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Setting the table: Key matchups, players for Jaguars-Ravens


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser sets the table by examining key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, Sunday

The buzz

The buzz this week is about completeness.

The Jaguars haven't had enough this season, and that's a major reason they're 2-11 with three games remaining in the 2014 regular season.

For the Jaguars, completeness means playing a complete game, and it means playing well for more than a half. That didn't happen this past Sunday in a 27-13 loss to the Houston Texans at EverBank Field, and second-half struggles are likely to be a focus this week.

They were a primary topic Monday when Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley met with the media, with Bradley saying, "We just have to take a look at it in how we talk as a team or how we address things or how we approach it in the second half."

The Jaguars lost similarly two weeks ago, trailing 6-3 at halftime of a 23-3 loss to the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts. They also held a 17-0 halftime lead in the regular-season opener at Philadelphia before losing 34-17 and trailed playoff contending San Diego, 17-14, at halftime in Week 4 before losing 33-14.

The Jaguars have one offensive touchdown in the third quarter this season, and have been outscored 79-32 in the period.

Beating the Ravens Sunday won't be easy. They're an experienced, efficient team that rushes the passer well and protects the passer well. They're also in contention for a fifth playoff appearance in six seasons. That's a tough task for a young team dominated by rookies on offense.

If the Jaguars are going to accomplish that task, they'll need to play better for longer than they have throughout much of the season.


The Opponent

The Ravens haven't been dominant throughout this season, but they have been good.

They've been good enough to stay in contention in perhaps the NFL's toughest division, and good enough to control their playoff destiny with three weeks remaining in the season.

The Ravens – winners of three of their last four games after a 5-4 start – on Sunday rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat the Miami Dolphins, 28-13, in Miami Gardens, Florida. While they're currently the No. 7 seed in the AFC, they will earn at least a wild-card spot if they beat the Jaguars (2-11), Houston (7-6) and Cleveland (7-6) in their final three games.

The Ravens last season missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, finishing with an 8-8 record after winning the Super Bowl the previous season.

The Ravens offensively have improved dramatically in recent weeks, with Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh saying this week Joe Flacco is playing at the highest level possible for a quarterback. Running back Justin Forsett, who spent last season with the Jaguars, is the AFC's second-leading rusher with 1,080 yards and eight touchdowns on 192 carries.


Three matchups to watch

*Jaguars defensive tackles Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller versus center Jeremy Zuttah and guards Marshall Yanda and Kelechi Osemele.This is strength versus strength. Miller and Marks have played at a consistently high level this season, with Miller particularly strong against the run and Marks leading the team with 8.5 sacks. The Jaguars' defense has struggled against the run in recent weeks, and will need a higher level Sunday against a Ravens interior line that is as talented as any in the NFL.

*Jaguars left tackle Luke Joeckel and right tackle Sam Young versus Ravens linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.The Jaguars' offensive line versus the Ravens' pass rush is a critical, difficult matchup for the Jaguars, particularly for the tackles. Joeckel has been solid as a run blocker, and though he played well when matched up against Texans defensive end J.J. Watt last week, he has allowed five sacks and 19 quarterback hits this season according to Pro Football Focus. Dumervil has set the Ravens team record with an NFL-leading 16 sacks in 13 games, and Suggs has 8.5 sacks this season. Dumervil had 3.5 sacks last week against Miami with Suggs registering 1.5.

*Jaguars running back Denard Robinson versus Ravens middle linebacker C.J. Mosley.Robinson, after averaging more than 100 yards rushing a game in Weeks 7-9, has struggled in recent weeks with defenses stacking the line of scrimmage. Mosley, the No. 17 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, was the AFC's Defensive Rookie of the Month for October and has started all 13 games this season. The Ravens rank No. 4 in the NFL against the run, and while they are without suspended tackle Haloti Ngata, they held the Dolphins to 63 yards rushing Sunday.

Jaguars to watch

*Bortles, quarterback.The rookie remains the team's player to watch, and while he must still make significant strides, he continued to show improvement Sunday. Bortles has thrown 16 interceptions this season, and although he threw a costly second-half interception Sunday, he has thrown just four interceptions in the last five games. Bortles played one of his better halves of the season Sunday in the first half, completing 12 of 24 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. Pressure on the quarterback continues to be an issue. The team has allowed a league-high 54 sacks, including four against Houston. …

*Marqise Lee, wide receiver.The rookie wide receiver has made important strides in recent weeks, overcoming early-season struggles to catch 14 passes in the last three games for 194 yards and a touchdown. He has a reception of 30 or more yards in each of the last three games, and his 31-yard reception against the Texans this past week was a highlight play of the game for the Jaguars and perhaps the season. …

*Aaron Colvin, cornerback.The rookie has flourished in three games at nickel corner after missing the first 10 games of the season while recovering from a January anterior cruciate ligament tear. Colvin has shown exceptional instincts and play-making ability, and Bradley this week said he has remarkable awareness. Bradley, asked if Colvin perhaps could be moved to safety – a position he played in college – said that wasn't a consideration because the team believes he has a bright future at corner. Look for Colvin to get a chance to start opposite second-year veteran Demetrius McCray if not by the end of the season early next season.

Keep an eye on …

*Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, perhaps the team's best defensive player and its leader in sacks with 8.5, sustained a strained neck against the Texans. He is expected to practice Wednesday. …

*Jaguars reserve defensive end Andre Branch, hampered in recent weeks by a groin injury, missed Sunday's game. His status also is expected to be updated Wednesday. He missed four consecutive games with the issue before aggravating it in his first game back against the New York Giants November 30. …

*Jaguars reserve linebacker Khairi Fortt (hamstring) and reserve wide receiver Tommy Streeter (oblique) each also missed Sunday's game. Their status is expected to be updated Wednesday. …

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