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Game Preview: Ravens vs. Lions


The Ravens are currently hanging onto the final AFC playoff spot, and they've got a difficult three-game stretch to close out the year.

Baltimore will kick it off on primetime television Monday night in Detroit in a game that could have plenty of offensive fireworks.

The Ravens offense, thanks to the return of tight end Dennis Pitta and quarterback Joe Flacco heating up, is ready to make a run. The Lions live, breathe and eat offense with weapons like quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush.

Baltimore needs to figure out a way to win on the road. The Ravens are 1-5 away from home so far this season.

"It literally is going to be the Lions' den," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's their den, and they're very good at home, so it's going to be tough. We'll have to play the best we've played all year."

Matchups To Watch

CB Jimmy Smith vs. WR Calvin Johnson
Smith is emerging as the Ravens' best cornerback and one of the best cover guys in the league. Johnson has been at the top of the game for a while. Anticipate a physical battle between these two as they are both big-bodied players. Johnson may have a little extra motivation after safety Matt Elam called him old.

C Gino Gradkowski vs. DT Ndamukong SuhIf Gradkowski can just hold his own, it will be a victory. The Ravens' first-year starter has probably the toughest test he'll face all year. Suh can dominate with his size and speed inside. He's a force against the run, but especially versus the pass. Gradkowski will get help, but the Ravens also have to contend with defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Riley ReiffThe Lions have given up the fewest sacks in the NFL with just 15. The Ravens pass rush has been stunted as of late, as it hasn't recorded a single sack in back-to-back games. The potential return of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil could be huge. Reiff is a former first-round pick, but Suggs (who hasn't had a sack since Week 9), usually feasts on young linemen.

Keys To The Game

Contain MegatronThe Ravens aren't going to be able to shut Johnson, a.k.a. "Megatron," down. But they can't let him take over the game either. Johnson can easily top 200 yards and put up a couple scores. Baltimore has to make him earn it the hard way by not allowing any big plays. The Ravens have allowed 16 passing plays of 40 yards or more, the most in the NFL.

Get a quick startFord Field is going to be rocking. But if the Ravens can start hot, they'll go a long way in taking the air out of the dome. Baltimore has started well at times on the road. They jumped out to a lead in Denver and Chicago before fading. The offense scored touchdowns early against the Vikings and Steelers the past two weeks.

No turnoversWhat has sunk the Ravens on the road is turnovers, especially from Flacco. Of Flacco's 17 interceptions, 11 have come away from home. Flacco threw three more last week against the Vikings, but he needs to stop the bleeding there. In what could be a shootout on the turf, the Ravens can't afford to give the Lions extra possessions.

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