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Raiders look to slow down New Orleans TE Graham

Raiders look to slow down New Orleans TE Graham

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Playing in the same division as Antonio Gates and having faced Tony Gonzalez so many times over the years has given the Oakland Raiders plenty of experience dealing with elite tight ends.

Going up against New Orleans' Jimmy Graham this week might be the toughest test yet.

With his imposing 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame and the athletic ability of a former college basketball player, Graham is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. That's especially true for a Raiders team that is banged up in the secondary and has struggled all season to slow down opposing tight ends.

``He's always been a big guy who can run and go up and catch the ball but he's learned how to run routes and how to get himself open,'' coach Dennis Allen said. ``He's one of the toughest matchups that we've seen.''

Graham has overcome an inconsistent stretch earlier this season when he struggled to hold onto balls and has regained his form of late. He has 20 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns the past three games.

That improvement has helped the Saints (4-5) rebound from an 0-4 start heading into Sunday's game against the Raiders (3-6).

``I think he was battling through some little nicks and injuries early on,'' quarterback Drew Brees said. ``I think all of us just needed to find the mojo a little bit. It took four games to do it, but when you look at the last five games you'd say we've definitely had our moments where we feel like we're back to playing the type of football we know how to play.''

Since the start of last season, Graham is second in the NFL among all tight ends in receptions (144), yards receiving (1,843) and touchdowns (18). That's quite a resume for someone who played just one year of football and four years of basketball in college at Miami.

But despite the lack of experience, Graham was drafted in the third round by the Saints in 2010 and has quickly emerged as one of the best in the league at his position.

``Graham is a matchup problem throughout the league,'' cornerback Ron Bartell said. ``He runs like a wide receiver but has unusual size. He definitely presents a problem, but there are so many tight ends like that throughout the league. We just need to be fundamentally sound. If we're able to do that I think we'll come out fine.''

The Raiders have struggled to do that this season. They allowed Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson to combine for seven catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 55-20 loss at Baltimore as Oakland left the middle of the field wide open most of the game.

Heath Miller caught two TD passes for Pittsburgh earlier in the year against Oakland, and Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen teamed up for a big day for Denver as well.

The defensive backs say much of the problem can be attributed to poor communication between the secondary and linebackers, which must be fixed immediately with Brees and the Saints coming to town.

``Oh, boy. It can't happen this week,'' cornerback Michael Huff said. ``He's one of the smartest, one the greatest quarterbacks out there. Pre-snap, he kind of knows already what you're in, so we've got to hopefully disguise a little bit and make him think a little bit and let our pressure get him.''

Complicating the task this week is the fact that Oakland strong safety Tyvon Branch has missed both practices so far with a neck injury from last week in Baltimore and his status for Sunday's game is in question.

Branch and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler have gotten the most time this season matching up against tight ends. Wheeler has struggled of late. He allowed six catches for 88 yards in six attempts last week and opposing quarterbacks have completed all 16 passes thrown his way the past three weeks, according to game charting by Pro Football Focus.

If Branch is limited at all, backup Mike Mitchell could get more time. Mitchell matched up frequently with tight ends in past years with some success, but has been mostly a special teams player this year.

``I'm curious to see how he's going to handle more of a physical, skill-position guy checking him at the line,'' Mitchell said. ``Usually, he's too fast for linebackers and too big for DBs, but I've been able to have success on those guys because I'm a skilled position guy. I like to get my hands on you a little bit and slow you down. So, we'll see. It's going to be a tough matchup. He's very good. He's one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. If he can be eliminated, that takes a lot out of their offense.''

NOTES: RB Darren McFadden ran on his sprained right ankle for the first time since hurting it Nov. 4 but is not ready to practice yet. ... RB Mike Goodson (sprained right ankle), DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) also did not practice. ... S Matt Giordano returned to practice after leaving last week's game with a concussion. ... The Raiders signed CB Cory Nelms to the practice squad. ... The Raiders announced the game will be televised locally.

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Metairie, La., contributed to this report.

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Ravens vs. Jaguars in London: Date, time, TV channel, how to watch, online stream

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Ravens vs. Jaguars in London: Date, time, TV channel, how to watch, online stream

The Ravens are looking to go 3-0 this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The only minor difference in this game than from most, they'll be playing 3,628 miles away in London, England.

MORE RAVENS: RAY LEWIS NOMINATED FOR 2018 PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS

The Jaguars are coming off a 37-16 loss at home against the Tennessee Titans. In Week 1 however, they defeated the Houston Texans 29-7.

