NFL Preview - Jacksonville (2-11) at Baltimore (8-5)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - It's no wonder Justin Forsett is looking forward to this week.
The seventh-year pro spent a nondescript 2013 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, before latching on with the Baltimore Ravens this season and becoming a 1,000- yard rusher for the first time in his career.
The Ravens will host the Jaguars on Sunday, which provides Forsett a crack at a team that's been gashed for nearly 160 rush yards per game over its last half-dozen, since starting linebacker Paul Posluszny was lost for the season with a chest injury. Jacksonville had allowed 110.3 per game in its first seven.
Forsett ran for 100 yards or more for three straight games before dipping to 71 yards on 13 carries in a Week 14 defeat of Miami. Still, he's racked up six yards per carry and scored five touchdowns in those four games, while the Ravens have averaged 168.5 ground yards and won three times.
The Jaguars have allowed 20 or more rushing yards on 15 plays, most in the league. Last week's home loss to Houston included a 51-yard run by Arian Foster, and 173 yards by the Texans overall.
"We've been a lot better in certain aspects of the run game, but we've given up some big numbers on certain plays," linebacker J.T. Thomas said. "Everyone is doing everything in their power to make sure we get better in that aspect of the run game."
The team is 0-6 on the road in 2014, but hasn't gone 0-for-a-season away from home since 2003.
Jacksonville led by three points at halftime last week before ultimately losing by 14. It has been shut out in the third quarter in seven of 13 games, and have scored just 32 points in 13 third quarters overall.
Baltimore has allowed three third-quarter points in its last five games.
"I can't pinpoint a reason right now," Jaguars left tackle Luke Joeckel said. "It needs to get fixed."
While this week's visitors are looking for simple answers, the Ravens are a touch more concerned with complex standings issues.
Baltimore is part of a gaggle pursuing two available AFC wild-card playoff spots, but while its 8-5 record is even with San Diego and Pittsburgh, it would finish third in the group once tiebreakers are applied.
That said, the Ravens are in if they sweep their remaining games against the 2-11 Jaguars, 7-6 Texans and 7-6 Cleveland Browns.
"We could sit here and say we wish we'd be another game or two better, and we could say we're happy we're not a game or two worse," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "We're pleased with the fact that we're in the hunt and control our own destiny. It's just our job to make the most of it."
Some would claim the Ravens have made the most of their situation already, given the season-long absence of former running back Ray Rice, the recent suspension of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and injuries to tight end Dennis Pitta and cornerback Jimmy Smith.
"We've got a resilient bunch," Harbaugh said. "They're mentally tough, they don't get caught up in the noise. They don't get easily distracted. We say turn neither to the left or the right, eyes straight ahead."
Baltimore trailed by 10 against Miami last week before rallying for a 15-point win in which quarterback Joe Flacco had two touchdown passes, ran for another score and led fourth-quarter drives covering 80 and 81 yards. One week earlier, the Ravens lost a 10-point lead in falling to San Diego, 34-33, at home.
Steve Smith had seven catches for 70 yards and a TD against Miami, and claimed the defeat of the Dolphins helped salve the wounds from the Chargers disappointment.
"(The San Diego defeat) just took a lot out of us," he said. "But you can't sit there and throw a party if you won, and you can't throw a pity party if you lose. You just got to get back on the horse and just hold on."
Wide receiver Torrey Smith was on the field for just 15 snaps against Miami and is questionable this week with a knee problem, meaning third-year man Kamar Allen - who's caught nine balls for 116 yards and a score in the last two weeks - could get additional emergence time.
On defense, Elvis Dumervil has a franchise-record 16 sacks after racking up 3 1/2 last week, and he faces a recurring target in Jacksonville's Blake Bortles, who's been dumped 38 times this season - 19 in the last four games.
"We've got a team that's playing pretty well right now and gaining some confidence," Flacco said.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Bortles vs. Chaos
Jacksonville quarterbacks have been sacked a league-high 54 times - including four last week against the Texans - and the fortunes don't figure to improve much when Bortles is looking across the line at a Baltimore defense that's record 37 in 13 games, good for sixth in the league.
Keeping track of a rushing linebacker like Dumervil will be an all-day job if the aim is to keep Bortles vertical.
Checking the Horizon
With three games to go in yet another lost season, the Jaguars are yet again auditioning young players who may or may not have significant roles for 2015 and beyond. So while playoffs are not a concern, job security is for guys like wide receiver Marqise Lee, cornerback Johnathan Cyprien and aforementioned offensive lineman Joeckel. Seeing how they perform here will begin to shape roles for next season.
Let's face it. There's simply no reason why a 2-11 Jacksonville team without a road victory should be able to come into a hostile environment - where the Ravens are 4-2 this season - and defeat a battle - hardened team that's once again playing for its playoff existence.
Expect Harbaugh to insist on a strong start to remove any idea that an upset could happen. If that start occurs, the upset will not.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Ravens 30, Jaguars 14
12/14 09:25:58 ET