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5. Will the Ravens be able to crank up the running game?

This could be the week that running back Ray Rice gets on track. The Pro Bowl runner was stymied on first and second downs by the Denver Broncos' athletic front seven and was held to 38 yards on a dozen carries. Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants to see improvement as far as run blocking with bigger holes opened up for Rice to dash through. The Giants have allowed an average of 138 rushing yards to opponents over the past six games and rank 22nd for the season against the run, giving up 123.7 yards on the ground. The Ravens could avoid the potentially dicey issue of protecting quarterback Joe Flacco by running the football in a smash-mouth style at the Giants, utilizing plenty of I-formation looks with fullback Vonta Leach. Running the ball would help the Ravens by taking pressure off Flacco and the offensive line, and allowing the defense to rest up while Eli Manning watches from the sideline. The Ravens should be able to get backup running back Bernard Pierce on the field in relief of Rice if they want to use him. He passed a baseline neurological test Saturday after leaving the Broncos game early with a concussion. The Ravens could use the hard-running third-round draft pick as a complement to Rice. Pierce has had an encouraging season with 320 rushing yards and a touchdown, operating as a solid replacement for the retired Ricky Williams.
Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun
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