KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon WilcotsLIVE UPDATES/INTERACTION: OBR Chat Room | Game Thread | The Live Feed
SERIES: 18th meeting. Ravens lead series, 11-6. The Browns beat Baltimore in their first meeting this season. Beating them Sunday would guarantee at least a .500 record in the AFC North for the first time since 2002. The Browns also beat the Bengals earlier this season.
PREDICTION: Ravens 19-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns need more out of RB Jamal Lewis in his return to Baltimore after watching the offense stall while he gained just 35 yards on 16 carries in Pittsburgh. With the Ravens' secondary expecting CB Chris McAlister back and Baltimore's defense capable of confusing young quarterbacks, Anderson can't be forced into constant third-and-long situations. ... The Ravens want to give QB Kyle Boller a chance to establish a rhythm, which means running early with RB Willis McGahee to set up play-action. The Browns have just nine sacks, so the Ravens' porous pass blocking could catch a break and give Boller a chance to go vertical -- a rarity for the offense this season.
KEY INJURIES: Browns RG Seth McKinney (shoulder) was placed on Injured Reserve this week; LB D'Qwell Jackson (ankle sprain) could miss his third straight game. Ravens: QB Steve McNair (partially dislocated shoulder) is out at least two games; TE Todd Heap (thigh) is unlikely; CB Chris McAlister (knee) expects to play; CB Samari Rolle (undisclosed illness) and WR Demetrius Williams (ankle) are out.
FAST FACTS: The Browns have 255 points, more than the 238 they scored all of last season. ... Ravens WR Derrick Mason has 66 catches, just three behind his 2006 total.
-- LB D'Qwell Jackson practiced on a limited basis Thursday. He did not play against the Seahawks or Steelers and he did not practice Wednesday. He is battling an ankle injury.
-- LB Antwan Peek was back on the practice field after missing practice Wednesday with a knee injury.
-- LB Willie McGinest practiced on a limited basis Thursday. He sat out Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
-- DE Shaun Smith was added to the injury report Thursday. He was slowed by a sore knee and limited in practice.
-- CB Leigh Bodden is playing with a stiff back. He was limited in practice Thursday.
--CB Samari Rolle returned to Ravens practice Thursday for the first time in nearly two weeks, but it's highly unlikely that the cornerback will be cleared to play Sunday.
Rolle, who has not practiced since Nov. 1 due to a re-occurrence of an undisclosed illness that sidelined him for three games earlier this season, stretched and participated in drills with the rest of the secondary, but the team did not upgrade his "out" status.
"Anytime you get Samari back, it's a good thing," coach Brian Billick said. "He's feeling better, and he's gone through evaluations. We're hopeful for next week (against the San Diego Chargers)."
--CB Chris McAlister has been limited all week with a right knee sprain but he is expected to play. Coach Brian Billick said he was "very optimistic" about McAlister's chances of playing.
--CB Corey Ivy will start again in place of Samari Rolle. Although Ivy is tough and can tackle, he struggles in coverage.
--TE Todd Heap did not practice for a second straight day because of a hamstring injury. He is not expected to play. Quinn Sypniewski should start in his place.
--TE Quinn Sypniewski is expected to start in place of injured Todd Heap.
--S Ed Reed was extremely limited in practice Thursday with a back injury. Coach Brian Billick didn't seem concerned and said Reed should be fine to play Sunday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Browns are preparing their kick return unit to be ready for the Ravens to kick away from dangerous Joshua Cribbs Sunday in M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Cribbs is second in the NFL with a return average of 32.4 yards. He has returned kicks a total of 1,230 yards in nine games. If the defense doesn't do a better job of stopping opponents -- the Browns have received 57 kickoffs, the most in the league -- Cribbs could end up with 2,000 yards in returns. The NFL record of 2,186 yards was set by MarTay Jenkins of the Arizona Cardinals in 2000.
