The NFL Live crew make their picks for Baltimore at New Orleans.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- With his surgically repaired left foot propped up in a knee scooter, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith revealed that he has a Lisfranc injury and he'll need six months to recover.


Smith, whose season ended when he was placed on injured reserve Nov. 8, acknowledged that he was surprised when surgery was required. The Ravens initially thought it was a foot sprain, but a Lisfranc injury (where ligaments that support the midfoot are torn) is often mistaken for a simple sprain.

Instead of missing four to six weeks, Smith will be sidelined until spring.

"I'm more just pissed because I thought it was something more minor," Smith said in the Ravens' locker room Thursday. "I'll bounce back. I'll be fine."

Smith was playing like a Pro Bowl defender before he went down in the opening drive of an Oct. 26 game in Cincinnati. He was injured while attempting to make a tackle at the goal line.

Asked if the injury is tougher to deal with because it ended his best season, Smith said, "It just makes it difficult, period, just the fact that I can't be out here with my teammates and help contribute. Like I said, it's an injury that everybody deals with in the league. I'm not too stressed. No matter how great this season was, I was happy that I got to play as along as I did this season. I'm happy that it didn't happen the first three games or something. Like I said, you live with it. You get over it. I'll be back."

Losing Smith is a major blow to the Ravens' season. Anthony Levine, a converted safety, has replaced him in the starting lineup.

Smith, 26, is under contract for the 2015 season after the Ravens exercised his fifth-year option. He's due a partially guaranteed $6.898 million base salary for next year, and that compensation becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster on the first day of the 2015 league year.

Under his current timetable, Smith will be ready to participate in the Ravens' voluntary organized team activities which typically begin in late May.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice Thursday after sitting out the previous day.

Yanda, who has been dealing with a knee injury for the past three weeks, was limited in practice.

The only Baltimore Ravens players who didn't practice because of injury were wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jah Reid (broken hand). Tight end Owen Daniels and linebacker Daryl Smith were given the day off, which has been a routine all season.
The last time Joe Flacco played in New Orleans, he left on top of the football world. He returns there on Monday night looking like a shell of the quarterback who was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLVII.

Flacco has been erratic, tentative and confused in recent weeks as teams have ramped up the pass rush. And, for a quarterback who has been put in every pressure situation, he has appeared rattled in the face of increased pressure for one of the few times in his career.

It's not a question of being tough because Flacco takes hard hits and bounces back up every time. The criticism is how the pressure is affecting what he does with the ball. Flacco has been unsettled and gun shy for one of the few stretches of his career.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsOver his past three games, Joe Flacco has produced a 75.5 passer rating when under duress.
Over his past three games, Flacco has produced a lackluster 75.5 passer rating when under duress or getting hit. Only six quarterbacks have been worse in that span, and none are close to averaging over $20 million per season like Flacco.

No one needed a bye on the Ravens more than Flacco, just to give himself a break as much mentally as physically. Which Flacco returns from his one-week hiatus -- Joe Cool or Joe Chaos -- will determine whether the Ravens reach the playoffs this season.

The Ravens' next two games are against the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, and it's extremely optimistic to think the likes of Anthony Levine, Danny Gorrer and Darian Stewart in the secondary are going to slow down two Pro Bowl quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Philip Rivers). Flacco can't afford to lose his mind -- which is how he described it -- when he failed to throw the ball out of bounds while under pressure in Pittsburgh and was picked off.

The Ravens then play at Miami, where they'll line up against the toughest defense they'll face this season. Flacco has to stop floating passes on the simplest of throws and has to just step in the pocket when his own lineman is bull-rushed into him (which happened against the Tennessee Titans).

Ever since Flacco could do no wrong in a scintillating five-touchdown show in Tampa Bay, he has thrown as many interceptions (five) as touchdowns. He has been off his game as teams have become more aggressive. Flacco has to check out of running plays when teams stack the line, which coach John Harbaugh says Flacco has the power to do. He has to follow through on his passes instead of making those unbalanced, jumping ones of his back foot.

"I’m not in the game of evaluating myself," Flacco said. "I’ll leave that up to [the reporters]. And no, for the most part, I got away [during the bye]. The coaches did self-scout and did a lot of things and came back to everybody with things that we can do better, things that we have to do more of."

