Baltimore Ravens (4-10) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Steve Beuerlein
SERIES: Third meeting. Ravens lead series, 2-0. This is the Ravens' first game in Seattle. In the last meeting with the Seahawks (2003), quarterback Anthony Wright led a 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. Matt Stover's 42-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Ravens to a 44-41 win.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 34-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: With QB Kyle Boller unable to start, rookie Troy Smith will get the call for the Ravens. If so, his mobility could prove to be a saving asset against Seattle's excellent pass rush. Either way, Baltimore doesn't want to rely on its passing game. RB Willis McGahee IS the game plan as long as the game is competitive. ... Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has a 99.3 passer rating at home and should have his way against the Ravens' young corners who are getting blistered on a weekly basis. But if Seattle wants to be a threat to go deep into the playoffs, it has to address its running issues -- especially on third-and-short.
KEY INJURIES: Ravens: Boller (concussion) might be able to serve as the primary backup; MLB Ray Lewis (dislocated finger) said he will play; TE Todd Heap (hamstring) is day-to-day; CB Samari Rolle (shoulder) is unlikely to play. Seahawks: WR D.J. Hackett is expected to miss one more game.
FAST FACTS: McGahee needs 51 rushing yards to pass his career-high of 1,247 set in 2005. ... Seahawks WR Bobby Engram has topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his 12-year career.
--QB Troy Smith will make his first NFL start Sunday after Kyle Boller missed his second straight day with a concussion. Smith has taken all of the snaps with the first-team offense.
--QB Kyle Boller will not start Sunday against the Seahawks because of a concussion. The Ravens are hoping he will be healthy enough to be the backup. If he can't play, the Ravens would promote undrafted rookie Cullen Finnerty from the practice squad.
--QB Cullen Finnerty could be the Ravens' backup Sunday at Seattle. He would be promoted from the practice squad if Kyle Boller hasn't recovered from a concussion.
--LB Ray Lewis did not practice for a second straight day with a dislocated finger. Coach Brian Billick said it's precautionary and Lewis will start.
--TE Todd Heap practiced for a second straight day, a sign that he could play Sunday. He has missed eight games this season with a hamstring injury.
--DT Rocky Bernard did not practice because of a sore groin but is expected to play Sunday against Baltimore.
--CB Josh Wilson has a quad injury and did not practice. He is out for Sunday.
--WR D.J. Hackett took part only in individual drills in practice because of an ankle sprain. He is out for Sunday.
--T Walter Jones had limited participation in practice but will play Sunday.
--S Mike Green practiced after missing Wednesday with a knee injury and is expected to play Sunday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Troy Smith will make his first NFL start Sunday after Kyle Boller missed his second straight day with a concussion. Smith, last season's Heisman Trophy winner, has played only four series in the NFL and was playing for the college national championship less than a year ago.
"He's as ready as you're going to be as a rookie," coach Brian Billick said after Thursday's practice. "One thing I don't worry about is that he has a strong personality. You worry what happens if things get ugly with him and pressures ... but he will fight through whatever happens. He's a very strong-willed young man."
It's questionable whether Boller, who suffered the concussion Sunday, can be the Ravens' backup Sunday at Seattle. If he can't play, the Ravens would promote undrafted rookie Cullen Finnerty from the practice squad. Because of Boller's head injury, Billick acknowledged that Smith could start the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, too.
"Concussions are very unpredictable," Billick said. "I'm certainly not an expert so I'll rely on the experts to say what and when that could change."
In two NFL appearances, Smith has completed 8 of 16 passes for 82 yards. He has taken every snap with the starting offense this week in preparation for Sunday. Smith said he always brings an intensity every week, but he understands this week of practice is different.
"At certain times, certain things need a little more focused," Smith said. "And when you're in a situation to start, you have to be incredibly focused."
Smith is the latest rookie to start for the Ravens, joining offensive tackles Marshal Yanda and Jared Gaither, guard Ben Grubbs, fullback Le'Ron McClain and cornerback Willie Gaston. But it took some history for Smith to get the starting nod. This is the first time in Billick's nine seasons as head coach that the Ravens have lost their top two quarterbacks to injury.
Asked if he was surprised that happened this season, Billick said, "No. You can pretty much expect that."
The Ravens likely won't make a determination on Boller's status until after they take their six-hour flight to Seattle. Boller is suffering from headaches and sensitivity to light. "If they sign off on (Boller to be the backup), he knows enough of the game plan to go in and get us out of a game," Billick said. "But we're certainly not going to put him at risk."
If Boller can't play, the Ravens would go with Finnerty, who had a record-setting career at Grand Valley State. Finnerty was signed by the Ravens for their offseason camps this season but was cut before training camp when Drew Olson returned from NFL Europe. The Ravens signed Finnerty to the practice squad after they placed Steve McNair on injured reserve.
When the Ravens contacted him two weeks ago, Finnerty was taking a writing course to finish up his degree. "It's crazy," Finnerty said. "I never figured this situation would occur. Luckily, I've been preparing hard and staying ready."
Two straight weeks. Two straight rookies. The Seattle Seahawks on Thursday discovered that the Baltimore Ravens will start rookie Troy Smith over Kyle Boller because Boller sustained a concussion against Miami last week from which he has not yet recovered.
It would seem to be an auspicious sign for Seattle -- until they consider that they faced Carolina rookie Matt Moore last week and lost a game after they were unable to get to Moore because he released the ball so quickly. Smith played in the fourth quarter of the game against Miami, completing five of 11 passes for 49 yards.
"He did a great job," Seattle defensive coordinator John Marshall said. "He has poise. They tried to pressure him in Miami and he got the ball out of there. He is really a good player."
The Seahawks are second in the league in sacks with 41. Seemingly, they could blitz Smith into submission. But Marshall said that may not be the case. "I think on the outset, you say we are going to heat it up for this young guy," Marshall said. "But that is not necessarily true of every game. I think you have to get out there and see what they are going to do with him."
Defensive end Darryl Tapp said the pass rushers have to remain in their lanes.
"Troy is real elusive. You have to rush up the field, keep him in the pocket. We are really going to have to worry about keeping him in the pocket, forcing him at six feet to throw over the mountain men they have for offensive linemen."