Ravens' Jackson to make first road start vs. Falcons
If the Baltimore Ravens are to secure an AFC playoff spot, they are going to have to win on the road and against NFC opposition.
Sunday's game against the disappointing Falcons in Atlanta gives the Ravens a good chance to do both.
Baltimore (6-5) holds the second AFC wild-card spot thanks to two consecutive victories with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson filling in for Joe Flacco, but they are 0-2 against the NFC and play three of their next four games on the road.
The Falcons (4-7) are 0-3 versus the AFC and haven't turned two-year-old Mercedes-Benz Stadium into much of a home-field edge, going 3-3 there this year.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was determined to keep his quarterback situation a secret as long as possible during the week, and with good reason, though the team officially listed Flacco as doubtful on Friday.
"When you don't know which one you're going to face, and you'll hear me say the offense is not too different, you can take that out this week," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "It's definitely different in terms of the way that they can utilize quarterback runs."
The Ravens rushed for 509 yards in home victories over Cincinnati and Oakland the past two weeks to get back in playoff contention after three consecutive losses.
Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for 190 yards in the two victories, and fellow rookie Gus Edwards, filling in for Alex Collins, became the first Ravens rookie since Jamal Lewis in 2000 to go over 100 yards in consecutive games. Edwards (ankle) and Collins (foot) are both listed as questionable.
Over Atlanta's three-game losing streak, Cleveland's Nick Chubb rushed for 176 yards, Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott gained 122, and New Orleans' combination of Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara had 141.
The Falcons' offense has been able to cover for the teams' defensive woes at times, especially when playing at home. However, quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked six times in the loss at New Orleans on Thanksgiving night, the ground game netted just 26 yards, and the team turned the ball over four times -- three times in the red zone.
Atlanta is contemplating changes on the offensive line, but a bounce-back won't be easy against Baltimore, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL in points given up at 18 per game and in yards allowed at 295.4 per game.
Atlanta's defense will get a boost with the return of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones (broken foot), who hasn't played since the opener but is expected to be "full go" on Sunday. The team's top two safeties are out for the season, and defensive end Derrick Shelby (groin) joined them on injured reserve this week.
That could help lead to a successful outing for Jackson if he gets his first start away from Baltimore.
"I love road games," the former Louisville standout said. "Just to try to make the crowd turn to our (side) and make it like our home environment. I like to do that, silence the crowd. ... I just want to make it my home, my team's home."
The Ravens and Falcons have played five times previously, most recently in 2014. The Ravens won that game 29-7 in Baltimore and lead the series 3-2.
--Field Level Media
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