The Ravens (6-4) are a half-game out of first place in the AFC North, where the inconsistency of the quarterbacks has made it anyone's division. The Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton delivered one of the worst performances by a quarterback in recent history two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns' Brian Hoyer set a team record for most incompletions (30) last Sunday against the Houston Texans. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger can go from throwing six touchdowns a week to throwing none against the New York Jets, one of the worst pass defenses in the league.

Flacco has been just as hard to predict. He can go from a record-setting performance in Tampa to a head-scratching one the last few weeks. Overall, Flacco is on pace for his first 4,000-yard season and is on target to set a career high in touchdown passes in his first season in Gary Kubiak's offense.

Which Flacco shows up after the bye? No one really knows. The only certainty is the Ravens won't make the postseason if Flacco continues to struggle under pressure.

Inside Edge: Ravens-Saints

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20


ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Baltimore at New Orleans.
Joe Flacco will be experiencing a different playoff berth -- make that birth -- this time around.

Flacco told the Baltimore Ravens' website that he and his wife are expecting their third child in January, which could make for an interesting postseason run if the team makes the playoffs.

Flacco and his wife, Dana, already have two boys, Stephen (2 years old) and Daniel (1 year old).

So, how many children would Flacco like to have?

“I’d be satisfied with five,” said Flacco, who would then match his No. 5 uniform number. “Kids are a lot of fun. It would be cooler to have more, but if we got to five and that was it, I’d be cool with that. I’m satisfied now, but I want as many as I could have.”

Don't worry about Flacco's family life interfering with his football one. He missed a minicamp practice when his first child was born on June 14, 2012, but he played the Ravens' home opener on Sept. 15, 2013, even though his second child was born an hour before kickoff. Flacco threw for 211 yards and a touchdown in a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens rarely play in domes, which is why they've changed their routine heading into Monday night's game at the Superdome.

The Ravens are practicing inside their field house for the entire week, and they're cranking up the music to simulate the noise that 72,000 fans will soon make.

"Communication on offense is something that we’re emphasizing this week," coach John Harbaugh said. "You heard it in here. It was very loud. And it’s a big emphasis for our guys to communicate, make sure we’re on the same page and get assignments right. We don’t want to not move the ball because we’re not blocking the right guy or not carrying out the right route or whatever. That’s really important for us.”

The Ravens are 4-5 in games played in a dome or retractable roof stadium under coach John Harbaugh. Those nine games since 2008 rank as the eighth-fewest played indoors by a team.

The Ravens' last game in a dome or retractable roof stadium was Week 5 at Indianapolis, where the roof was closed for the second half. The Ravens were noticeably out of sync on offense that game, allowing six hits on quarterback Joe Flacco and turning the ball over three times. The result was one touchdown, and that didn't come until midway through the fourth quarter.

Flacco doesn't consider a game in a dome any more difficult than any other road game.

"Every time I go into a dome, I start throwing the football around and I’m like, ‘Man, it’s awesome in here! It feels good to spin this thing,'" Flacco said. "I tend not to pay too much attention to how the crowd is. There are a few downs throughout the course of a game where they can get really loud. Third downs here and there, if the game is close at the end, certain situations the crowd can get into it and you can let them become a factor if it’s that kind of game. But if you go out there and play consistent and get first downs, it usually tends to take care of itself.”

In nine games indoors, Flacco has barely completed half of his third-down passes (51.4 percent). He also has thrown as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns on third downs when inside.

Converting in those situations is going to be key for the Ravens on Monday night, when they play the third-worst third-down defense in the NFL in the Saints.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- You'll hear this trivia question repeated countless times leading up to "Monday Night Football." Name the only team Drew Brees has never beaten in his 14-year NFL career.

The answer: The Baltimore Ravens, who just happen to play in the Superdome on Monday night.

"I don't believe that, I don't believe that," linebacker Terrell Suggs said when a reporter pointed out that fact. "Didn't I tell you all about the no-hitter [rule regarding jinxes]? You guys are the worst."

Brees is 0-3 lifetime against the Ravens, throwing six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has completed 59.5 percent of his throws against Baltimore, a drop from his career 66.2 percent completion rate. Brees has a passer rating of 73.2 against the Ravens, which is tied for his second-worst against any team in the league.

Despite enjoying the upper hand over the years, the Ravens have shown Brees nothing but respect. When Suggs first referred to Brees, he called him a Hall of Fame quarterback. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Brees is "one of the all-time great statistic quarterbacks in the history of the game."

