Ravens remaining schedule full of top RBs

Ravens remaining schedule full of top RBs
October 28, 2012, 10:45 am
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Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) rushes during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Five of the Ravens' remaining games are on the road, and the NFL's No. 27 team against the run has a host of solid running backs to contend with in the final stretch:

Nov. 4 at Cleveland Browns: The rematch likely will look different. Flacco threw 46 times for 356 yards against a secondary that was missing CB Joe Haden (suspension). Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden threw 52 times for 320 yards passing. Both teams will be better off relying on their RBs a bit more. But the Ravens contained rookie Trent Richardson to 47 yards on 14 carries, and he's now slowed by a rib injury this week. If the Ravens can't get their run defense on track for this one, they're in serious trouble.

Nov. 11 vs. Oakland Raiders: The good news is RB Darren McFadden is only averaging 3.1 yards per carry going into Sunday's game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. As a team, the Raiders are  31st in the NFL at 76.8 yards rushing per game. The bad news is the Dallas Cowboys were in the cellar averaging less than 68 going into their game with the Ravens in Week 6 but posted 227.

Nov. 18 at/Dec. 2 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: May have found a spark in RB Jonathan Dwyer, who exploded for 122 yards last week. The backfield here has been decimated by injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, but the Steelers still are by far the best team at converting third downs in the NFL at better than 52%. They can keep drives alive with QB Ben Roethlisberger and wear out a Ravens defense that has had trouble getting off the field.

Nov. 25 at San Diego Chargers: With RB Ryan Matthews getting back into the mix, and QB Phillip Rivers' struggles, the ground may be the way to go. Matthews only has 58 carries coming into Sunday vs. the Cleveland Browns. He injured his collarbone during the preseason and wasn't active to start, but he's now averaging 4.5 yards per carry and his workload is expected to increase.

Dec. 9 at Washington Redskins: There's a dual threat here for the NFL's top rushing team. Aside from RB Alfred Morris, QB Robert Griffin runs the read-option which makes them double-tough to defend. Griffin has 6 TDs on the ground entering Sunday vs. Pittsburgh. Morris has 5. They've combined for more than 1,000 yards already.

Dec. 16 vs. Denver Broncos: They're only 23rd in rushing, but Willis McGahee is a dual-threat as a receiver out of the backfield as QB Peyton Manning uses short passes to diversify the attack. McGahee only had 51 yards rushing vs. the Patriots, but he had 51 yards receiving, too.

Dec. 23 vs. N.Y. Giants: Out of nowhere, Ahmad Bradshaw has emerged as a force running the ball, an identity the Giants had seemingly lost over the last few years. He's a speedy, diminutive RB for the league's 12th-best running team. Bradshaw ran for 116 yards at the San Francisco 49ers, who have the No. 1 defense. He posted 200 yards vs. the Browns.

Dec. 30 at Cincinnati Bengals: BenJarvus Green-Ellis first exposed the weaknesses in the Ravens' defense by going for 91 yards and averaging 5.1 per carry in the season opener vs. Baltimore with a sore toe. But the Bengals had to abandon the run because they fell so far behind. That was Green-Ellis' best game as he's failed to do better than 3.9 yards per rush in any game since then. Depending on the weather, this could be the game he breaks 100. And the Bengals should have other runners healthy, too.