Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Measuring Stick Game for Ravens Baltimore Still Seeking First Win over Jaguars

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Measuring Stick Game for Ravens Baltimore Still Seeking First Win over Jaguars

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE -- This is how big today's Jaguars-Baltimore Ravens game is in this harbor city: The last time there was a game this important here, the home team had horseshoes on its helmet.

Today's early AFC Central showdown at PSINet Stadium is being called the biggest game in the five-year history of the Ravens franchise, a game Baltimore players and coaches have pointed to since the schedule came out last April. It is a game that has a buzz in this city, much like the Baltimore Colts caused before bolting to Indianapolis.

"Sunday is our barometer game," said Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett.

Added Ravens coach Brian Billick: "Until we beat Jacksonville, we can't think of ourselves as a truly championship-caliber team."

Eight losses to the Jaguars in eight games since the team moved to Baltimore, including six by three points or less, makes it that way. The franchise also lost two games to the Jaguars as the Cleveland Browns in 1995 before moving here in 1996, making it 0-for-10.

"They're putting the pressure on themselves, making it do-or-die for their season," Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith said. "They've put themselves in a position where if we go out and score some points, jump on them early, they're probably going to give up. We have our eye on the big picture. Not just one game, which it looks like they are doing."

Said Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell: "I'm sure if they'll beat Jacksonville, they'll feel pretty good about themselves. I would hope their goals are more than just beating us."

This Ravens are coming off an impressive 16-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, while the Jaguars beat the Cleveland Browns 27-7 on the road in their opener.

The Baltimore victory, plus an improved offense, has the Ravens thinking playoffs this season. It also has them as 3-point favorites today, the first time the Jaguars have been underdogs in the regular season since the 15th game of the 1998 season against the Minnesota Vikings.

"Everybody wants to call us underdogs because of all the injuries we've had," Jaguars defensive tackle Gary Walker said. "But we still have a lot of guys who make big plays around here. Nature will take its course. You'll see on Sunday."

In their eight losses to the Jaguars, the Ravens have had chances to win in seven of those. The only blowout was in Baltimore two years ago when the Jaguars won 45-19.

"No one is going to let go unnoticed that the Jaguars are 8-0," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said. "Above and beyond that, every team that's in the division sets their sights on the team that's winning the division. They draft for it. They sign free agents for it."

The Jaguars are those division champions, even if it was the Tennessee Titans who won the AFC. Baltimore beat Tennessee last season, but the Jaguars beat the Ravens twice in two different ways. …

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