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Ravens Focusing On Steelers, Winning AFC North

By Daniel Benjamin

With several previously injured starters expected to play Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens are now able to turn their attention to the task at hand, which is the Pittsburgh Steelers, and controlling their destiny in the AFC North. The Ravens (3-4) are currently situated 10th in the AFC playoff race, but they are just one game behind the division-leading Steelers (4-3) entering the game at M&T Bank Stadium. The winner of the game will have a significant leg up on the rest of the division as they will be 2-0 in the division, and own the head-to-head tie breaker. 

"Our goal is certainly going to be winning the division," said coach John Harbaugh earlier this week.

Both teams have lost key players to injury over the past few weeks, and their play on the field suffered as a result heading into their bye last week. The Ravens have lost four straight while the Steelers have dropped two in a row. The good news for the Ravens is that wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., left tackle Ronnie Stanley, guard Marshal Yanda, linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley, as well as return specialist Devin Hester Sr. are expected to play against the Steelers. In total, 9-of-the-11 players that missed practice last time were back on the practice field on Wednesday -- Smith (ankle), linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Kamalei Correa (undisclosed), and tight end Crockett Gilmore (undisclosed) were the players absent.

In the meanwhile, the Steelers have also seen several players return to practice this week, most notably quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, left tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Cameron Hayward.

The Steelers-Ravens rivalry has a history of bitterness and closely contested games.12 of the past 19 games between the franchises have been decided by three or fewer points, which includes three overtime contests, and three more that have been decided by seven points or less. The Steelers lead the all-time series 24-20, though the Ravens have won five of the past six meetings. The Ravens are going for their fourth consecutive victory over the Steelers, which would be the longest win streak by the team in the history of the series.

How much workload increase will Kenneth Davis see?

Prior to the Ravens last practice this past week, Harbaugh said that he would like to get rookie running back Kenneth Davis more involved in the offense. Davis missed the first four games of the season, and he has been on the field on only 18 offensive snap plays since being activated. He has totaled nine touches overall, tallying 10 yards on six carries, and six yards on three receptions. The thing about Davis being more involved in the offense is that Harbaugh has rarely relied on a rookie running back during his tenure with the organization.

Davis reportedly saw time with the first team during practice this week. But Terrence West, who is nursing an ankle injury, deserves to remain the starter as he has averaged 74.5 yards on the ground since being tabbed as the No. 1 back four weeks ago. Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro are now healthy, giving the Ravens a full complement of running backs.

Ravens could enter home stretch of schedule with 7-5 record

If former Raven wide receiver Qadry Ismail's predictions are correct, the Ravens will enter the last quarter of the season sitting atop of the AFC North with a 7-5 record. Ismail has the Ravens defeating the Steelers, and winning four-of-their next five games overall. The lone predicted loss is at the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11. Ismail also has the Ravens earning home victories over the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals,and Miami Dolphins. The Ravens are 1-2 at M&T Stadium this year, and 4-7 since the start of the 2015 campaign. 

Ravens do not make deal before trade deadline

In the non-surprising news department, the Ravens did not make a move prior to the NFL's trade deadline on November 1. Despite rumors surrounding wide receiver Kamar Aiken and nose tackle Brandon Williams, the Ravens decided to stand pat. The Ravens have never made a trade on deadline day in franchise history. The Ravens did make a transaction this week, however, terminating the contract of practice squad running back Stephen Houston.

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