Thursday Rat Report

Baltimore hopes for a season sweep, but knows it may see a very different Cleveland team from the one it faced earlier in this year. The Ravens themselves have changed since that meeting...

The Ravens are trying to complete a season sweep of the Cleveland Browns for the third time in six seasons.

The Ravens beat the Browns, 28-10, on Sept. 21, but they are convinced that this is not the same team. Since losing to the Ravens, Cleveland has won three of its past four games.

"It looks like they're playing inspired football," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It looks like they're playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger. They're not the same guys that showed up in the beginning of the season."

So, how have the Ravens changed since that meeting?

The biggest makeover has been in the secondary. The Ravens have had only one starter in the defensive backfield for a majority of the past two games.

Going against Browns quarterback Derek Anderson (four touchdowns, no interceptions in his past three games), the Ravens might receive some additional help Sunday.

The Ravens could see the return of cornerback Samari Rolle, who has missed the past five games with a neck injury. Harbaugh said there is a "good chance" that Rolle will play for the first time since Sept. 21 against the Cleveland Browns.

"I think we just need to see how he goes through practice and how it responds, how he feels after a good hard practice," Harbaugh said. "It could go up to game time to make a decision. But we're hopeful."

Rolle would likely team with Fabian Washington because there are still issues with Chris McAlister.

McAlister, a two-time Pro Bowl defender who was benched two weeks ago, did not practice Wednesday after receiving a second opinion on his knee injury by a specialist in Miami.

Harbaugh said the injury could require surgery and could "potentially" result in McAlister being put on injured reserve, which would end his season. A decision could be made by the end of the week, Harbaugh said.

"It's really between the doctors and Chris to make a decision about what's best for Chris going forward this year and for the rest of his career," Harbaugh said. "We're really hopeful that he'll play for us this year."

The Ravens secondary has historically played a critical role against the Browns. The Ravens have recorded an interception in eight straight meetings with Cleveland and had three picks earlier this season against the Browns.

On Sept. 21, the Ravens came back in the third quarter on interceptions by McAlister and safety Ed Reed.

SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series, 12-7. The Ravens have lost three of the past four games in Cleveland. In their earlier meeting this season, interceptions by Ed Reed and Chris McAlister in the third quarter turned the game around for the Ravens. McAlister's pick set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Le'Ron McClain, and Reed returned his interception 32 yards for a score.

NOTES, QUOTES

--With all the new trick plays in the Ravens offense, receiver Derrick Mason was asked if he could throw. Off to the side, quarterback Joe Flacco chimed in, saying with a smile, "I catch better than he throws."

--Even though he has made five straight field goals, Matt Stover isn't exactly looking forward to playing at Cleveland Browns Stadium, which he considers one of the toughest places to kick. "The field conditions can play havoc on you," he said. "In November, we'll have to see what they're like."

--This will mark the first time that Flacco will get a second look at an opponent. He expects the Browns to change some things on defense.

"They're probably going to put a little more pressure," he said. "We always anticipate that teams are going to bring pressure against us, so we'll be ready for it."

--Former offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden would seem to be a lock for the Hall of Fame in five years, but don't tell that to the 11-time Pro Bowl selection.

"I'm superstitious. I won't sign 'HOF' (on) anything," Ogden said after his induction into the Ring of Honor during halftime of Sunday's game. "I won't really talk about it, but it would be nice."

--The offense moved up to 24th in production, averaging 307.3 yards. The unit ranks fifth in rushing (142.4) and 27th in passing (164.9).

--The defense remains second, permitting just 242.4 yards. The unit still ranks first against the run (64.3) and improved to third against the pass (178.1).

--QB Joe Flacco acknowledged that he was planning to attend a Halloween party as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. But Flacco did not pretend to be as aquatic as Phelps. "Put me in a pool, and I sink to the bottom," Flacco said.

--Two former Ravens -- defensive back Rod Woodson and tight end Shannon Sharpe -- are among first-year candidates for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The list includes 110 players, seven coaches and 16 contributors, including former Ravens owner Art Modell.

