After briefly allowing control of the AFC North to slip out of their grasp, the Ravens can still clinch the division by winning out. The first of their final two games is against the Cleveland Browns this afternoon.
Here are five storylines to watch as the Ravens and Browns spend their Christmas Eve at M&T Bank Stadium:
1. Boldin out of the lineup: Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin underwent surgery on his knee Thursday and will be sidelined for the final two games of the regular season. Who will step up in his absence? Rookies Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss should get more opportunities, but the pressure is on Lee Evans to fill the void. He has yet to make an impact, but he is healthy and says he is close to clicking with QB Joe Flacco.
2. Seneca Wallace gets the call: With Browns starting quarterback Colt McCoy still reeling from a concussion, Seneca Wallace will be under center Saturday. That might actually benefit the Browns. The last time the two teams met, the Ravens teed off on McCoy in the pocket. But Wallace, one of the NFL’s fastest quarterbacks, can sidestep the pass rush and make throws outside the pocket or scramble to pick up yards on the ground.
3. A (likely) change at kicker: Barring a surprise change to Billy Cundiff’s injury status, Shayne Graham will be the team’s kicker against the Browns. Signed on Wednesday, Graham is 16-for-17 on field goals over the past two seasons (with three different teams). But his longest successful kick was from 41 yards. What’s his range, and how will it affect Cam Cameron’s offensive game plan once the Ravens advance into Browns territory?
4. Another heaping helping of Rice: In the Ravens’ 24-10 victory over the Browns three weeks ago, Rice ran for a career-high 204 yards on 29 carries. Ricky Williams added 76 rushing yards on 16 carries as the Ravens set a single-game team record with 55 rush attempts. The Browns are still awful when it comes to stopping the run. They could stack the box, but Flacco has played well against the Browns, whom he has never lost to.
5. Getting the defensive swagger back: The Ravens said they were embarrassed after the Chargers defeated them, 34-14, on Sunday night. They had no sacks. They allowed the Chargers to score on their first five drives. And the Chargers never punted. But against a bad Browns offense that lacks playmakers, the Ravens defense gets a chance to build its confidence back up before a huge game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun