The Baltimore Ravens never have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars, not even when the franchise was in Cleveland. They are 0-8 against their AFC Central foe.
And win No. 1 won't come easily today, when Baltimore faces the surging Jaguars at Alltel Stadium in a 4 p.m. game. Jacksonville (7-1) is on a five-game winning streak. The Ravens (3-5) have won just one of their past four games.
"I said before, they were the team that I had picked in the AFC coming into the season to go to the Super Bowl," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said. "And they're playing like it now."
Except for last season's 45-19 loss at PSINet Stadium, the Ravens have played the Jaguars close. Only twice has Jacksonville beaten them by more than a touchdown.
Traditionally, the meetings have tended to showcase more offense than defense. Jacksonville has averaged 30.7 points a game against the Ravens. Baltimore has failed to score at least 25 points only twice against the Jaguars.
However, this game is expected to be more low-scoring than in the past. Jacksonville has the league's top-ranked defense, yielding just 237.4 yards per game. The Jaguars also lead the NFL in fewest points per game allowed at 9.5. Baltimore has the league's second-ranked defense, giving up 251.1 yards per game.
Jacksonville has "a good solid defense that doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Billick said. "You're not going to trick this team. You're not going to fool them. They're very disciplined in what they do. . . . To think that we're going to run for 200 yards against Jacksonville, control the clock for 33-plus minutes and keep [the Jaguars' offense] off the field would be a bit ambitious."
On offense, Jacksonville has the NFL's top rushing attack at 141.9 yards per game. Running back Fred Taylor, who has gained 252 yards in the last two games, faces a Baltimore defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
The Jaguars also have a potent passing attack led by quarterback Mark Brunell and wide receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. Smith has been particularly destructive against the Ravens, with 24 receptions for 521 yards and four touchdowns in five games against the Ravens.
Since Baltimore lost right tackle Harry Swayne to a foot injury for the remainder of the season, the Ravens' offensive line has been revamped. Left guard Everett Lindsay shifts to Swayne's spot. Rookie Edwin Mulitalo, Baltimore's fourth-round draft pick, takes over at left guard.