Next two for Ravens key to playing meaningful games in December

Sunday's trip to Cleveland is one of the games the Ravens need to win to be playing meaningful games in December. Somewhat surprisingly, the Ravens are 1 1/2- to 2-point underdogs in Las Vegas after beginning the week getting 3 points. In the first game between the two AFC North rivals during the season's second week, the Browns were also favored by 2 1/2 points and the Ravens went on to win, 28-10.

Since then, both teams have redefined preseason outlooks. The Browns (3-4), thought to be one of the AFC's rising teams, struggled out of the gate, losing their first three but have righted the ship, particularly with an impressive 23-17 win over Jacksonville last Sunday.

The Ravens (4-3), of course, went through a three-game losing streak that had folks wondering if they were about to go into a tailspin like last season but then pulled out of it with back-to-back wins over Miami and Oakland.

Over the next two weeks, the Ravens play teams that -- on the surface -- would seem to be good matchups for them, Cleveland and Houston, but both games are on the road. Should the Ravens win those two, that would give them a 6-3 record (3-1 in the division) heading into what is considered the toughest part of the schedule that features the NFC East.

The biggest concern for the Ravens right now are the injuries that keep chipping away at the lineup. Wide receiver Demetrius Williams has been placed on injured reserve, less than a week after he caught a 70-yard touchdown pass. It's beginning to look more and more like cornerback Chris McAlister might not be a contributor this year. And safety Dawan Landry is still out after the scary neck injury he suffered earlier this season. Also trying to come back from injuries are Samari Rolle and offensive lineman Adam Terry.

Meaningful games in December. That's the goal right now and it's very attainable. And back in training camp, what Ravens fan wouldn't have settled for that.

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