Ravens preparing for Falcons on short week of rest

To beat one of the top teams in the NFC, the Ravens have to win the mind game of playing on a short week.

Thursday's night game at the Atlanta Falcons comes 100 hours after the Ravens finished off the Miami Dolphins in a 26-10 victory Sunday. The challenge of crunching a week's worth of preparation and recovery time into a couple of days might be as daunting as playing the NFC South leaders.

"It's a disadvantage if you allow it to be," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "If you sit back and say, 'We're tired and we got to play on such a short week,' then you're setting yourself up for failure. We saw the schedule when it came out. We knew what was ahead of us. We knew it was coming."

To make matters worse, the Ravens have only a couple of practices before boarding a flight Wednesday while the Falcons have another full day for a workout and meetings.

History says that isn't much of a disadvantage. Since 2006, when Thursday games were regularly scheduled in the second half of the season, visiting teams have a 14-16 record (.466).

"I don't know how to categorize how much of a challenge it is. It's the reality," coach John Harbaugh said. "We're going to take a plane down there. So, it's not going to be that big of a deal. We'll be ready to go."

This nationally televised game features two first-place teams who share the best record in the NFL (6-2).

The Ravens, who are one-point underdogs, have won five of their past six games on the strength of a resurgent offense. The Falcons have relied on a power running game to earn victories in six of their past seven games.

"It wouldn't surprise me that our opening Thursday night game could be a precursor to the Super Bowl," said Joe Theismann, who will serve as a game analyst for the NFL Network.

So, playing their second game in five days, will these top teams be able to perform at a top level?

"I don't know about them. I know we'll be at our best," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I don't care how short the week is. If it's on your schedule … deal with it. We will definitely be ready to play."

Lewis, though, would prefer to end Thursday night games.

"You do it because it's part of the business," he said. "But I'm almost guaranteeing that 99 percent of us would vote against that."

"It goes back to the 18-game schedule," he said. "You have to ask yourself … when you schedule games like this: 'Who does it help?' Because it doesn't help the players. That turnaround is just too quick."

In a typical week, the Ravens would watch film of the previous game Monday and have a short walk-through before taking off Tuesday. There's no such luxury this week.

"Today is basically Wednesday for us," Harbaugh said. "We just bypassed Monday and Tuesday. We don't have those anymore. I feel like we lost two days of our lives."

Asked whether he was getting any sleep, he said, "We don't need any sleep. We'll sleep on Friday."

Like Lewis, wide receiver Anquan Boldin voiced his displeasure over Thursday night games, but he offered a compromise.

"The only way you should play a Thursday night game is if you've just come off a bye week," Boldin said. Playing on Thursday "increases the risk of injuries, especially for us. You look at us playing a physical game on Sunday and then turn around and travel to Atlanta, that's a tough situation. But I think we're just the team for it."

The Ravens have only had to endure two games in five days once before in their history. In 2006, they were beaten at Cincinnati, 13-7, on Thursday night and were 61 seconds away from being shut out.

Under then-coach Brian Billick, the Ravens really didn't practice that week. They had a series of walk-throughs during which the players didn't wear helmets or run at full speed.

Harbaugh will continue to hold practices this week, but they will be modified. Instead of conducting his usual high-tempo workouts, these practices will be detail-oriented and focus more on mental preparation.

"If you prepare the right way, you should be ready by Thursday to mentally play the game," cornerback Chris Carr said. "I guess physically, you can rely on adrenaline and maybe some ibuprofen."

From a health standpoint, the Ravens have an early edge over Atlanta. They didn't report any injuries after Sunday's game, and safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised heel) is the only player who is questionable.

The Falcons have a bigger concern. Star receiver Roddy White, who injured his right knee Sunday, was spotted in the locker room wearing an electronic stimulant device that speeds up the healing process. He expects to play against the Ravens.

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who has never played in a Thursday game in his three-year NFL career, said the short week should be "pretty easy" for the Ravens.

"I think we've got guys that'll be focused in on getting our next win," Flacco said. "The biggest thing is to get our guys healthy. I think as long as we concentrate on that, everything else will take care of itself."



An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number games the Ravens have had on Thursdays. The Ravens have only had to endure two games in five days once before in their history.

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