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Mike Preston: Injuries could make it a costly win for Ravens

As the Ravens prepare to clinch home field advantage in the playoffs next Sunday in the reguar-season finale at Cincinnati, injuries will be a major concern this week.

The Ravens know they will be without starting receiver Anquan Boldin (knee), and they came out of Saturday's win against Cleveland with four more injuries. The one that would hurt the most is the rib injury suffered by starting right guard Marshal Yanda.

Part-time starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and starting cornerback Cary Williams both suffered concussions, and return specialist David Reed had a season-ending knee injury.

But the Ravens will be hard pressed to beat a quality team without Yanda or any of the other four starting offensive linemen. Andre Gurode is a solid replacement for Yanda, but he's a center forced to play guard.

Yanda and left guard Ben Grubbs have Pro Bowl potential. It's hard to replace that kind of talent and the Ravens struggled earlier in the season when Grubbs missed extensive time with an ankle injury.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't seem as concerned about Ellerbe and Williams, but they should know more about them this morning.

Williams absence could hurt because the Bengals like to throw downfield, and the Ravens have been light at corner all season because of experience and injuries.

NFL's worst team

Congratulations to the Browns.

They are the worst team in the NFL. The title belonged to Indianapolis, but the Colts weren't making stupid, stumbling, bumbling decisions like the Browns.

Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor jumping off side with two minutes left in the game on a fourth-and-two by the Ravens at the Browns 37?


There were several times on third-down situations where Browns receivers failed to go past the marker for first downs.


But here's my favorite: On their first possession, they drove from their own 26 to the Ravens' 30-yard line behind running back Peyton Hillis, who had six rushes for 30 yards. But on third-and-one, Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace floated a pass into the right flat for receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, and Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb intercepted it.

Why didn't the Browns continue to pound the ball up the middle? Plus, the Ravens were fortunate because tight end Jordan Cameron broke free on a busted coverage, but Wallace didn't find him.

Fortunately, the Ravens were playing the Browns. Last week against the San Diego Chargers that was a touchdown. You'd figure after getting lit up last week by the Chargers the Ravens wouldn't have these kinds of breakdowns again.

Nice play call, Cam

That was a good call by the Ravens on their first series going deep to receiver Torrey Smith.

After giving up 204 yards rushing to Ray Rice earlier this season, you expected the Browns to cram the line of scrimmage early in the game. They did, and the Ravens went over the top getting 60 yards on a pass interference call.

Homecoming to forget

Browns middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, out of the University of Maryland, had a homecoming but it wasn't a pleasant one.

He got beat on the 5-ard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Ed Dickson in the first period, and then got beat down the right sideline by Rice for a 42-yard scoring reception in the second.

He was the Ravens' unsung hero.

Let it go

Webb fumbled a punt around the Ravens' 5-yard line late in the second period. He recovered it and was congratulated by two Ravens coaches as he went to the sideline.

Isn't there something wrong with this picture? Shouldn't a coach have been ripping him for even attempting to fair catch inside the 10, much less fumbling?


I have no respect for the Browns' organization from top to bottom. And when they didn't stop the clock late in the second quarter to attempt a pass in the end zone or a field goal from the Ravens' 5, I had even less.

It's apparent this bunch has turned it in for the winter, coaching staff included. Poor clock management like the Browns showed have gotten coaches fired.

Billy who?

Kicker Shayne Graham, signed earlier in the week to replace injured starter Billy Cundiff, converted on attempts of 48 and 43 yards Saturday.

Harbaugh should keep him around for another week even if Cundiff's calf is completely healed.

Let it rip, Joe

Late in the second quarter, Torrey Smith had gotten behind a Cleveland defender by two or three steps along the left sideline. Flacco, though, threw the ball behind Smith and almost out of bounds.

I don't understand why Flacco just release the ball early and allow Smith to run under it? It just can't be that difficult.

Not so special teams

Joshua Cribbs returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown, the second one allowed by the Ravens this season and a third if you include a kickoff return.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's work has been scrutinized this season, but the Ravens need to take a hard look at special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

With one game left in the regular season, the Ravens should have shown some improvement, but there has been little.

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