Quarterback Blake Bortles completed 20 of 34 passes in Sunday's game for 211 yards and a touchdown. Bortles also threw two interceptions.

The Ravens are 2-0 after shutting out the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 and dominating the Cleveland Browns 24-10 at home in Week 2.

One major blow the Ravens took in Sunday's game against the Browns was losing Pro-Bowl guard Marshall Yanda to a season-ending ankle injury.

RELATED: RAY LEWIS CLAIMS RAVENS DIDN'T SIGN KAEPERNICK AFTER GIRLFRIEND'S TWEET

To make up for a major loss on offense, the defense will continue to have to prove they are a powerhouse figure in the league.

In the Ravens' first two regular season games, the defense has had eight interceptions and two forced fumbles.

And as far as quarterback Joe Flacco, who was absent from the preseason with a back injury, he's thrown for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

There will be no sleeping in on Sunday morning with kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET. CSN has all the info you need to watch the guys in the U.K..

Week 3 Ravens vs. Jaguars in London game info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

What: Week 3 NFL's International Series 

When: 9:30 a.m.. ET, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017

Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Yahoo, NFL Game Pass, NFL Mobile, Baltimore Ravens website

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -3.5

Over/Under: 39.5

Weather: 71 degrees, partly cloudy

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): vs. Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m. (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): at Jacksonville Jaguars in London, 9:30 a.m.

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m.

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m.

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m.

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17: (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

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Baltimore Ravens defense forces five turnovers in 24-10 win over Cleveland Browns

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USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens defense forces five turnovers in 24-10 win over Cleveland Browns

BALTIMORE -- The Ravens are making a habit of converting turnovers into victories.

Baltimore relentlessly harassed two Cleveland quarterbacks, Joe Flacco ramped up his production with a pair of touchdown passes and the Ravens breezed past the Browns 24-10 on Sunday.

Building on their season-opening shutout at Cincinnati, the Ravens picked off four passes and forced a fumble -- giving them 10 takeaways in two games.

RELATED: RAY LEWIS NOMINATED FOR 2018 PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS

The victory carried a stiff price: Six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda fractured his left ankle and will be lost for the season.

"Unfortunately, it's bad news," coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll have to bounce back from it, and we'll have to handle it."

Most of the defense's damage came against Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who left with a migraine headache in the second quarter after four ineffective series: a three-and-out, a lost fumble, an interception and a punt.

The former Notre Dame starter was replaced by second-year pro Kevin Hogan, who would become the third quarterback in two games to be intercepted by the Baltimore defense.

Kizer said the headaches are hereditary, and that he hasn't had one crop up in a game since high school. He received medication, underwent concussion protocol, and finally received clearance to return in the third quarter with Baltimore up 21-10.

On his second series back, Kizer moved the Browns to the Baltimore 7 before being picked off in the end zone by Lardarius Webb.

Brandon Carr's interception with 6:09 remaining all but sealed the victory.

Coming off a solid performance in his debut against Pittsburgh, Kizer went 15 for 31 for 182 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble.

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Hogan completed five of 11 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

"The turnovers will always stick out because it stops you from scoring points or leads to points for the other team," coach Hue Jackson said.

Both were outdone by Flacco, playing his second game since returning from a sore back that kept him sidelined the entire preseason. After going 9 for 17 in a keep-it-simple outing against the Bengals, Flacco went 25 for 34 for 217 yards in the encore.

"Get a lead and get pressure on the (other) quarterback is a good winning recipe," Flacco said. "Putting guys in that situation the last two weeks has been big for us."

As he matures, Kizer ultimately will come to understand the problem of holding the ball too long in the pocket -- a mistake that put the Browns in an early hole.

On Cleveland's second series, Kizer was looking for a receiver when sacked by Terrell Suggs. The rookie fumbled, Baltimore recovered, and minutes later Terrance West scored on a 4-yard run.

Kizer's next turnover wasn't entirely his fault: With the Browns at the Baltimore 26, his pass glanced off the hands of running back Duke Johnson into the arms of safely Eric Weddle.

Baltimore went up 14-0 in the second quarter when Flacco completed two straight passes totaling 43 yards to tight end Benjamin Watson before Javorius Allen caught a 9-yard TD throw.

Hogan entered and promptly took the Browns on an 83-yard drive that ended with his first career touchdown pass, to David Njoku.

But Flacco countered with a 2-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the half, and that was enough to hand Cleveland its 14th consecutive road defeat.