Ravens preparing to play against healthier Dillon

OWINGS MILLS - Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon appears set to play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, although his capabilities remain unclear. The Pro Bowl runner was upgraded from questionable to probable Friday after two weeks of recuperation before facing off with the AFC North leaders.

Cincinnati (1-4) needs Dillon to revive the No. 28 rushing offense in the league. Baltimore (3-2) ranks 12th against the run, allowing only 99.8 yards per game.

Dillon's single-game rushing mark of 278 yards was broken earlier this season when the Ravens' Jamal Lewis rambled for 295 yards against the Browns.

Dillon's streak of six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons is in jeopardy with just 164 yards. He has 700 rushing yards and 32 receptions in a dozen games against Baltimore.

Dillon's 127 yards two years ago marked the first individual 100-yard rushing day against Baltimore in 51 games.

"I think he's one of the best backs in the NFL, but I don't think there's a back out there that wants to play against the Baltimore Ravens," inside linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "We take pride that we don't single out backs. We think we can destroy every back.

"It's not a question of what we are going to do against the back. It's a question of what can the back do against us."

RED-ZONE: The Ravens aren't sounding a red alert after a shoddy performance in the red zone last week against the Arizona Cardinals. Baltimore went 0-for-4 in those situations as Matt Stover booted four field goals.

It resembled that five-game stretch in the Super Bowl season when no offensive player scored except for Stover.

The Ravens haven't had a touchdown pass since Todd Heap caught one against San Diego. They haven't scored a touchdown since losing to Kansas City before the bye.

"Typically, what happens when you get inside the 10-yard line is everybody is blocking an eight or nine-man front because the safeties don't have anywhere to go," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The vogue defense is everybody plays a four-across zone and you can't throw it. So, you have to be able to run it in, which should be our forte.

"They pack people in even more. Like the open field, we have to make a couple of plays on the outside to soften that up just a bit."

BLACKED OUT: Because the Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium didn't sell out by the NFL-mandated deadline of 1 p.m. on Thursday, the game will be blacked out in the Cincinnati market. Hence, Bengals fans will receive the telecast of the Cleveland Browns' game against the Chargers on their local CBS affiliate.

QUICK HITS: The Bengals installed a clay-based thick sod at Paul Brown Stadium for an estimated cost of $75,000, which will be unveiled for the first time on Sunday against Baltimore. Dillon has been instructed by the Bengals not to comment on the surface after blaming the turf for causing him to slip against the Steelers and strain his groin. … Rookie outside linebacker Terrell Suggs narrowly missed on his fifth sack in five games last weekend. He said he might play more in the base defense on Sunday "I'm hungry to get one," Suggs said. "Don't be surprised if I play more, too." … New return specialist and receiver Dedric Ward said he's on the 'express learning program," but isn't sure when he'll make his debut.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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