Tonight's game against the New York Giants will close the curtain on the Ravens' up-and-down preseason and perhaps unveil the winner of their quarterback competition.
Although the decision probably won't be officially announced until the end of the week, all signs are pointing toward Kyle Boller as the starter tonight at M&T; Bank Stadium and for the regular-season opener against the Steelers on Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh.
The 19th overall pick in the draft has taken most of the reps in practice for the second straight week and should work with the starting offense for the second straight game. By all appearances, Boller has strong-armed his way past Chris Redman, who was widely considered the front-runner after having started six games last season.
Ravens coach Brian Billick has declined to comment on any specifics of the competition over the past month.
"It's one more evaluation," Billick said of tonight's game. "It's a little more data we can throw into the pot. I'm looking for the same thing that I was looking for before: efficiency and a certain ability to orchestrate the offense and the ability to make a play down the field."
Neither Boller nor Redman has distinguished himself in the first three preseason games.
When they're at their best, Boller can stretch defenses with long throws and scramble for first downs, while Redman concentrates on a more efficient game based on short to intermediate passes.
But inconsistency has stopped both quarterbacks from distancing themselves in the race.
Boller has the higher quarterback rating (78.1 to 58.3), but Redman has the higher completion percentage (60.5 percent to 55.9 percent). Both have averaged 6 yards per attempt.
If Boller wins the job, it will continue a fast track for a rookie who was a holdout only four weeks ago.
In his first NFL start Saturday night, Boller was 14-for-20 for 101 yards and seemed jittery at times in a loss to the Washington Redskins. He threw one short swing pass in the dirt, and two others were tipped at the line of scrimmage.
This time, he would like to conquer his nerves and the end zone.
"I want to put points on the board," said Boller, whose six drives last week produced one field goal. "I think as an offensive unit we want to show what we're all about. We've got to make sure we execute and move the chains. Personally, I just want to do everything I practiced this week - be an accurate passer, move the chains and just get things rolling.
"I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win."
Boller has put up more points than Redman in the preseason, but he has had the benefit of more playing time.
Boller's 20 drives have totaled three touchdowns, two field goals and 428 yards. Redman's 14 series have produced one touchdown, one field goal and 317 yards.
Despite the lack of playing time in games and decreased reps in practice, Redman has not lost his confidence.
"I think every quarterback has to believe if he goes in there as a starter, he's capable of doing it," Redman said. "I'm going to do what I did from Day One - go out there and play. That's all I can control."
Redman, who directed the Ravens to a 3-3 record before getting sidelined with a back injury in 2002, has been trying to become the first quarterback in Billick's five seasons to start consecutive season openers.
"I try not to put any extra pressure on myself," Redman said. "Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, I want to go out there and play at a high level. I'm pushing myself constantly. I'm trying to worry about myself right now rather than the competition."
This preseason finale carries more significance for the Ravens (1-2) than the Giants (0-3).
With four starters on the offensive line out, New York will start backup quarterback Jesse Palmer rather than Kerry Collins. Two of the Giants' other stars - tight end Jeremy Shockey (ribs) and defensive end Michael Strahan (broken toe) - also will not play.
Whoever is out there, the Ravens' defense will be looking to get into the right mind frame heading into the regular season. Five days ago against the Redskins, the Ravens surrendered three touchdowns - including two in a three-minute span - after giving up just one touchdown in their previous 27 series.
The defense helped the Redskins with several penalties and allowed a 39-yard touchdown pass when safety Ed Reed tripped in the end zone. The starters, though, will have to re-establish themselves quickly since most won't play beyond the first quarter.
"They didn't come out and pound us to get those points," inside linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "As a defense, we realize that and we expect not to make those mistakes this week. We're going to go out and we're going to pound it for the small amount of time we're out there. We want to show that we beat ourselves."
Preseason opponent: New York Giants
Site: M&T; Bank Stadium
TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line: Ravens by 4 1/2