Hall of Fame selectors will choose 25 candidates who will be announced next month as semifinalists. The field will then be narrowed to 15 by a mail ballot, and the class of inductees will be chosen Jan. 31.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Consecutive games in which the Ravens have recorded at least one interception against the Browns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think part of being a good quarterback is gaining the confidence of your teammates. For me, that's a work in progress. Right now, my teammates see that I work hard, and I'm prepared. As I make more plays in games, and we win more games, they'll believe in me more. If I turn the ball over, or play badly, they'll lose confidence." -- Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco, on his teammates.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Ravens could be welcoming back two starters, cornerback Samari Rolle and offensive lineman Adam Terry.

If Rolle returns, he will take over for Frank Walker and start alongside Fabian Washington. If Terry comes back, he could move from right tackle to right guard, replacing Chris Chester.

The other issue is at the No. 3 wide receiver. The Ravens placed Demetrius Williams (Achilles tendon) on injured reserve. They likely will replace him with either Yamon Figurs or rookie Marcus Smith.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Joe Flacco threw no touchdowns and two interceptions in his only game against the Cleveland Browns. In three road games, Flacco has passed for two touchdowns and three interceptions.

--TE Todd Heap has averaged 42.3 yards receiving in 12 meetings with the Browns. He has only scored three touchdowns against them.

--WR Derrick Mason has averaged 69 yards receiving and has scored three touchdowns in 13 games against the Browns. In the earlier meeting this season, Mason had four catches for 42 yards.

--RB Willis McGahee has averaged 93.7 yards rushing and has scored four touchdowns in four games against Cleveland. In the earlier meeting, McGahee had 64 yards and one touchdown.

--S Ed Reed has seven interceptions in 11 career meetings with the Browns. That's the most interceptions he's made against any team.

GAME PLAN: Just like they did earlier in the season, the Ravens want to control the clock with their running game. The Ravens have the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing attack, rotating between Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain. The Browns have the league's 24th-ranked run defense. But Cleveland held the Jacksonville running attack of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to 53 yards rushing on 20 carries.

Defensively, the Ravens' banged-up secondary has held its own against the likes of the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders. But they'll be tested against receivers Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions in his past three games. The Ravens need to get pressure on Anderson, who has been sacked three times in his past four games.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Ravens run defense vs. Browns RB Jamal Lewis. The Ravens have dominated running backs this season. Only one back (the Colts' Dominic Rhodes) has gained more than 56 yards against the Ravens. Rhodes is also the only one to score a rushing touchdown. The Ravens handled Lewis in the earlier meeting this season (56 yards), but he averaged 4.7 yards a carry. If he gets 20 carries, Lewis could do some damage. He is starting to find his rhythm, gaining at least 79 yards in four straight games. Lewis could have a better-than-expected game against the Ravens.

Ravens RB Willis McGahee vs. Browns run defense. Even though the Browns have the NFL's 24th-ranked run defense, McGahee likely won't make much of an impact against Cleveland. He is averaging less than three yards a carry in three of his past four games. McGahee also didn't practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury. It'll be interesting to see how the Ravens handle Cleveland nose tackle Shaun Rogers. The Browns' run defense has been hit or miss all season. Cleveland limited the Jacksonville running attack of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to 53 yards on 20 carries. Two games ago, Washington's Clinton Portis gained 175 yards and one touchdown against the Browns.

INJURY IMPACT:

--SS Dawan Landry (neck) is out and won't play for at least one more week. He will be replaced by Jim Leonhard.

--CB Chris McAlister (knee) did not practice and isn't likely to play. He might need season-ending surgery. He would be replaced by Fabian Washington.

--RB Willis McGahee (ankle) did not practice but it's considered precautionary. He likely will start but he won't be at full strength.

--TE Daniel Wilcox did not practice but he is expected to play.

--CB Samari Rolle (neck and shoulder) was limited in practice. He has a good chance to play his first game since Sept. 21.

--OT Adam Terry (knee) is optimistic after having his right knee scoped last week. He could return as the right guard or right tackle.

--PR-KR Yamon Figurs (knee) returned to practice (although limited) after the swelling went down in his bruised knee. He has a shot at being the Ravens' No. 3 receiver.

--LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (ankle) was limited in practice but he is expected to play. He hasn't missed a game in his NFL career.

--OT Jared Gaither (neck) was limited in practice but he is expected to start.

--TE Todd Heap (neck) was limited in practice but he is expected to start.

--CB Frank Walker (thigh) was limited in practice but should be the team's nickel back.

--RB Le'Ron McClain (ankle) had a full practice and will start.

--FS Ed Reed (shoulder and neck) had a full practice and will start.



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