KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Sal Paolantonio
PREDICTION: Ravens 24-12
KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Joe Flacco's 51.4 completion percentage has been a concern in Baltimore, topped perhaps only by the poor pass protection he continues to receive. If Jacksonville's defense can feed off the primetime atmosphere and keep this a low-scoring game, the Jaguars can be competitive in a field-position battle. The Jaguars don't want to feed rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to the dogs - the dogs being a Ravens pass defense allowing opposing quarterbacks a 65.9 rating this season. Baltimore is allowing just 3.3 yards per carry, but Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew has continued to be effective in a one-dimensional offense. He's the key, because Gabbert has been sacked 13 times in four starts behind a poor pass protecting unit.
FAST FACTS: Flacco has been sacked 10 times and hit 28 others this season. ... Gabbert has at least one touchdown pass in all four starts.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Opposing running backs have found little room to run when facing the Baltimore Ravens this season.
The Ravens have surrendered an average of 76.6 yards per game through the first six weeks of the NFL season, which ranks third in the league. Only the Dallas Cowboys (69.6) and the San Francisco 49ers (74.7) have been stingier against the run.
"We play completely as a unit," 12-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We have a certain way that we play defense to where wherever the play breaks down, we don't believe in being blocked one-on-one. We believe in hitting your block, get off the doggone block, and go make a play. If one guy's on the tackle, make sure five, six, seven, eight, nine guys are on the tackle. That's one big thing that with any good defense you're going to see, a heck of a pursuit, and that's something that we do very well. We pursue to the ball. So I think that's why it's very hard."
The Ravens get a stiff test on Monday night when they travel to Jacksonville to tangle with the Jaguars and featured tailback Maurice Jones-Drew.
The diminutive Jones-Drew ranks third in the league with 572 rushing yards, is tied for second with 17 runs of 10 yards or more, and ranks seventh with 31 first downs.
In an effort to alleviate some of the pressure on rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Jones-Drew ranks second in the NFL with 118 carries and fifth with 127 touches.
But recent history suggests that Jones-Drew may have a tough time finding running lanes against the Ravens, who have limited four running backs who ranked in the top eight in the NFL last season.
None of those four tailbacks gained more than 53 yards. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall (45 yards), the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson (53), the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson (23) and the Houston Texans' Arian Foster (49) all absorbed sub-par days.
The Ravens' mantra has traditionally centered on making opposing offenses one-dimensional, and that usually entails shutting down the run.
Since 2000, the Ravens have allowed an average of just 89.0 rushing yards. Only the Steelers have been more restrictive at 87.5 yards.
Only 24 running backs have eclipsed the 100-yard level against the Ravens, which is the second-best mark since 1999. (Pittsburgh has allowed 23 100-yard rushers.)
Opponents have been averaging less than four yards per carry against the Ravens for the last 15 years, which is the current longest active streak in the league and ties the record shared by the Buffalo Bills from 1986 to 2000 and the Dallas Cowboys from 1964 to 1978.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio is well aware of the Ravens' defensive success. He was the Ravens linebackers coach when the franchise won its first and only Super Bowl in 2000 before taking over Jacksonville after the 2002 season.
Del Rio said the presence of two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and nose tackle Terrence Cody make it difficult for blockers to get to Lewis, the NFL's active career leader in tackles with 2,533. Del Rio also said that defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and his schemes play a role in that unit's performances.
"It's a combination," Del Rio said during a conference call with Baltimore media on Thursday.
"It's always a combination of good coaching, good schemes, good players. And when they go hand-in-hand, you've got something special.
Despite the Ravens' success against the run, coach John Harbaugh said he fully expects a healthy dose of Jones-Drew and backup Deji Karim.
"You have to be determined to stop the run every week because a running team like this is not just going to stop running the ball," Harbaugh said. "They're not going to come out of the gates one-dimensional. You have to make them one-dimensional. So for us, we focus on making them one-dimensional and see what their next answer is."
The Jaguars' decision not to try to re-sign wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker at the end of last year appeared to be vindicated when the St. Louis Rams cut him earlier this week.
