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
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
“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.
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
“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
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.