As the Ravens (8-5) square off with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, here's Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson's checklist of things to keep an eye on:
1. Justin Forsett
The Jaguars gave up on Forsett after an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he dealt with a stress fracture in his foot and turf toe. They could have used him this season. Instead, with Denard Robinson out for the season, the Jaguars' 24th-ranked rushing offense will turn to Toby Gerhart, who's averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Jacksonville's ultra-vulnerable run defense ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing 132.8 rushing yards per game. Although the Jaguars have some speed in their front seven, they routinely have been worn down by teams with strong running backs. Forsett is in the stretch run of a breakthrough season, having rushed for 1,080 yards, third most in the NFL; eight touchdowns; and a league-best 5.6 yards per carry. He's on pace to finish the season with 1,329 rushing yards. Forsett ranks second in the NFL behind the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray with 36 carries of 10 yards or more, and leads all NFL running backs with 14 carries of 20 yards or more. After suffering from a knee injury in recent weeks, Forsett is healthier and figures to be heavily motivated to excel against his old team. He called his release this spring by Jacksonville a dark moment in his life.
2. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs
The Jaguars' offensive line leads the NFL in sacks allowed, with 56 so far this season. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has been sacked 38 times since replacing Chad Henne as starter. The Jaguars allow pressure from all angles and now have to deal with one of the league's top pass-rushing tandems. Dumervil is tied with Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston for the NFL sacks lead with 16. Dumervil had 3.5 sacks against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday and broke Peter Boulware's single-season record of 15 sacks. Dumervil has 89 career sacks, eighth most among active NFL players, while Suggs' 103 rank seventh.
With Torrey Smith likely out or limited with a sprained right knee, Aiken is set to start or see significant action for the second straight week. He delivered against the Dolphins with six receptions on seven targets, including one touchdown. The Ravens also are expected to have rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill) active, after he missed the past five games with a pulled hamstring. Campanaro could open things up with underneath routes in the slot. Smith wants to extend his streak of consecutive NFL games played, but it makes no sense for him to risk further damage to his knee in a winnable game. Although listed as probable, Smith was limping and wearing a knee brace last week. Taking a week off might help his knee get better for next week's road game against the Houston Texans. This isn't a game the Ravens need Smith to play. They need him to be smart and concentrate on healing up.
4. Joe Flacco
The Ravens quarterback needs three more touchdowns to tie his career high of 25 established in 2010. With 3,258 passing yards, Flacco is on pace to break the 4,000-yard threshold for the first time in his career (4,009). Flacco has had 100-plus quarterback ratings in each of the past three games, with five passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and one interception during that span. Against the Dolphins, Flacco was particularly sharp after he made an ill-advised throw off his back foot for an interception. He completed 25 of 33 passes (75.8 percent) overall for 269 yards and two touchdown passes, and scored another touchdown on a quarterback sneak. The Ravens need Flacco to continue his recent upward trend to qualify for the postseason and to make noise in the playoffs.
The rookie inside linebacker and first-round draft pick is among the leading candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and a strong finish could cement his case. Although dealing with wrist and hand injuries, Mosley has maintained his high standard with 110 tackle, most among NFL rookies. He's tied for sixth in the NFL in total tackles with D'Qwell Jackson (Maryland), behind Luke Kuechly (132), Curtis Lofton (127 tackles), Lavonte David (121), DeAndre Levy (121) and Paul Worrilow (116). Mosley also has two sacks, two interceptions, eight passes defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. With his athleticism, Mosley is a true sideline-to-sideline defender. He's stout against the run and working to improve in pass coverage, and has emerged as a dangerous blitzer in recent weeks.