"It's kind of hard to keep kicking the ball away from somebody without giving a team great field position ultimately," Cribbs said. "Sometimes you have to just level down and use what you have. You can't just kick it away from guys. I hope they kick it to me all game."
Opponents have punted only 30 times, an average of less than 3.5 a game. Three have resulted in touchbacks and eight were downed inside the 20, so Cribbs has not had many opportunities as a punt returner. He has 12 returns for 118 yards -- a 9.8-yard average.
One more thing; Cribbs leads the Browns with 12 special teams tackles.
Kick returns, punt returns, running down the field at full throttle to make a tackle on an opposing kick or punt returner -- it's no wonder Cribbs hasn't seen much action from scrimmage.
Earlier in the season Cribbs would get in on one or two plays a game, but he did not touch the ball on offense against the Seahawks or the Steelers. He has caught two passes and carried eight times in 38 career games.
Cribbs wants the ball more -- not in a whiney, complaining that he is being ignored sort of way. He wants it because he wants to help the Browns win. He wouldn't throw his body around as a gunner on punt coverage if he was a 'me-first' player.
"We've had some plays for him," coach Romeo Crennel said. "Sometimes the game situation dictates things. You can put him out there and if the play isn't successful, what do you gain? Plus, he's doing a really good job returning the ball and covering kicks.
"The other guys are supposed to do something. They need to help him. He can't help everybody."
Cribbs returned three kicks for 94 yards against the Ravens on Sept. 30 in a game the Browns won 27-13. He did not return a punt or catch a pass. He carried once for two yards.
A 41-yard return by Cribbs on the opening kickoff in the Baltimore game led to a two-yard touchdown pass from Derek Anderson to Joe Jurevicius and a quick Browns lead. The Ravens knew exactly what they were doing. A week earlier against Cincinnati, Cribbs returned a kick 85 yards to set up an Anderson-to-Jurevicius touchdown. A 97-yard return by Cribbs in the Bengals game was wiped out by penalty.
Ravens kicker Matt Stover kicked deep to Cribbs two more times. The Ravens held him under 30 yards both times. Stover was short on his final kick. Jason Wright fielded the ball at the Browns 14 and returned it 20 yards to the 34.
Ravens receiver Mark Clayton seems to have found his rhythm with the offense.
After having one of the most disappointing starts of any Raven, Clayton looks to have turned the corner. In Sunday's 21-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Clayton became the first Ravens player to post a 100-yard receiving game this season.
Clayton's 107-yard effort on eight catches was one of the few bright spots in the loss. He nearly scored the offense's lone touchdown on a 47-yard catch-and-run, but he was ruled out one yard short of the end zone.
Clayton has had a quiet season -- part of which can be attributed to a series of nagging injuries that plagued him since training camp.
There was the high ankle sprain in the second preseason contest against the New York Giants. Then a painful bout of turf toe in the season opener against the Bengals. Finally, he strained an Achilles' tendon on Sept. 30 against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens' next opponent this Sunday.
"It was frustrating," Clayton said, adding that he didn't feel completely healthy until during the team's bye in Week 8. "As a competitor, you want to do your best in everything you can to help your team win. For us not to be able to win games, it was real tough. I'm just working and continuing to be prepared so that when the opportunity presents itself, I can take advantage of it."
This season, he has 29 catches -- tied for second on the team -- for 272 yards and no touchdowns. It's far off his pace from last season when he had 67 receptions for a team-leading 939 yards receiving.
During training camp, coaches and players talked about Clayton elevating his game, possibly becoming the Ravens' No. 1 receiver. But he hasn't lived up to those expectations until recently.
Despite becoming the first Ravens player to post 100 receiving yards this season, Clayton wasn't in much of a mood to dwell on that achievement.
"It was OK. But we need wins, man," he said. "We've got to keep going and get everybody involved to get some wins."
Clayton should be an integral part of the Ravens offense on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns because the Ravens are in need of receiving threats. The Ravens are expected to play without tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) and receiver Demetrius Williams (ankle).