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Steve McNair is thrilled with the plays Brian Billick is calling, and is in a much better rhythm now as a passer. He’s taking less chances, but delivers throws with more authority. He still makes a few bad choices per game that could prove costly.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jamal Lewis isn’t on the verge of snapping out of his season-long slump. Perhaps that 2,066-yard season, ankle surgery and federal prison stint have just taken too high a toll. Musa Smith is ready to play after his neck injury last week.
They are coming off perhaps their best combined game as a unit last week. Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams’ emergence takes a lot of pressure off veterans Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.
They have allowed only two sacks in the past three games. Jonathan Ogden has rebounded from a slow start. Keydrick Vincent has a groin injury, and rookie Chris Chester is a possibility at right guard.
Total (5) Rushing (2) Passing (12)
Trevor Pryce is easing preseason concerns that he didn’t have anything left. Kelly Gregg had a rare off game against All-Pro center Kevin Mawae. Haloti Ngata struggled at times as a run-stopper. Terrell Suggs isn’t playing at an optimal level against good tackles.
Since Baltimore will be without Ray Lewis again, it’s converted lineman Jarret Johnson’s turn. Bart Scott will play Lewis’ normal spot with Johnson sliding over. Adalius Thomas has already tied his career-high with eight sacks.
Ed Reed needs to start help out struggling Samari Rolle more. The scouting department is beaming about fifth-round safety find Dawan Landry. Chris McAlister’s temper flared last week when he head-butted a Titan. Is this the WWE?
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS
Matt Stover has connected on a franchise-record 36 consecutive field goals, including 16 out of 16 this season. Return specialist B.J. Sams has been off his game lately. Rookie punter Sam Koch continues to impress with his hang time along with his work as a holder.
Total (9) Rushing (1) Passing (30)
Which Michael Vick will be on display in Baltimore today? Is it the dangerous passer who lights up defenses with his feet and arm? Or will it be the erratic, inaccurate turnover machine that occasionally manifests himself?
Warrick Dunn is one of the most elusive, versatile and tougher undersized runners in the game. Rookie runner Jerious Norwood is no slouch, either, as part of the top-ranked running game in the league.
Michael Jenkins, Ashley Lelie and Roddy White are the archetypes of the big, fast and occasionally frazzled wideout. All are capable of game-breaking impacts, but also tend to drop way too many passes. Tight end Alge Crumpler is Vick’s ace.
An underrated group that has a reputation under Alex Gibbs of attacking defenders’ knees to skirt the letter of the rulebook, the Falcons have injury issues at guard and Matt Lehr hasn’t regained his starting job after a steroid suspension.
Total (19) Rushing (9) Passing (30)
With both starting defensive ends, John Abraham and Patrick Kerney, out and tackles Rod Coleman and Grady Jackson banged-up, the Falcons look vulnerable up the middle. Where will the pass rush come from?
Former Ravens starter Ed Hartwell has talked a much better game than he’s played since arriving in Atlanta. Keith Brooking is the glue of this defense. Michael Boley is underrated.
DeAngelo Hall headlines a terrible secondary whose best safety, Lawyer Milloy, has lost his bite. Rookie corner Jimmy Williams is likely to start today for Jason Webster. McNair has to be licking his chops.
FALCONS SPECIAL TEAMS
Ageless Morten Anderson can still kick. He has converted 13 of 15 field goals this season, but lacks the distance of his youth. Allen Rossum is a dangerous return specialist.