Ravens, Jaguars gear up for London
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The Baltimore Ravens are playing their first-ever NFL International Series game in London on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are making their fifth appearance overseas.
The Ravens are treating the event as a "business trip" and looking to open the season 3-0 for the second consecutive year. Jacksonville (1-1) is trying to rebound from a 37-17 drubbing by the Tennessee Titans in Week 2.
"We're both playing in London. We're going against the Jaguars," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They have to go over there, as well. We're going over there to win a football game -- that's it. We're not thinking about too much else besides that."
The Jaguars do have somewhat of an advantage just from the experience of playing previous games in London. The players who competed in those games are providing their teammates with tips on how to get acclimated to the environment.
The game will be played Sunday at 9:30 a.m. EST, so that will be a major adjustment for both teams.
"We talked to the players that haven't been there before to talk to our older players, about a routine," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. "It's just knowing how to get your body prepared and ready to play. We've encouraged our younger players who haven't been there to make sure they talk to the players that have been with our team on how to hydrate or whatever it may be that we do."
Baltimore will be playing without six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, who was ruled out for the season with an ankle fracture following a 24-10 win over the Browns in Week 2. Yanda's absence could be a key factor against Jacksonville, which leads the league with 11 sacks over two games.
Tony Bergstrom is slated to start in Yanda's spot at right guard. Bergstrom will have his hands full with Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell, who is tied with Dallas' DeMarcus Lawrence for the league-lead with four sacks.
"(They're) definitely a talented group," Bergstrom said about Jacksonville. "There's no question about that, by far one of the more talented groups we'll face this year. They've kind of always been that way. They have really good players up front, then they added Calais Campbell in the offseason, so they present a unique challenge."
Baltimore also has a fierce defense, and leads the league in takeaways.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles will be challenged to throw the ball downfield. Over the first two games, Baltimore has eight interceptions, two forced fumble recoveries, eight sacks and has allowed only 10 points.
The Ravens might be without top defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who injured his foot against Cleveland. Baltimore did get a boost with the return of linebacker Za'darius Smith, who missed the previous game with an ankle/knee injury.
"We want to be a ferocious defense," said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, will play in his 200th career game Sunday. "We want to be a pressure defense. The standard is very high."
Bortles has struggled through parts of this season, going 31 of 55 for 348 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (72.4 passer rating). The loss of top receiver Allen Robinson to a season-ending knee injury has hampered the offense.
Jaguars center Brandon Linder did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury, and that would be an additional hurdle for Bortles if he cannot play. Jacksonville might have to rely heavily running back Leonard Fournette against the Ravens, who are allowing 85 rushing yards per game.
"I know for a fact it is going to be a challenging one," Fournette said. "They have a lot of veteran guys. Terrell Suggs is the leader on the D-line. We just have to get past those guys. Also, their linebacking corps is another magnificent part of their defense. Just working our way through C.J. Mosley and them, it is going to be a battle."
This is the 21st regular-season meeting between the teams with the Jaguars leading series, 11-9. The Ravens and Jaguars teams were former division rivals in the AFC Central until 2001.
Jacksonville won the first eight meetings. Baltimore then responded with six consecutive victories from 2000 until 2003. The teams have split their past six games.
The Ravens won last year's meeting 19-17 with some big plays by the defense. Baltimore is hoping for an encore performance.
"It is always a business trip, and we know why we are there," Mosley said. "We know the Jacksonville Jaguars pretty well. The last few years we have had some pretty close games. We have to go in mentally prepared for a physical fight, even though we have to enjoy our time together with our family and our teammates."
Updated September 20, 2017