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BALTIMORE - How nice it would be for the Baltimore Ravens if all they needed to secur
BALTIMORE - How nice it would be for the Baltimore Ravens if all they needed to secure a playoff berth was to beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Will Harris Youth Jersey .Baltimore (9-6) has won 12 of 13 against its AFC North rivals, including six straight at home. Also, the Browns (7-8) have lost four in a row and have serious quarterback issues.Unfortunately for the Ravens, last weeks loss in Houston means a win over Cleveland wont be enough to get them into the post-season for the sixth time in seven years.Baltimore also needs San Diego to lose or tie Kansas City in a game that will take place simultaneously to the Ravens-Browns finale. Its not an ideal scenario, especially with Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith out, but the Ravens have no one to blame but themselves.Its tough to think about the opportunities that we let go, and thats not anybodys doorstep but our own, Baltimore defensive lineman Chris Canty said. We had some lapses in focus, and weve made some mistakes that have cost us some football games throughout the course of the regular season. You cant get them back.So when the Ravens are on offence Sunday, linebacker Terrell Suggs probably wont be able to resist taking a look at the scoreboard.You want to say, No, we dont pay attention to that, but were going to be looking up, he said. We still have to get to 10 wins, we still want 10 wins, and we will start there. We have to do our business and let everything kind of take care of itself.Some things to know about the Browns-Ravens matchup:QUARTERBACK QUANDRY: With Johnny Manziel done for the season with a hamstring injury and Brian Hoyer unlikely to play because of a sore shoulder and biceps, Connor Shaw will likely make his starting debut for the Browns.As a senior at South Carolina last year, Shaw threw 23 touchdown passes and just one interception. But going up against Ravens will present a far more difficult challenge.RUNNING GAME NEEDED: The Ravens focus on offence will be to revive a running game thats sputtered over the past two weeks. Baltimore ran for only 93 yards against Jacksonville before being limited to 33 yards on 16 carries in Houston.Running the ball makes everything else go for us, offensive co-ordinator Gary Kubiak said. It has been a concern. Now, we have another challenge this week with some new faces up front.Right tackle Rick Wagner (foot) was placed on injured reserve this week and left tackle Eugene Monroe did not practice (ankle). That means rookies James Hurst and John Urschel will see plenty of action Sunday.BUCKLE UP: Browns coach Mike Pettines first season has had highs, lows, twists and turns.Its been a roller-coaster ride, he said.At 7-4, the Browns were poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002 when the bottom fell out. Now theyre trying to avoid a five-game losing streak to end the season.Youre just a couple Sundays away from being a coach of the year candidate to the village idiot hall of fame, Pettine said. Its been tough. Youre gauged ultimately on how you finish. Whats the end result? We have a chance to get to 8-8. And for us thats disappointing, because we left some wins out there.FLACCO FLOP: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco went 21 for 50 with three interceptions against Houston, a performance that left him eager to rebound against the Browns.Theres not really too much you can do about it at this point, he said. You just have to have confidence in yourself, confidence in yourself as a group and go out and win the next one.The matchup against Cleveland bodes well for the seventh-year starter. Flacco is 12-1 lifetime against the Browns with 16 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions.JOE PRO BOWL: Browns left tackle Joe Thomas made it 8 for 8 on Pro Bowl invitations this week. Hes the first offensive lineman in NFL history to earn the honour in each of his first eight seasons. Thomas has started all 127 career games and has not missed an offensive snap since being selected with the third overall pick in 2007.Hes just the definition of consistency, not just consistency, but consistent superb play, said Pettine, who joked the Pro Bowl should be renamed The Joe Thomas Invitational.Said Thomas: Thats a good thing to be teased about.___AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this story.___AP NFL websites: and Jahlani Tavai Lions Jersey . The club announced on Wednesday that Malhotra signed a 25-game professional tryout contract. The 33-year-old suffered a serious eye injury when struck by a puck during a game versus Colorado in March of 2011. Jahlani Tavai Jersey . The game had many controversial incidents that, upon closer inspection, were not as controversial as many believed. The Formations Toronto FC lined up in its usual 4-4-2 formation, with Nick Hagglund slotting in at right fullback and Bradley Orr at centreback in place of the injured Mark Bloom and Steven Caldwell, respectively. . Hes coming back to fulfil them. One of Europes top coaches, Blatt was hired Friday by the Cavaliers, who ended a sweeping, 39-day search with an out-of-the-box selection they hope changes their fortunes.With a new NHL season upon us, hopefully this will be a refreshed blog, with plans to post every day Monday-Friday, and include stats, lineup notes, injuries and other details from the night before. Im also going to try to use it as an outlet for responding to e-mail and Twitter questions, and -- please note -- Ill be doing chats on every Friday. So come with questions, whether they involve fantasy hockey or analytics and lets have a great season. Today, its Grabovski making a point, Eller in fine form, Troubas instant impact and some recommendations for stats-oriented hockey fans. 1. After one game for the Washington Capitals, it turns out that Mikhail Grabovski is still a pretty decent hockey player. Grabovski scored three goals, added and assist while starting more of his shifts in the offensive zone, at least compared to last year, when his