom lost. With a playoff
berth already wrapped up, the Ravens were blown out 34-14 in San
Diego.

Pittsburgh fell 20-3 to San Francisco on Monday night, and
Houston was upset 28-13 at home by Carolina.

“It’s a gift, but we wish we didn’t have to get it that way,”
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We’ve just got to take care
of business.”

They won’t have top receiver Anquan Boldin as they attempt to do
so. Coach John Harbaugh said Boldin will miss the final two weeks
of the regular season after having knee surgery Thursday to deal
with slightly torn cartilage, though he should be able to return
for the playoffs.

”He’s going to have to get it repaired,” Harbaugh said. “It’s
two weeks and he’ll be back for the playoffs, whatever round we
happen to play in. It will be a little bit tighter if we have to
play in the first round.”

Boldin has 57 receptions for 887 yards and three touchdowns. The
Ravens would not reveal which knee is injured.

Baltimore, winner of nine in a row at home dating to last
December, appears to have a good chance to do that with Cleveland
(4-10) visiting M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens have won seven
straight over the Browns, tied for the longest win streak against
an opponent in team history. They’ve also won seven consecutive
games over the New York Jets.

Baltimore’s latest victory in the series came Dec. 4 as Ray Rice
ran for a career-high 204 yards in a 24-10 win. Ricky Williams
added 76 yards rushing as the Ravens piled up 290 on the
ground.

Cleveland has made adjustments as it looks to slow down Rice.
The Browns allowed 147 rushing yards in a 14-3 loss to Pittsburgh
on Dec. 8, but limited Arizona to 74 in a 20-17 overtime defeat
last week.

“The goal (is) to make sure we minimize his effect on the game,”
coach Pat Shurmur told the team’s website. “We’ve done some things
schematically to help us, and we just keep emphasizing that
everyone has to play better. I’ve seen that.”

At 3-4 on the road, winning this game might prove vital to
Baltimore’s chances of accomplishing its regular-season goals. The
Ravens close out their schedule at Cincinnati on Jan. 1.

“We’re playing two teams that know us very well, two division
foes, so it’s going to be interesting,” Suggs said. “We’ve got to
get back to doing what we do best, and that’s playing Ravens
football.”

Suggs, who has a career-high 13 sacks, chased down Colt McCoy
for one of those, but the Browns quarterback likely won’t play this
week. McCoy has been out since taking a hit to the head against
Pittsburgh earlier this month.

The controversy surrounding Cleveland’s failure to check McCoy
for a concussion has led the NFL to put certified trainer in every
press box. McCoy still had symptoms of a concussion Wednesday and
has yet to be cleared to return to the field.

“Like anybody that wants to play, he’s anxious to get back out
there,” Shurmur said. “But he understands there is a process that
you have to go through before he will be able to play again.”

With McCoy out, Seneca Wallace is expected to start again after
he threw for 226 yards and a touchdown versus the Cardinals. His
76-yard scoring pass to Greg Little gave the Browns a 17-7
third-quarter lead, but they couldn’t hold it and suffered a
season-high fourth consecutive defeat and sixth in a row on the
road.

Wallace’s one start against the Ravens came in the team’s most
recent trip to Baltimore on Sept. 26, 2010. He threw for 141 yards
and a TD in a 24-17 defeat, while counterpart Joe Flacco passed for
three touchdowns.

Flacco has eight TDs and one interception over his last six
matchups with the Browns, who might need a strong performance from
Peyton Hillis to help snap their losing streak.

In his fourth game since returning from an injured hamstring,
Hillis ran for a season-high 99 yards and a touchdown last week. He
rushed for a then-career high 144 yards in Baltimore last September
but has been held to a combined 80 over the past two matchups.

The Ravens will have a new kicker for this game as Billy Cundiff
is dealing with a sore left calf. On Wednesday, the team signed
Shayne Graham, an 11-year veteran who has played for six other
teams, and Harbaugh said Graham is expected to handle the kicking
duties Saturday.