PSINET STADIUM 1 P.M. CH. 13
Ravens rushing vs. Jaguars run defense -- Jaguars -- The Ravens pounded Pittsburgh for 140 rushing yards and a 3.9 average carry last week. RB Priest Holmes (119 yards) carried the load, but has only three rushes for 10 yards in three games against the Jaguars. Rookie Jamal Lewis (live rushes, 16 yards) will have a bigger role this week. C Jeff Mitchell (knee) is expected for play for the Ravens, and that's important because he'll be required to block MLB Hardy Nickerson.
Ravens passing vs. Jaguars pass defense -- Ravens -- This is where the addition of TEs Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates ought to pay off. The Jaguars are excellent against the pass, but will be tested trying to cover Qadry Ismail and Travis Taylor deep, and Shame and Coates on the intermediate routes. Then it comes down to QB Tony Banks. Last week, Banks hit Ismail for a long touchdown, but he missed chances downfield, something he can't do today. In three career games against the Jaguars, Banks is 36-for-72 for 416 yards, with three TDs and two interceptions.
Jaguars rushing vs. Ravens run defense -- Ravens -- The Ravens owned the second-best rush defense in the league last year, and they were marvelous last week, limiting the Steelers to 30 yards on 18 carries. That's less than 2 yards per carry. The Jaguars only averaged 3.0 against the Browns. Because RB Fred Taylor is out with a knee injury, they're down to their third back in Chris Howard. The Jaguars will have a hard time moving the ball on the ground.
Jaguars passing vs. Ravens pass defense -- Jaguars -- If any one player symbolizes Jacksonville's domination over the Ravens, it's QB Mark Brunell. He is 7-0 against Baltimore, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,046 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. And he has two terrific targets in Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. But now he'll have to face the Ravens' pass rush - much of it generated by the defensive line - and their two young cornerbacks, Chris McAlister and Duane Starks. This is great show and tell.
Special teams -- Ravens -- The Ravens clearly have a better return game. Jermaine Lewis is looking more like the Pro Bowl punt returner of two years ago than last season's disappointment. Qadry Ismall and Corey Harris give the Ravens a pair of excellent kick returners. The Jaguars' Reggie Barlow averaged 5.7 yards per punt return. The Ravens' Matt Stover not only kicked three field goals in the opener, but also boomed three kickoffs into the end zone.
Intangibles -- Ravens -- The Jaguars have the confidence that comes with beating one team eight consecutive games. That counts for something in the fourth quarter. But the Ravens, eager to establish themselves as a playoff team, want to seize this golden opportunity. The Jaguars are banged up and appear to be vulnerable.
Prediction -- Ravens -- In a game that should go down to the wire, look for the Ravens to hit just enough big plays on offense and bounce Brunell around enough to pull out a 17-14 win.
Bringing the heat. The Ravens will need to be as efficient in the pass rush as they were last week. Jaguars QB Mark Brunell won't be easy to catch, and he'll miss RB Fred Taylor, who's out with a knee injury.
Covering deep. Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell form one of the NFL's top receiving tandems. This is no small challenge for CBs Chris McAlister and Duane Starks.
Mind gaines. The Jaguars have owned the Ravens, winning the first eight games of the series, many of them decided in the fourth quarter. That has to change before the domination does.
Records: Jaguars 1-0; Ravens 1-0.
Line: Ravens by 3.
Vs. spread: Jaguars 1-0; Ravens 1-0.
Last meeting: Jaguars won, 30-23, on Nov.28, 1999, at PSINet Stadium.
Quick hits: Jaguars have won 16 of past 20 division games.... Mark Brunell is 26-9 as starter vs. AFC Central, best division mark among active QB5. WR Jimmy Smith has 41 catches for 705 yards in past seven games vs. Ravens. ... QB Tony Banks is 7-4 as Ravens starter.... Ravens are 7-0 when RB Priest Holmes has 100 yards rushing. ... Ravens have not allowed 100-yard rusher in past 18 games. LB Peter Boulware has eight sacks in six games vs. Jaguars.
Injuries JAGUARS: Out-TE Damon Jones (knee-IR); T Leon Searcy (leg); RB Fred Taylor (knee). Doubtful-DT Emarlos Leroy (calf). Questionable -- RB Stacey Mack (ankle); C John Wade (foot). Probable-P Bryan Barker (ankle); S Mike Logan (hamstring); LB Lonnie Marts (abdomen); DL Joel Smeenge (calf); WR Ft. Jay Soward (ankle).
RAVENS: Questionable-C Jeff Mitchell (knee); T Kipp Vickers (knee). Probable-QB Tony Banks (elbow); RB Priest Holmes (thigh), CT Sam Adams (knee).