usage was drastically different in Toronto. Its only one game, of course, but its notable that Grabovski was among the Capitals leaders in offensive zone starts and hes being used in an offensive capacity, which plays to his strengths. This comes on the heels of Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle saying that he wants the Leafs to be more of a puck possession team this year, as though the decisions made in the summer (like buying out Grabovski and re-signing Tyler Bozak, for example) have no bearing on the teams ability to play an improved puck possession game. Even after being put into a defensive role last season, Grabovskis puck possession numbers have been better than those recorded by Bozak over the past three seasons. Why compare Grabovski specifically to Bozak? Because the decision to buy out Grabovski only came into play because the Maple Leafs were choosing to re-sign Bozak, who was an unrestricted free agent in the summer. If they let Bozak leave, Grabovski would fit in an open scoring centre slot, not unlike the one hes found in Washington. While Grabovskis buyout doesnt affect the Maple Leafs cap, it still required more than $14-million and I dont care how much revenue pours in to MLSE, no one likes paying a player $14-million to play somewhere else, especially if turns out that he could be better than the guy theyve agreed to pay $21-million over the next five seasons. 2. Now, in the interest of fair play, it should be pointed out that Bozak scored a shorthanded breakaway goal and took 27 (winning 15) of the Maple Leafs 55 face-offs against Montreal Tuesday, his 21:13 of ice time leading all Maple Leafs forwards. His possession numbers werent ideal but, again, this is one game and Grabovski did much of his damage (two goals and one assist) on the power play, so his even-strength possession numbers werent great either. At the same time, these comparisons are going to get made. When teams choose one player over another, especially at the same position, its inevitable. 3. The Canadiens had a productive game out of what is ostensibly their third line -- C Lars Eller (2 G, 1 A, +2, 6 SOG) , LW Alex Galchenyuk (2 A) and RW Brendan Gallagher (1G). The oddity of it all is that Montreal didnt seem to use Galchenyuk and Gallagher as much as they could. The sophomore wingers played 13:23 and 11:26, respectively. Brandon Prust and Travis Moen both played more than 12 minutes against Toronto, so there was more of an emphasis on the physical game, it appears. For Eller, whose 2013 season ended when he was knocked out by Senators D Eric Gryba, it was an ideal return to action from an individual standpoint, showing that he is strong, healthy and capable of being productive right awway. Kenny Golladay Youth Jersey. 4. Jets rookie D Jacob Trouba announced his presence in his first NHL game. After one year at Michigan, the 9th overall pick from 2012 stepped into the Jets lineup, played 25:02 to lead both teams, and scored his first NHL goal along with an assist. If hes a top four (or even top pair) defenceman right out of the gate -- he was paired with Zach Bogosian -- then Trouba can be a difference-maker for the Jets. 5. Blackhawks sophomore LW Brandon Saad (1 G, 2 A, +2) opened the season on Chicagos third line, with Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes, but was still plenty productive. Bryan Bickell, who has the top line left wing spot, alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, had one shot on goal in 15:05. 6. Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin (1 G, 1 A, -2, 9 SOG) had a strong opening game. In 126 games over the previous two seasons, hed registered nine shots or more twice, so doing it in Chicago, against the Blackhawks, seems like a decent initial indication that hes on his game. 7. Oilers LW, er, C Taylor Hall played 23:30 against Winnipeg, a threshold hed crossed twice in 171 previous NHL games. Playing primarily with Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky, they took puck possession lumps against the Jets. 8. Were going to wrap up todays blog with a few recommendations. First, for anyone interested in hockeys advanced stats or simply taking a different look at the game, this seasons Hockey Prospectus is a must-read. I wrote the Foreword to the HP annual a couple of years ago, emphasizing that hockey analytics should be a growth industry, and appreciate the work that some very smart people put into the analysis every year. Ive been fortunate enough to meet some of them at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, including editor Timo Seppa and Brian Macdonald. Ive worked on a few things with Rob Vollman (who published his own, also recommended, Hockey Abstract this summer too) and have chatted with a few more on Twitter, including prospect ace Corey Pronman and I appreciate people challenging the status quo when it comes to player and team analysis. Its good stuff. 9. Not to be confused with TSNs Fantasy Hockey League Manager (which is also great!), Ive started playing Franchise Hockey Manager, a hockey simulator presented by OOTP, makers of Out of the Park Baseball. Ive played their baseball game and enjoyed it, but was anxious for their release of the hockey product. I spent way too much time in my youth playing Hockey League Simulator II and loved the idea of picking my teams, setting lines, making trades etc -- this was really before fantasy hockey had taken hold online -- and you could play through a season in a night. Maybe a long night, but it could be done. The amount of detail involved is great -- they have rosters and prospects for all NHL teams, but also for junior and European leagues -- and its still fun to mix and match line combinations. If youre into that kind of stat-nerdy thing, give it a look. 10. Finally, research is the heart of this job. I watch and I listen and I read and I dig for more and there are many websites that I turn to in order to have a handle on whats happening in the NHL. These are some that I will link to a lot throughout the season: Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. 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