Ravens-Lions Preview

The Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions are both in position for

playoff berths, but only one of them has made significant progress

toward reaching that goal lately.

The surging Ravens, though, have also struggled on the road this

season and will try to end those woes Monday night while dealing

the host Lions another blow in NFC North race.

Baltimore (7-6) currently holds the final AFC wild-card spot,

but only by a tiebreaker over Miami. The Ravens, who also lead San

Diego and the New York Jets by one game, maintained that position

by coming out on top in a wild game with Minnesota this past

weekend.

The teams combined for 36 points in the final 2:05, with

Baltimore scoring 22. The Ravens capped their incredible finish to

that 29-26 victory with Joe Flacco’s 9-yard pass to Marlon Brown

with four seconds to go.

Its third straight win also kept Baltimore two games behind

Cincinnati in the AFC North, but the Ravens will face three

straight division leaders to conclude the regular season. Two of

those games are on the road, including a visit to the Bengals in

the regular season finale Dec. 29.

Baltimore is 1-5 away from home, losing its last three

there.

“I think we’ve won the close games at home and we haven’t won

them on the road. That’s the bottom line,” coach John Harbaugh

said. “We’ve done the things we needed to do to win tight games at

home and we haven’t done the things we’ve needed to do on the road.

It’s us.”

The Lions (7-6) have had trouble in most of their recent games

no matter where they’ve played, dropping three of four. They blew

out Green Bay 40-10 on Thanksgiving but their inability to close

out games resurfaced in Philadelphia this past weekend.

Detroit gave up 28 points in the final 15 minutes in a 34-20

loss – its third blown fourth-quarter lead in the past three weeks

– and dropped into a tie with Chicago atop the division. The Lions

own the tiebreaker thanks to their two wins over the Bears but know

they have to get back on track quickly if they want to win their

first division title since 1993.

“We’ll just take this slap in the face and hope it wakes us up,”

cornerback Chris Houston said. “We have two straight home games and

we have to go get them. We can’t get down on ourselves. We are

still in a good position in our division. I think we like when our

backs are against the wall.”

Detroit has committed a combined five turnovers in the final

quarters of its last three losses and totaled 20 giveaways in its

past six games.

“It’s tough to win football games when you turn the ball over,”

said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has seven interceptions and

two fumbles in the last four games. ”We know that. We’re doing

everything that we can to correct it.”

Baltimore has forced just four turnovers in its last four games

after tallying 13 in its first nine, but sacks leader Elvis

Dumervil may return after a one-game absence due to a sprained left

ankle.

“We’re starting to get healthier. We’re starting to put it

together as a team,” Flacco said. “We just need to start putting it

together for a full 60 minutes and see where it takes us.”

The Ravens, however, might face a motivated Calvin Johnson after

Baltimore rookie safety Matt Elam called the All-Pro receiver “old”

following some initial compliments.

“He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be,” Elam

said. “He’s a big guy, but he’s older. I guess when they get older

they’re not going to be as physical, you know what I’m saying?

We’re going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.”

The Lions could also get leading rusher Reggie Bush back from a

calf injury that kept him out of the loss to Philadelphia. Bush

needs 147 yards to surpass 1,000 for the second time in his

career.

Bush, though, was listed as questionable.

Baltimore has won two of its three meetings with the Lions and

routed them 48-3 in the most recent one Dec. 13, 2009. The Ravens

are making their second trip to Detroit and were beaten 35-17 in

the other one Oct. 9, 2005.