"You think of the guys in that offense -- Joe Montana-type guys that didn’t have the size, but got the ball out quick, made the reads quickly, quick decisions," Harbaugh said. "He’s really uncanny in the pocket. He has an uncanny ability to keep a play alive in the pocket, or outside of the pocket and find someone to throw to, or just get rid of it. He takes very few sacks. He holds the ball, but he takes very few sacks. That’s a gift."

Actually, Brees has uncharacteristically given the Ravens plenty of gifts over the years. A few examples:

• In 2003, when Brees was with the San Diego Chargers, he was picked off three times by the Ravens in a 24-10 loss, including one at the Ravens' 3-yard line and another one in the end zone.

• In 2006, when Brees was with New Orleans, he threw three interceptions and watched two of them get returned for touchdowns (by Dawan Landry and Ronnie Prude) in a 35-22 loss.

• In 2010, when Brees was the reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, he threw the game-clinching interception -- the pass was batted by Haloti Ngata and picked off by Cory Redding -- with 1:47 left in the game when the Saints trailed by a field goal (they eventually lost 30-24).

This isn't exactly what you'd expect from the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in four different seasons and the most accurate passer in league history (completion rate of 66.2 percent).

"His numbers speak for itself," Suggs said. "The scary thing is, every time Drew Brees lines up on Monday night, [it seems like] he's trying to break some record. I'm just hoping there isn't anything in reach for him this week."

Well, nothing except for beating the only NFL team that is undefeated against him.

Jon Gruden breaks down the Saints' struggles as they prepare to take on the Ravens.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Steve Smith is mired in a three-game slump, but the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver brought his 'A' game in an entertaining 6 1/2-minute question-and-answer session with reporters Wednesday.

Here are some of the highlights, which included a shot at ex-girlfiends and the stadium workers at the Superdome, as the Ravens head into Monday night's game at the New Orleans Saints ...

How do you treat prime-time games?

Steve Smith: "I get excited. You get real excited. Family members get to see you play. Ex-girlfriends that wish they didn't dump you are questioning themselves right now. It's fun. It's kind of true. That's why I'm not on Facebook."

Has anyone talked about returning to the site of the team's last Super Bowl?

Smith: "What you did in the Super Bowl, that's great. You can't take that trophy with you. Those people don't care what happened in the Super Bowl, [except] the people that's working the stadium facility. They're making sure the power doesn't go out."

What did you do to self-evaluate during the bye?

Smith: "Me and [wide receivers] coach [Bobby] Engram came in here yesterday and spent an hour and a half and looked at 100-some plays and self-evaluated. I looked at the plays I made and I looked at the plays I didn't make and why didn't I make them. I went in there with my notebook and just was real with myself. I internalize a lot of things. What can I do to help? What do I need to improve on that's a negative? What do I need to continue to do to get better? I walked in there kind of down, and I walked out of there encouraged because there are a lot of things I did great but there are few things I need to improve on. I need to be more dependable in certain areas. That falls on me. That doesn't fall on Joe [Flacco]. That doesn't fall on coach [Gary] Kubiak. That doesn't fall on [coach John] Harbaugh. That falls directly on me. If you can't hold yourself accountable, you can't expect anybody to do that for you.

What's it like to go against Rob Ryan's aggressive defense?

Smith: "Rob Ryan does a great job of making you think. I believe anytime -- offense, defense -- when you make anybody think, they stop their feet. When they stop their feet, they're not moving forward. You're taking bricks off the house. And how do you build a house? You have to put the bricks on. I've played enough against him to know and expect and deal with the waves and move forward."

Do you look at the current playoff picture?

Smith: "The standings right now are like college BCS. You don't know. It really requires too much energy. I can't do it. Then you start guessing and start thinking of the wrong things."
With six weeks left in the regular season, Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley continues to be the favorite for NFL defensive rookie of the year. He is the only NFL defender with at least 85 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.

The 17th overall pick in the draft, Mosley ranks first among rookies and No. 8 in the league with 87 tackles. He is tied for second among all linebackers with seven passes defensed.

Here is a look at Mosley's chief competition:

DT Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams: Even though he didn't start until the fifth game of the season, Donald has been most productive member of a disappointing defensive front. He leads all rookie defensive linemen in tackles (27) and sacks (four). The 13th overall pick, Donald is the third-highest graded defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. He is behind Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and Buffalo's Kyle Williams.