He caught just 11 passes for 139 yards in the four games he played in. And in his final game for the Rams against Washington, he dropped two passes on the same drive. He was inactive his final game with the Rams.
And he had a reputation for not being able to beat press coverage and get open.
Still, the Jaguars' receiving corps is struggling and they decided to give Sims-Walker another shot.
"We're not going to deal with anything he did in St. Louis. We're going to deal with the here and now," coach Jack Del Rio said.
Of the dropped passes, Del Rio said, "He's been a guy with strong hands and in our time here with him, that's one of the things you know about Mike. He's got good strong hands to the ball and he's a savvy route runner and knows how to set people up. We'll just focus on that stuff and not really focus on the negative," he said.
Del Rio said what changed from when the Jaguars decided not to keep him was the price.
"I think at that time he had his thoughts on a pretty big number," he said.
But his St. Louis deal did not include a signing bonus and he got $850,000 plus $15,000 more for each of the four games he played in. So he left St. Louis with $910,000 and will make the veteran minimum with the Jaguars pro-rated over 10 games.
"We need a little boost in the passing game," Del Rio said. "He's a guy that's been here and I think he's at a place right now where he's a little humble, a little hungry."
Sims-Walker said he's now more mature.
"I've seen a lot and experienced a lot and have more knowledge of how to play this game," he said.
Sims-Walker said he didn't think he has a problem dropping passes and said all receivers drop them on occasion.
"I'm not perfect," he said.
Sims-Walker got together with the wide receiver corps Tuesday night for dinner to catch up and he said the receivers have to play better as a group.
"Everybody has to look themselves in the mirror," he said.
He is now working with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and he said he doesn't look for perfect passes.
"I like to just tell him throw it in my area code. I don't ask for a perfect ball as long as it is catchable," he said.
--SS Tom Zbikowski, who is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, still has not been cleared for contact. Zbikowski, who sat out Sunday's 29-14 win against the Houston Texans, has been wearing sunglasses at practice.
--CB Chris Carr returned to practice on Thursday after missing three of the last four games with a left hamstring injury. Carr, who fielded punts during practice, could overtake Danny Gorrer as the nickel back.
--CB Jimmy Smith took part in practice for the first time since suffering a high left ankle sprain in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith did not look hesitant during practice, but will likely be kept out of the Monday night contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars as a precautionary measure.
--WR Lee Evans did not practice on Thursday. Evans, who has been bothered by a left ankle injury, is expected to sit out his fourth consecutive game.
--LG Ben Grubbs did not practice on Thursday. Grubbs, who is dealing with strained ligaments in a toe on his right foot, is expected to miss his fifth straight game.
--LB Dannell Ellerbe did not practice on Thursday. Ellerbe, who has been troubled by a balky hamstring, has already been ruled out against Jacksonville.
--WR David Reed is expected to return kicks against the Jaguars. Reed, who played last Sunday for the first time since Sept. 18, will reassume that role from Bryan McCann, according to a team source.
--RB Ray Rice is the team's all-time leader in receiving by a running back. He is five catches shy of 200 and is averaging 4.2 receptions this season.
--K Billy Cundiff has connected on 28 straight field goals under 50 yards and is 40-of-42 from that range since last season. His 95.2 success rate over that span ranks first in the NFL.
--C Andre Gurode will make his third straight start at left guard if Grubbs is unavailable. Gurode took most of the snaps at left guard during the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday.
--WR Torrey Smith will make his third consecutive start if Lee Evans cannot play. Smith, the club's second-round pick in April, caught just one pass for one yard in his last outing against the New York Jets on Oct. 2.
--OT Eben Britton didn't practice Thursday because of a back ailment but the Jaguars still hope he can play Monday night.
--S Courtney Greene (hamstring) didn't practice Thursday and his status is uncertain for Monday night.
--OT Eugene Monroe was limited with a shoulder injury but the Jaguars hope he can play Monday night.
--WR Kassim Osgood, one of their best special teams players, was limited Thursday with a hamstring injury but the Jaguars hope he can play Monday night.
--FB Montell Owens, one of their best special teams players, didn't practice Thursday because of a knee injury but they hope he can play Monday night.
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