OLB Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: Known for his pass rush ability in college, Mack has been a playmaker against the run as well as the pass. The fifth overall pick, Mack has the fifth-most tackles among rookie linebackers with 56. He only has one sack this season, but he is fourth among all linebackers with 26 quarterback hurries. Mack is the second-highest graded outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus.

OLB Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings: Barr gained attention when he won a game at Tampa Bay, forcing a fumble and returning it 27 yards for a touchdown in overtime. He became just the sixth rookie named NFC defensive player of the week in the past 10 seasons. The ninth overall pick in the draft, Barr has been disruptive with four sacks. But he's missed 19 tackles this season, the most of any linebacker in the NFL.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Right guard Marshal Yanda was the only Baltimore Ravens starter not practicing as the team returned from its bye week Wednesday.

Yanda has missed one day of practice for the past two weeks because of a knee injury. He hasn't missed a game since the 2012 season finale.

The other two players who didn't practice were wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jah Reid (broken hand).

There will be no official injury report Wednesday because the Ravens play the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.

Stock Watch: Baltimore Ravens

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
A look at who's rising and falling on the Baltimore Ravens heading into their Week 12 game at the New Orleans Saints:


Running in the red zone. The Ravens have run the ball into the end zone 11 times when inside the 20-yard line. It's been scoring by committee in the red zone, where Justin Forsett (five touchdowns), Lorenzo Taliaferro (four) and Bernard Pierce (two) have all taken turns punching the ball across the goal line. The Ravens' total in 10 games this year already exceeds what they produced all of last season (seven red zone rushing touchdowns).

Haloti Ngata's impact plays. The five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman is becoming a playmaker again with two sacks, two forced fumbles and four batted passes. This has been Ngata's best season since 2011, and it's definitely timely for him. The final year of Ngata's contract is 2015, and the Ravens could create $8.5 million in cap room by cutting him this offseason. The Ravens need to get an extension with Ngata (much like the one they reached with linebacker Terrell Suggs this year), but Ngata has leverage by how he's been playing.

Team balance. The Ravens are tied for No. 7 in points scored (26.1) and are No. 5 in points allowed (18.1). The Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys are the only teams to rank in the NFL’s top 10 in points scored and points allowed entering Week 12. Last season, the Ravens ranked No. 25 in scoring (20.0) and No. 12 in points allowed (22.0).


Explanation of Matt Elam's decreased snaps. It's difficult to buy the Ravens' reasoning that Elam's declining playing time is based on what packages they use. Elam has struggled covering receivers and tackling them all season. The Ravens should just say the first-round pick was benched because of performance. It's not exactly a secret.

Joe Flacco in the third quarter. The Ravens quarterback has had his most troubles when returning from halftime. Five of Flacco's eight interceptions have come in the third quarter this season. It's strange because the third quarter is the only one this season where Flacco has completed over 70 percent of his throws.

AFC North's reputation. No one will argue that this division is the most competitive in the league. It's the only one where every team has a winning record. But the AFC North isn't the best division in football. That title belongs to the NFC West. The AFC North has one marquee win, and that was the Steelers beating the Colts. The division didn't look very strong last week when the Cleveland Browns lost at home to Houston and the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to win in Tennessee on "Monday Night Football." For the most part, the AFC North is beating up on the NFC South, which is clearly the worst division. AFC North teams are 8-1-1 (.850) against the NFC South this season and 17-14 (.548) against the rest of the league.

Will Hill making impact in Ravens’ secondary

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley discusses the secondary as it prepares to face Drew Brees.
The Baltimore Ravens are expected to make the playoffs this season. That's according to a simulation that played out the rest of the regular season 50,000 times.

So, you can say that's it's a little more than a gut feeling. ESPN's Football Outsiders put together a projection of the playoff field based on a system where the rest of the 2014 regular season is played out 50,000 times and percentages are given for the number of times each team would make the postseason.

The Ravens reached the playoffs on 57.5 percent on those calculations. That's good enough for the Ravens to get the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.

The favorite to win the AFC North is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The other team to earn a wild-card spot is the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens finished with a better percentage to reach the playoffs than the Miami Dolphins (49.8 percent), Cincinnati Bengals (32.1 percent), Houston Texans (16.4 percent) and Cleveland Browns (16.3 percent).

Over a week ago, I stayed with my original 9-7 prediction for the Ravens this season, which would put them squarely on the playoff bubble. Under this metric, the Ravens' mean projected wins are 9.9 and that is enough to get them into the postseason.